Dzenita Abaza and her family escaped from the city of Sarajevo to Korcula, where she spent a year with other refugees in collective accommodation in a hotel where she used to spend her holidays as a child. Thinking of her children and their future, they went to Sweden in June 1993, where they started rebuilding their lives without a job and language skills.
Twenty years later, she was elected as the Mayor of Kalmar, the former royal city on the Baltic Sea in Scandinavia, which was declared as the best summer tourist destination in Sweden.
“In accordance with the system in Sweden, this mayoral position is divided. My colleague is responsible for the construction of the city and cooperation with businessmen, and my responsibilities are social issues, issues of education, the labor market, and integration. This is a wide and very demanding sector,” explained Abaza, who was born in Gorazde and started living in Kalmar in 1994.
She added that the Swedish language is quite difficult and she needed several years to master it. Meanwhile, together with other refugees, she founded an association where they tried to get BH culture closer to people who have received them in their country through exhibitions and concerts.
Just a year later, she got a job in the municipality of Kalmar, where she worked on the project of help to refugees, who, as she said, received many awards and was a true example for other cities to see how to implement a successful integration of immigrants as well.
She started dealing with politics in 1999, after which she organized a trip to BiH for politicians from Sweden. This visit, she recalled, was a big shock to the Swedes who experienced it very emotionally. She received a call from the mayor of Kalmar, who offered her a place on the electoral list of the Social Democrats. Thus, she managed to enter the city parliament. Politics fascinated her and became part of her life.
“It is beautiful to be part of that kind of a democratic process. I led one sector after the elections in 2010, and before the last elections, I received an offer to run the elections for the mayor, and since politics has already become part of my life, I did not hesitate. I had the opposing candidate as well, but I won the confidence of my political colleagues by a majority of votes at the annual assembly of the Social Democrats, and I moved to the city hall in October 2014,” said Abaza.
Together with BH diaspora, she is actively working on the improvement of economic relations between BiH and Sweden and they organize the collection of help for those who need it the most.