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Where Are You From?

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Transcript:

Where are you from?

Sounds simple? But it’s not.

It was 1992, a year that brought a war to the country that I called my own – Yugoslavia. It was an ethnic war of enormous proportions. I became a foreigner in my own city. I was 21.

I grew up happy, surrounded by love and care of family and friends but still I was different than others. My father was born as a Muslim, mother as a Christian Orthodox. She was a Serb and he was a Bosniak. He was a professor and married his student. He taught German language and Yugoslavian literature while she taught Serbo-Croatian language in elementary school. My parents named me Berjoska, a hard to pronounce name that wasn’t Muslim nor Christian. My father would often tell me, “Accept and love all people. Love them for who they are regardless of their name, race, religion or ethnicity. We are all the same.”

Sounds simple? But it is not.

The war appeared and hit me hard. I couldn’t believe what was happening around me. In times of conflict you have to take sides in order to survive. The war doesn’t allow for shades of grey, you can be either black or white. I was both and I was none. I needed to leave.

Coming to Canada as a war refugee, I wasn’t happy about parting with my old life. It meant leaving behind family and friends, the well- known streets and places. I hoped that Canada would replace that emptiness I had, that lack of belonging and longing for home.

I became a landed immigrant and worked hard in reaching typical milestones in life of an immigrant: I learned English, took courses, found a job, volunteered, got my degree, contributed to the society, had my child. I had a strong desire to completely integrate myself into society.

After 17 years, I call Canada my home. But every so often I’m still asked:

“Where are you from?”

“Halifax.”

“But where are you really from?”

Sounds simple? It is… I am from Halifax. I am Canadian, born and raised in Sarajevo, in the former Yugoslavia, a cosmopolitan, a citizen of this Earth.

Many thanks to Carrie-Ann for pushing me into doing this movie. It has been a beautiful experience.

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