‘My child’s heart was in Sarajevo’

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Zelda Pervan Mulic has been living in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, since 2018. She always did have the desire to live here and love eventually brought her to Sarajevo. Until the age of 24, she lived in Enschede and at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences in Zwolle she obtained her bachelor's degree in social work/Pedagogy. In our first contact via LinkedIn, she already triggered me when she wrote: "Many say I have 'come back', but in reality it didn't feel that way. I took the step of living alone in a foreign country despite it being so familiar. I had to learn everything; from improving the language, to making friends and finding work'. She currently works remotely for a company in Heerlen where she is responsible for recruiting new talent.

For love to Sarajevo

‘My parents are from Sarajevo themselves and they fled to the Netherlands with my brother in ’92. I was born in Enschede and lived there until I was 24. Every summer holiday, like every ‘Balkan-er’ we went to Sarajevo and spent six weeks with my grandmother. I always had a desire to live here, this was my home. So when I met my current husband, it was no surprise to my parents that I would move to Sarajevo’.

My own little world in BIH

”My (childhood) heart was in Sarajevo. My deepest wish was therefore to move there one day. This will probably also have something to do with the fact that we had few relatives in the Netherlands and everyone I loved lived in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Holidays were also a great time with friends. I had created my own little world here, separate from the Netherlands and this suited me better. I never expressed this, but I felt it strongly’.

‘I’ve had lonely moments at times, but I’ve had a lot of help from my husband’

View of Sarajevo valley from Mount Trebevic | Photo Mirel Masic

‘Where will I be tomorrow? I don’t plan very far ahead, never did’

‘I went home’

‘I went home, that’s how I described it. Relationships and friends often said to my mother: ‘clever that Zelda came back’. My mother was the first to point out to me and others that I did not return because I never lived there and everything was new to me. I knew the country and the culture but still I was moving into an unfamiliar city with unfamiliar people. The circle of friends I had was falling away more slowly and I had to make new friends, live in a new house and get used to the mentality. Surely it is harsher than I was used to from my own little world. Fortunately, I had found a job where I could work for the Dutch market, so I valued that a lot. I sometimes had lonely moments, but I had a lot of help from my current husband, with whom I could pour my heart out’.

Long queues and grumpy people

‘We talk about the cultural differences between the two countries and Zelda adds; “although you get the culture from home and spend many holidays here, it is different when you start living here. The worst thing here are and remain the queues at the doctors (laughs). And sometimes the somewhat grumpy people. But I have a solution for that; keep smiling and then the grumpy frown often disappears quickly. What I especially like about life here is that it is not all so forced. Life is harder and faster here, in the sense that working full-time is more the norm, but still, in the Netherlands I had a much stronger feeling that everything had to be done. You have to have a new Apple or Samsung and here I am now walking around with a mobile phone that is 2.5 years old, which used to be unthinkable for me’.’.

‘Every year a bag full of pepernoten and chocolate letters comes this way’!

Mountains and sea around the corner

‘Asked what her week looks like, she makes no bones about it and says her week looks simple and clear. ‘During the week I am mainly busy with work and on the weekends I spend time with my little daughter and husband. The only advantage now is that I have the mountains and the sea nice and close by. We often make use of that and go out’.

Asian spices and sweets

‘If she could bring something from the Netherlands to Sarajevo, what would it be? Zelda doesn’t have to think about it for long; ‘I miss the supermarket Albert Heijn (laughs). And I especially miss the food, the Asian spices and the sweets. Every year, a bag full of pepernoten and chocolate letters comes this way! Besides, I learned to cook creatively, so I now know how to fry kibbeling, make nasi and noodles. The sushi here cannot be compared to that from the Netherlands either, because it is much tastier there’.

Future plans

When asked where she sees herself in 3 years, she states, ‘where will I be tomorrow? I don’t plan very far ahead. Never did to be honest. I’m quite impulsive, so then you’re never sure where you’ll end up. There is a lot of potential here. A picture is painted in the West about what it’s like here but it’s not so black and white. Sure, there are some things better regulated in the Netherlands but I have found my way here. The political culture is the way it is, not healthy but that too cannot last long given the system is not working. Many people are speaking out and standing up for various interests’.

Bosnian market attractive

What would you say to people who are hesitant to move there too? ‘Do it! This has been one of the best choices in my life. That my husband would move to the Netherlands was never an option. There is definitely potential here and I would especially engage with the people who have made the move. The biggest advantage is that the Bosnian market is very attractive to the West. Cheap labour, but skilled and close. Wages are higher so you can make a good living’.

Roadtripping through BIH

‘What I personally really like are the leftover pieces of the bobsled run from the 1984 Winter Olympics on Mount Trebevic. And the ski slope on Mount Igman is also beautiful. If you want to see Bosnia & Herzegovina, I recommend taking a road trip! We have so many beautiful lakes, mountains, forests and places with waterfalls. This is something I have been planning myself’.

Follow Zelda on LinkedIn