Talking to Bosnian emigrant Emina Causevic, a Clay High School sophomore, you
can barely recognize a hint of an accent.
That is because Emina was 3-years-old when she arrived in America with her family. She and her older sister, Minela, spoke at last year’s naturalization ceremony at Clay, where they were among 46 individuals sworn in as U.S. citizens.
“I talked about mostly how grateful I am, and in the future I’m going to be a college student,” Emina said.
“I really wouldn’t have gotten that chance maybe if I were in Bosnia. Or maybe I would have gotten to go to college and maybe not have the same pay or same opportunity as I would here, and to be able to have it with family and everything like that.”
Joining the sisters in attaining citizenship was their father, 48-year-old Esad, a military veteran who is employed here at an auto parts factory. Their mother, 39-year-old Mirsada, is a quality control inspector for Chrysler and often travels on the job.
The road from Bosnia has not been an easy one for Emina’s family. Emina has very few memories from the Bosnian War that lasted from 1992-95, but her family members have plenty.
“We were in Bosnia when the war started, then we moved to a refugee camp in Turkey, and from there we sent a visa and moved here,” Emina said.
Emina still hears stories about the Serbians who were convicted of ethnic cleansing. The most recent research places the number of killed at around 100,000–110,000 and 1.8 million displaced.
“I know that it was cramped (in the refugee camp) and we all had our own small little house type thing. I just know from pictures and things like that. I’ve heard stories,” Emina said.
“It was more of a religious war, because it’s like the Christian Orthodox versus the Bosnian Muslims. So that was going on, and there’s still tension there but at least it’s not a war zone.
“I wish there wouldn’t have been conflict. I wish there wouldn’t have been war, but I could not control that. I’m glad that there is nothing going on right now.”
She said her family came to Oregon because her father had a friend here.
“I guess we could have struggled through everything there, but it just turned out safer and better for us here,” Emina said.
Arriving here with her immediate family was Uncle Esad and Aunt Rahima Kurtovic and Uncle Nedzad and Aunt Suvada Hadzovic. Her grandmother and grandfather came soon after. For them, learning English has been a bit more of a challenge.
“They speak English but they just have a horrible accent. They haven’t been able to get rid of that because they moved here so late. You can’t just transition, so to speak,” Emina said.
Coming to America does not mean they have given up on their ethnicity. Emina speaks fluent Bosnian, and the language is always spoken around the house. In addition, when the extended family is together, it’s an abbreviated ethnic festival.
“Like with any other nationality, you have your own types of food. Whenever we have family get-togethers or reunions and things like that we always make our national foods and all that,” Emina said.
Then, there is the occasional return trip home. Emina got to visit Bosnia four years after her family emigrated.
“We will go back to see family because we have a lot of family living there. We went back when I was 7, and you could still see the war-torn buildings, and bullet holes and things like that, but there was not fighting,” Emina said.
Emina’s mother and grandfather are returning home this year. Emina plans to visit Bosnia again in the summer of 2011.
“It’s mountains everywhere and it’s beautiful. I love it when we go because there are waterfalls, and then there are villages, and there’s the city downtown area, shopping, and stuff like that. I love going over there. It’s so much more natural than it is here,” Emina said.
“I mean, you have opportunity and things like that here, but when you go back over there it’s refreshing to see all the landscape. You wake up in the morning and there are mountains all around you.”
Then there is extended family, many of whom Emina knows only from telephone conversations and internet chat sites.
“When I met them the last time, I didn’t even know who half the people were. I could recognize a few from pictures and things like that,” Emina said.
“It’s sort of setting in now who those people are and how they are connected to me. So hopefully when I go back I’ll be able to remember and make connections. For my parents, it’s a little more emotional because they knew those people their entire life. That’s why we keep in touch with them.
“They know English, but they still can’t form sentences correctly and it’s so much easier that I speak Bosnian. That way I don’t forget because they don’t really need English as much as I need Bosnian.”
When she graduates from Clay, she wants to study to become a medical doctor. Her older sister is studying nursing at Bowling Green State University.
“Emina is an outstanding student, and her academics are only matched by the type of person that she is,” said Clay chemistry teacher Ben Pfeiffer.
“She’s a really, really outstanding young woman. She’s extremely intelligent. She’s one of those rare people who can match intelligence with her articulation, and with her humanity. She’s a very kind and giving person. I have great respect for Emina. She’s going to do some outstanding things in the future.”