Ilma Seperovic tells of her parents’ experiences as refugees from Bosnia

Building a Dream Into Reality

A Student’s Perspective

by Ilma Seperovic  

I see the horror figures portrayed in the media. I flinch and glower at the images of helpless people, abandoned and alone, drowning in hatred, blood staining their bodies while marking them for dead. They're all refugees trying to grasp any crumbles left of a life and opportunity for their families, trying to yield a chance of success and happiness for their children; one that was ripped away from their clutching fingertips. I feel appalled as I see people doing nothing but watching the children of war-driven countries being bombed, blown up and left on the streets to be buried. All for what? A political game and ignorance?

We should be ashamed. Ashamed that we have come so far yet reflect none of this. It is 2017. Politics and war continue to run the minds of people, dismantling defenseless lives of families. Families with dreams and wants just like all of us; however, there is a difference, some say: They are different and we are superior. But who am I to say that anyone's lives are more valuable than someone else's? God is looking down at us, shaking his head at the cruel, devil-like behavior raging on.

Editor's Note: Places of Refuge is a series focusing on refugee students and their journeys, their new lives and hopes for a future in West Michigan, and the many ways schools and community organizations are working to meet their needs.

This opinion piece originally appeared in the Central Trend, the student news site of Forest Hills Central High School.

About Ilma: I was born in Germany in 1999. My parents fled to Germany in 1993 from Bosnia after a civil war in the early 1990s. They stayed in Germany until the country decided in 2000 that they were no longer willing to have refugees from Bosnia. Knowing their life "back home" was nonexistent, my parents signed up with a Catholic organization willing to help refugees find countries to hold them and help with the immigration process. They were given three options: Canada, Australia or America. After a long, challenging process, they were selected to be assisted with their travels to a new country. And that, in short, is how my life here came to be.

Now a senior at Forest Hills Central High School, I write for the school news website, The Central Trend, and play tennis in the spring. I love writing and reading. I spend the majority of my free time at sporting events with friends or working at a local restaurant. For college next year, I am debating between Michigan State, University of Michigan and Loyola University in Chicago. I plan to major in writing and pursue a career in that field.

Love and empathy have disappeared from this world; we have disconnected ourselves from the pain and hurt, selfishly protecting ourselves. We are detached and separated from the world, yet invested in What's the new meme? What actor won the award? all while turning a blind eye to the people being bombed and gunned down. It's scary, looking at so many people not expressing or displaying any sort of concern or interest.

Let's bring back the love of one another no matter where they are from or what they look like. We, as human beings, are one, and if we let our differences divide us, we will continue to allow these unjust acts to become justified. We have lost our sense of understanding for each other. We, as people, no longer share emotions for each other. We criticize and evaluate people's worth compared to others, turning any sort of humanity within them into an ungodly creature.

I see a refugee. Her eyes glisten with sorrow and pain. Wrinkles crest upon her skin, marking each tragedy with reminders of her unforgettable past. Her weathered hands rub her arms up and down in a rhythmic motion. Whimpers escape from her quivering mouth. She is lost so deeply into her mind that I'm afraid she'll never be set free. She is a reminder of the horror of war, a product of what hate causes. She's covered in scars, and no matter how many times I glimpse at her, I see it. I see the struggle she went through. I feel it as if it were my own, and I yearn to free her from this tragic past. I see my mother's face molded into the blood-stained, marked body of the refugee shown across the media. With each look at the refugee, my mother, I am reminded of our history.

I am often told the story of when my parents left their entire life in Bosnia and packed a backpack of clothing, with no money, and set on a voyage across the deep blue sea into the Land of the Free in search of the American Dream. They are refugees who were forced to leave their home and settle upon unknown territory, and they became strangers within this culture. They were left with nothing among the burned-down houses, dreams and lives taken. So they ran. They ran away from their lives and tried to gain one for me.

"Your father and I have abandoned our lives for you to have a better one," she tells me constantly. "We've let go of our dreams so you can follow yours. So you can go to college and experience what we've never gotten to."

I refuse to let my parents down, and I refuse to let their chunk of the American Dream go. They are the reason I'm living a prosperous life that others are literally dying for. I want to make them proud; I want to awaken their dream and turn it into a reality. I don't want to look at their faces and see their disappointment in me for having failed them. I won't allow that. I won't. So I'm on a mission. I will go to college, establish a name for myself and become a successful, employed woman. What they did will be worth it.

I have a dream, just like my parents, and I refuse to sleep until it becomes reality. This vision has been ingrained into my mind, replaying continuously, all my wants for the future. I have a thirst to see love and empathy within our people again. I want to see happiness and opportunities for not just the elites, but for every person, no matter what the differences are. I have become invested in the desire to continue this aspiration of wanting a less violent and more peaceful future. I will take any chances I can get to make that dream come to life, unleashing the images that have been trapped within my mind for so long.

I'm crying out for my dream to come true. We the people have it in our hands, the power to stop this hatred that ranks and controls our lives, and discharge freedom, dreams and opportunities for everyone, with nothing but a simple, nourishing hand to caress the misery and agony away. We have it. We have a chance to better this world.

Submitted on: March 7th 2017

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