“Everyone who cannot afford themselves a meal can get one here, for free.” It is a rare inscription in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it can be read on the pizzeria “Mehdijano” in Ilijaš.
For the second year already, 13 or 14 “standard guests” get a warm meal every day in this pizzeria. The number of those who left the pizzeria with their stomachs full, and who did not have to pay for that, is even larger.
In the beginning there were some donations, mostly from foreigners who come to BiH as tourists during the summer, but today there are almost no donors. However, owner of the pizzeria Mehdija Hodžić and his family are determined in their intention to help the hungry ones. His employees say that the “boss has always been like that”.
As they say, a possible reason why this is so is because he came from Sandžak to Sarajevo at the age of 15, without anything, and he succeeded. Apart from the pizzeria, he owns a real estate agency, while he used to have a boutique. Even then he gave footwear and clothes that remains after the season to those who need it.
“A secure meal means a lot to everyone, especially to the poor one. There are many people who cannot pay the meal. There are refugees, people with no income. A woman recently came with a child who had special needs. She paid for the meal, but the meal of her child was paid by the boss. People from the collective center also come, including one man who lives in the basement of the building. We know all people in Ilijaš, we know who has money and who doesn’t, and you can also see it on the person,” said the employee in the pizzeria, Arnes Omerović.
They allow the people to choose what they want to eat, and they offer pizzas, stews, chicken…
Igor Bogdanović, the pizzeria manager, says that their needy customers are usually families, so they take the meals home. Also, the pizzeria delivers food to those who they know do not have money, but cannot come to pick up their food.
“For example, I deliver food to two elderly people in Malešići, and two in Donja Vogošća. Our cooks say when they hear about someone who needs our services. We also have coupons. All good people can pay a meal for someone who cannot afford it. One meal costs five BAM. They can give the coupon to whomever they want. Of course, people who do not have a coupon can also come here,” Igor says.
If the owner estimates that someone is capable of working, he also offers them a job because they need workers, especially before the season begins.
“There was one guy from Nišići, a social case. He got a job. The boss allowed him to live at his place, dressed him up. He worked for a while and alter returned home because his parents were left alone, but he found a job nearby,” the employees said. This pizzeria also treats the members of the Association of children with special needs with pizza once every week.