Ms. Crnojević, you were born in Maglaj. When did you leave Maglaj and under which circumstances?
I left Maglaj at the age of 12 and went to Switzerland. My parents had already been living and working there for a year. They picked me up during summer holidays but I didn’t exactly know what was happening. I heard my grandparents say that a war was going to start but I never wanted to leave Maglaj so my parents told me we were spending our holidays in Switzerland. We came to Switzerland through Austria, we were stopped by the military in some points, and we actually passed the same Balkan route like refugees did. The worst moment and feeling for me was when I discovered that we weren’t returning. My parents told me the borders were closed and I had to start school in Switzerland. All the time I had with my friends and grandparents were over.
Can you share an event or experience that you especially cherish and that is related to Maglaj and the people who live there?
I spent a very nice and harmonic childhood in my town with my friends and grandparents. Maglaj was always a special town for me. People used to tell us that Maglaj smells bad because of the paper fabric but I didn’t notice. In winters the snow turned black from the lack of filter in the fabric but that was romantic for me. I always loved Maglaj and will always love my city.
Since the day you left Maglaj, you have been dreaming about going back, but you are also helping Maglaj as a city and the people who live in it in every sense. Can you tell us how you helped Maglaj during the floods?
When I heard about the floods I kept in touch with my friends living there and I knew from the beginning that I had to help someway in Maglaj. There was no doubt about it. I made a post on Facebook saying that I was collecting items and money in my local pub. I expected like 5 packets and some money but as soon as I started collecting some women had worked in three shifts to store 15 tonnes of clothes and food, baby stuff and so on. The best of all was that people from the whole of ex -Yugoslavia were helping me to collect these things for Maglaj. After 5 days of collecting and sorting items a man called me and provided a truck for free to transport all these donations to Maglaj. We went to Maglaj afterwards and spent 4 days there and helped to provide it to people and clean the small towns around.
How did people in Bosnia react to help? How did you feel while looking at your town flooded, but being on the other side helping people?
As I saw Maglaj totally damaged and without electricity it looked like a ghost town for me. My neighbours in Maglaj told me it was worse than war because they lost everything within two days. My grandfather who was a beloved person in Maglaj also came to help and the whole town was very proud. It meant so much to them. Everyone was very thankful about each thing we gave them such as sanitary articles and we also used a drying machine for the houses and flats inside. My local friends were there all the time helping us to distribute stuff.
You are the founder of the organization Borderfree, can you tell us more about the establishment and activities of your organization?
The ”borderfree association” was founded with the aim of bundling humanitarian commitments. The association has no religious-nationalist agenda and any person is able to participate regardless of gender, skin colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, affiliation of a national minority or property. The association represents humanitarian values such as respect, tolerance, openness and freedom of movement for all and tries to secure a decent living for all with its commitment. What can you give someone when they have already lost everything? Our commitment rotates around this question. With spontaneous relief actions, adjusted to the current circumstances, we improve the living conditions of refugees in Presevo, Serbia and Greece.
What are your plans for the future regarding the organization?
The journey is the reward. The association grew steadily and to keep up the good work I would like to transform the borderfree association into a foundation. Sometimes even a smile could open the doors. That and all the results of our work are also my motivation and give me power to continue. Moreover my dream is to support humanitarian and social projects in Bosnia in the future.
Interview by Zejna SY