Back to nature with Lamija

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Originally from Bosnia, Lamija Dzigal-Bektesević decided to move to Fojnica (a municipality in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a population of around 12. 000) with her husband, two kids and dog in September 2021. She has opened her own practice in Fojnica where she works as a holistic therapist. Lamija was eight years old when she fled the war in Yugoslavia with her parents, brother and sister in 1992. She lived in Son en Breugel, where she had a home practice as a holistic physiotherapist. Earlier, she wrote a book, 'My Integration' in which she describes what it is like to come to the Netherlands as a refugee and (re)find yourself again in a new country.

The first year in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Lamija lives with her family in her parents’ house with a large vegetable garden and a lovely conservatory with lots of sunlight. ‘My mother designed this house with an architect and a lot of thought went into design, light and furnishings. I feel at home here and I can feel my mother’s energy here. I now feel like we have landed. In the beginning, it did take some searching for balance and arranging a lot of practical things. I had always a strong connection with this area and we wanted to live free as a family, with more land, grow our own crops, clean air, etc. But the trigger has been corona and the whole policy around corona in the Netherlands, with polarisation increasing and this just didn’t feel right for us’.

‘My father was initially really against me emigrating back’

Lamija adores fresh flowers
Lamija with her horse and daughter surrounded by beautiful Bosnian nature

Sold the house and left just like that?

‘Well not just like that, there has been some preceding work. Initially, we wanted to buy a piece of land in Serbia to live there self-sufficiently with a community and build a new life together. This turned out to be more difficult and I also felt an enormous responsibility. We sold our house with a considerable profit and the plan was to buy a piece of land and build a house, but in my parents house no one lives, so we decided to live here. We bought another piece of land for our horses’.

‘Recently we were asked if we wanted to do something with horses and therapy. So one step leads to another possible step. That’s actually how it is with everything here.’

Bosnian mountain horse

‘My dream of having my own horses dates back to my childhood. Once in Bosnia & Herzegovina, I started looking around and finally decided to go for the Bosnian Mountain Horse. A native breed, animals require low maintenance and can take good care of itself. When I heard that this horse falls under endangered species, we bought three horses from good origin and decided to continue breeding with them. Multiplication is the main goal. These horses have incredible stamina, strength, abnormal anatomy (they are actually ponies) and are super intelligent. My horse understood Dutch after only one month (laughs). The other day we were also asked if we wanted to do something with horses and therapy. So one step leads to another possible step. That’s actually how it is with everything here.’

Did you know that Bosnia & Herzegovina is number 3 in the world with largest amount of wild horses? If you want to know more about this and experience a Wild Horses Photo Safari once, take a look at Continental Adventure

Practice “BaLans”

You recently opened your own practice called “BaLans” where you work from Fojnica as a holistic therapist. ‘Yes, right, people can come to me for testing of allergies, intolerances, vitamins, hormones and minerals. I have also worked as a therapist in the Netherlands and I live and work according to the anthroposophical teachings of Rudolf Stein. I am very happy now to have opened a practice here and to be able to help people. I still have clients from the Netherlands, but also a client who lives in Germany, so people outside Fojnica fortunately know how to find me as well. In the future, I want to offer therapists in the Netherlands a place to give retreats at our land. I also want to offer a place to people who want to take a longer break. Think of people with burn-out complaints. Over the past 25 years, the Netherlands has cut back on psychiatry and psychology and offered little or no ‘spiritual support’ through the private healthcare system. My background as a therapist combined with the environment and my horses are an excellent opportunity for spiritual recovery’.

Bosnia & Herzegovina is number 3 in the world with largest amount of wild horses
Lamija at her practice "BaLans" in Fojnica.
Blossom remedies from natural ingredients.

Little support

I can imagine taking such a drastic move, those around you don’t always understand why you take such a step. Or was it all support? ‘My father was at first really against me emigrating back. Actually, with the exception of my sister, we had no support. The other day my father was here for a week, doing nothing else but taking care of the horses with my daughter. He has said a hundred times how great this move has ultimately been for both our daughter and our son. They have really revived here in the past year. Aisha (11 years) does kickboxing and has started competing. Emir ‘s athletics career has really taken a leap here. Children make friends quickly and adapt themselves much faster than adults. Of course, there are problems, but we had those in the Netherlands too. I notice especially with my daughter that keeping horses has brought her a lot. My husband has arranged things well, he can work remotely and goes to the Netherlands regularly. In the beginning, I did a lot and he was in the Netherlands more often than here, but now things are starting to balance out and he is very happy with this move. My husband Adnan developed eye problems in the Netherlands and tries to limit his eye problems through a different lifestyle (read especially less stress). I am happy to see that Bosnia is doing him very well’!

‘There are some people who would rather not come into our house because we have a dog in house’

Rich soil of this country gives so many beautiful edibles, such as wild mushrooms

Cultural differences

‘Well our dog is not welcome everywhere or at least not welcome in the house. Here is that not common, that you live with a dog in the house. Similarly, there are people who prefer not to come into our house because we have a dog in the house. When we bought horses, we got the comment why we hadn’t bought sheep or cows, because at least those are useful (laughs). In the end, a horse is a luxury purchase and costs money. Which in the end it does. It is a very expensive hobby. I notice that faith still plays an important role, and if people cannot pigeonhole you, they do find it difficult. But I always explain what I stand for or how I live with obviously respect for the other person and that actually goes fine. Ultimately, I try to keep faith and politics at home and I don’t have to go public about this. It is a private matter and nobody’s business. As it is everywhere, you attract people who suit you, this forms naturally’.

Being self-sufficient

What do you see your life looking like in a few years’ time? ‘Our dream is to be as self-sufficient as possible. In Bosnia, you have all the ingredients for that, clean drinking water, food that has not been sprayed, nature and clean air around you. After five years, I can make a good living from my work, maintain my horses and have 15 beautiful horses in my stable. I have built a solid bridge between the Netherlands and Bosnia and make the country more accessible to curious travellers. Meanwhile, I have also created some tourist routes on horseback and have meant a lot for nature. I would say come along, sniff around and feel welcome!’