B-H returnees in search of a balanced life

Author: Jusuf Ramadanovic
Uploaded: Wednesday, 28 July, 2010

Moving account of a Bosnian family's decision to leave a comfortable life in the United States for the uncertainty of a farming future in their original home town in B-H, now in ethnically cleansed Republika Srpska

Despite a successful life in the United States, Mirzeta and Muhamed Karailo left to seek fulfillment in their home country of Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Gacko is one of the municipalities in the Republika Srpska that has seen the smallest number of Bosniak returnees since the 1992-95 conflict ended. Only 50 Muslim families have returned to this municipality, which has a total population of more than 11,000 citizens.


One returnee is Muhamed Karailo. As a 12-year boy, he was forced [in 1992] to leave his home village of Fazlagica Kula, in the Gacko municipality. As a refugee, he lived in Dubrovnik, where he diligently worked on construction sites. In 2000 he got married, and in 2001 he moved from Croatia to the United States. He lived with his wife Mirzeta in Maryland. He had a job as a household appliance installer, and his wife worked at a packaging facility.


Both made a decent living. They lived in a house with Muhamed's brother and sister, who arrived in the United States before them. ‘He who does not try, does not believe. So little is needed for happiness. We had money, but we did not have the time or will to spend it. In the United States, initially, we were impressed with all that we saw, but soon after we [became depressed] because everyone was talking jobs all the time, and such responsibility causes a headache. One should have a balance in their life,’ Mirzeta says. ‘I gave the idea to Muhamed for us to return to Bosnia, to his farm,’ she says. The Karailo family came back to Fazlagica Kula in March 2009.


Now they raise heifers, calves and bulls. They also have two dogs and a horse named Putko, who serves as a family pet as well as a mode of transport. When the snow is deep, Muhamed rides Putko to the local mosque and the general store. ‘We would have even more chickens, but foxes that came down from the surrounding mountains steal them,’ Mirzeta says, laughing. ‘My husband has rented space in the centre of the village, which used to be an inn and a general store, and we intend to transform it into an agricultural co-operative. Its establishment is supported by the Gacko municipality authorities, too,’ she adds.


They have invested over 7,500 euros of their own money in the co-operative so far. Muhamed says he receives support from the Imam of Fazlagica Kula, Sadet Bilalic. The family has also applied to B-H Minister for Refugees Safet Halilovic for donation of a tractor. This will help them sow oats and wheat on the 40 hectares of land they have rented. ‘We work and make efforts, and we would like to see young people return to Fazlagica Kula. You know, I get up at 5 in the morning, and I enjoy watching the sunrise in Gacko. My soul is full here. Since last year until now, I have bred and sold 11 bulls, four of which were exhibited at a local bull fair this year.’


He says that he has already received the approval from the municipal court for his agricultural co-operative idea. The mastermind of their return, Mirzeta, says that in one year in Fazlagica Kula she has met more people than in all the time she spent in the US. ‘We have planted an orchard. We rejoice at the flowering of apples, pears, peaches, apricots, because all orchards were cut down in the war. We have also planted a couple of fir trees, and several beautiful roses.’


The couple is happy and satisfied. They note that they have a good relationship with their Bosnian Serb neighbour, Ranko Janjic. They are not afraid of the incidents that have occurred, aimed at dissuading returnees from coming home -- the most recent being graffiti at the Muslim graveyard in the nearby village of Gracanica. ‘We have started from zero in Fazlagica Kula, and shall not give up,’ they say.


Mirzeta, who is four months pregnant, said she did not want to have children in the United States. Mothers there do not spend as much time with their kids, she said. ‘We wish to plan whatever we do. In Bosnia, we are emotionally full. In the United States, I had entered a graphic design school and I made one painting, and since I arrived in Bosnia, I have started several paintings.’ One of them will be of their horse, Putko.


This article was commissioned for SETimes.com /Southeast European Times, 19 July /2010


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