Muharema Menkovic

Transcript of Muharema Menkovic
Interviewee: Muharema Menkovic
Interviewer: Sarah Altinbasak & Dorothy Nygren
Date: February 20, 2014
Place: Care for Real, 5339 N Sheridan Ave, Chicago, IL.
Transcriber: Mark Lecker
Total Time: 25:33 minutes

Copyright © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society

SA: Ok, so my name’s Sarah Altinbasak. And we are currently at 5339 N Sheridan Rd. And we are here with…um, can you tell me your name again?

MM: My name is Muharema Menkovic.

DN: Muharema could you just speak a little bit more loudly so we can make sure we can…

MM: Ok.

DN: Or bring…I don’t know bring it a little bit closer so you’re able just to…

MM: Better for close?

SA: Uh huh, that’s great.

MM: My name is Muharema Menkovic, I’m from Bosnia. I first refugee in United States about 1993. 25 February I be here twenty one years.

SA: Wow. Can you tell me a little bit about where you’re from?

MM: I’m from Bosnia. I… Omarska concentration camp seven months. Me and my children, my husband, my whole family. This is twenty five family killed. It’s very terrible. It’s very…the concentration camp, not food, not drink, not…not nothing. Is coming the United States people and pick up for concentration camp, I stay in Switzerland three months, after three months I come into United States. United States, I love you very much. It’s very nice country, very free country.

My country is good. I have everything for my country, before war. Is coming war just missing all family, all house, all everything. Everything. And is completely religious, is problem. Religious Serbian people, Croatian, Catholic, and Muslim people. Jewish people. Is…Serbian people kill all. Kill Catholic, kill Jewish, kill Muslim…everybody killed. Only Serbian people in my country. I don’t know why. “You steal water,” I tell her, “Who kill me?” They my neighbor. My neighbor kill me. He go out, out everybody, out. Children, woman, lot of children killed. Lot of woman killed. But the young people killed. My city, 10,000 people killed. That’s all Bosnian people. All [unintelligible] 2,055 people killed. I don’t know why. Nothing.

I like the United States. The United States tell her, “Stop you kill! Stop you kill!” I don’t know. I don’t understand. Everybody quiet. The only situation the same. I’m nuts. I’m going visit before long time, my country. The situation, occupation, again. Everybody fight. My house, my…missing all. Doesn’t matter old people. Doesn’t matter for house or…how about your family. My family killed. All. How about you?


SA: Me?

MM: No, no. Not you. I’m talking to for everybody. For…why? I don’t understand. Right now, situation again is situation. Every day is kill young people. I’m scared for going visit. It’s Serbian occupation. I don’t understand. I’m very, very, very scared. Very scared. But not for me. For children. For all children. Situation not ok.


DN: Muharema, this…this, I know this is very hard for you. Could we talk a little bit about when you were a little child? And things that make you happy at home? Your family?

MM: Yeah, yeah. I have three children, and seven grandchildren. My older daughter, she have the same younger daughter, the same concentration camp. My granddaughter, she in seventeen months, she still concentration camp, too. I’m coming United States. My son, my daughter. My other daughter…she marry everybody over here. She have any good jobs. She happy. I have seven grandchildren over here. My granddaughter married to older. Youngest two boys - eighteen, ten, fourteen, two year and a half and two months boys. They survived the nights for children, for… I don’t have any problem for children. My children you have any good jobs, work. My son work two jobs. I work five years. I’m open heart surgery, I stop working. That’s my blood pressure, very high. I’m diabetic too. [Sighs]. I have social security benefits, and have apartment 5225 N Kenmore. I’m living me and my husband in it. I don’t have any over here problems, thank you G‑d. I love you. I work for Care for Real, sixteen years for all. I’m made it over here, I’m happy. I’m still home. I’m crying everyday [crying].


DN: What about when you were a little girl? How many were there in your family?

MM: My little girl lives…she living for my daughter-in-law…

DN: No, no…when you were little?

MM: Little…oh. She marry for Arizona, right now. And another granddaughter, you talk to my granddaughter?

DN: No, I meant you. When you were with your mother and father, when you were a little girl, were you in a city, or a village?

MM: No, she city.

DN: You were in a city?

MM: Yes.

DN: And did you live in an apartment?

MM: I’m living for apartment. My children…over here one daughter living [Address Redacted]. My son living Damen and Ridge. Another daughter living Arizona, Phoenix. She procedures government, very good jobs.


DN: But when you were in Bosnia…

MM: Yes.

DN: You were living in a city when you were little?

MM: Yes.

DN: With your mother and father?

MM: Yes.

DN: Do you have some happy memories of games that you played? Or some food your mother cooked?

MM: Oh, no. No.

DN: No happy memories?

MM: Uh uh.

DN: No. Your happy memories are now here, in the United States with your children and grandchildren?

MM: Yeah. I am, but…I’m coming for little girls over here. He is going to pre-school. I’m working. She going back to school for home. I’m working five years. After five years, I’m still home. Helping for grandchildren, for my daughter’s little girls. And my daughter going to school for Northwestern University. And after eighteen years, she marry.


DN: That must give you a wonderful feeling…

MM: Thank you.

DN: …that you have your children, and your grandchildren, and all the love from them coming to you.

MM: Yes, thank you G‑d, I have beautiful children and grandchild. But I don’t have any of my other family.

DN: Now, when you first came to Edgewater…

MM: Yes.

DN: Was there somebody who helped bring you here?

MM: Oh yes. Was Tom. Tom [Robb]. You know Tom?


DN: Maybe you could talk a little bit about him.

MM: Oh yeah. Tom is very, very special guy. Special guy. This is my first teacher. He is very nice guy. So many people help you for Bosnian people. Thank you Tom so much, and I appreciate…I can’t believe, I don’t understand this…Tom respect for Bosnian people, for everybody. You have any time for…. Every time [he] talk[s] to you, for relax, for everything. You have any problem, Tom come in, help you for everybody. Help you for food, help you for clothes, help everything. Everything. Thank you G‑d. Help you for Tom, for family, for everybody. Tom is very special guy.


DN: How did you meet Tom? Care for Real? Or before that?

MM: Before Care for Real. One organization… [Unintelligible] Leaf organization, my organization. He is come in, Tom, to be teacher for Bosnian people. Help you for speaking English. I know for Tom. I’m…one doctor come and visit for me, and I’m pretty…feeling depression. You know situation my country? This…doctor say you need little bit work. Working, you need. He called for Tom, “I have one lady.” Oh Tom say “Oh I know Muharema, you welcome, come in.” I work three days, sometimes four days for two or three hours, I’m happy, I’m coming over here, I’m happy.


DN: What did you do when you came over here? To help?

MM: Friday, sometimes Monday, Saturday, Wednesday… I have time, I’m coming help you. Cleaning, clothes, teaching…everything.

DN: And how did that make you feel, when you were doing this?

MM: I’m coming, I feel good, over here. This is lot of people coming, is communication, I’m bring you for my people, help you. For cleaning, for…who can for everything. This lot of people coming pick up new situation, around us. No food, no clothes, no…I’m happy.


DN: So it made you feel good to help people and to feel useful, and especially with people who didn’t have a lot, and that came from another country because they had to?

MM: Yes. A lot of…especially for [unintelligible] people coming, refugee. One guy is bring you three boys, smaller boys. Mom killed. I’m help you. Tom bring in, tell me, and Jana “Muharema, you coming help.” I’m going, maybe one years, I’m going every second day, help you for the children, cleaning, for clothes washing, for everything. The [unintelligible] children, he is coming over here every Friday, and children is. His father marry right now, another woman. Is children you’ll be happy, I’m not going to help you, I’m only going visit and that’s it. It’s…you have more for Syrian refugee, for…another country, all country, it’s…I’m help you. You know everybody for me, over there, all neighbor. You know everybody for me. “Please Muharema, are you coming help me?” I’m found for children clothes, diapers, for everything.

DN: Now, in Bosnia, your family…

MM: Uh huh.

DN: Would help the neighbors, or everyone would kind of try to help each other.

MM: Yeah.

DN: Yes. So now that you’re here, and you’re with Care for Real, you’re sort of doing the same thing.

MM: Yeah, yes.


DN: You’re doing…you’re taking what you learned as a little girl with your family, to help other people.

MM: Oh yeah.

DN: And bringing to the United States to help other people.

MM: Oh yeah, it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter for United States, or another country, I’ll help you for everybody. I love you everybody. Everybody. You know, I have, for my building, a lot, a lot of another country. Different religions, different people. White, black, you know? Doesn’t matter. Everybody you love me. You come in my building, interview. I had #27…apartment #27E. Last floor. Everybody you know for me. You love everybody. You let Muharema help you, everybody. But I like… (interruption)


DN: I’m sorry for the interruption. We’re going back to the interview. I was saying that when you were in Bosnia, the family meant everything. So much. And you would help each other. And now you’re here, and now that’s what you’re doing here, is you’re helping people. Your heart is so big, that you’re reaching out and helping people.

MM: Yes, but…yes. My family only one sister over here. Another family is killed, only one [unintelligible] from Bosnia. Another family, no.

DN: But here, you’re helping people who live in your building.

MM: Oh yeah.

DN: Like they’re part of your family, almost.

MM: Yes. But this is only sixty-two people my building. She’s coming food, vegetables every month. I’m coming help you for package. Everybody you coming, I’m help you for bring you…for everything. This is…doesn’t matter you for, who. I’m…I have family, my sister but that’s ok. This best friend only over here. But I have lot of friends. American, Russian, everything. Every…you know. Vanya. I love you, everybody I love you. Help you for everybody. I love you, come back my country, but…I can’t. I’m still here. But my children over here, grandchild, my money, my food, my house…


DN: Sarah, can I turn the interview back to you, ask the rest of the questions. Ask maybe how she came to Edgewater, or…( Sarah shakes her head no.) When you came from Bosnia did you come directly to Edgewater? Straight to Edgewater?

MM: No, I’m…first coming for World Relief organization…

DN: World Relief.

MM: Yes. International…international…not relation, organization. You know, for its leaving organization for…Lawrence…I don’t know, I forget. I’m still one month public aid. After one month I’m going work for Intercontinental Hotels. Three months I’m cleaning room. After three months, I’m supervisor here for…Intercontinental for five years. After five years my blood pressure everyday high, high…I’m going hospital. Open heart surgery. Yeah. Three, five months. It’s out for my…legs and push over here.


DN: Mm hmm.

MM: After operation, I’m still over here work every second day. But, last two years, I’m not feel good again. My vein not…still again not ok. This doctor say, “You think about what’s going on your life. Why you still concentration camp? Why you still for war for country? For all country?” I’m so sorry for all country, what’s happen. But I’m still diabetic. Nobody my family diabetic. I’m still…the pressure…I don’t know.

DN: The stress…

MM: Stress every…you know? I’m not see family, not see brother, not see…and I’m lot taking medication right now. Every month I’m still hospital. 200 my blood.

DN: Oh no.

MM: 200. Every night, especially night. Doctor say I don’t know what, what bring you medication. I have lot of medication. Sometimes…one week none, very good. Another week…every night.


DN: I think you’re thinking about things too much.

MM: Yeah. Doctor say, “Muharema, you thinking about too much?” I’m fine. Everybody, you know I’m going for hospital. “You cry Muharema again? I tell her, “Yes I’m crying again.”

DN: But I think you’ve taken your sadness, and done something with it by helping people. The sadness about Bosnia.

MM: Yeah.

DN: You’ve taken that and made it into something to make good from.

MM: That’s ok, doesn’t matter. You African people, you know, I’m looking for TV, not for nothing. I’m crying. I’m [unintelligible] and stop. I know this is for African people, not for…not food. I have over here America a lot of food. A lot of food, a lot of clothes. But what for African?


DN: I think if you, if you could solve the world’s problems, you would.

MM: Yeah [laughs]. But I don’t know.

DN: I wanted to ask you, when you came to Edgewater, besides Tom Robb, and World Relief, was there any other organization, or church, or people that made you feel…

MM: Umm, no. No. Only World Relief help me, and Tom.

DN: And Tom.

MM: And Tom.

DN: And so the last question you wanted to ask…?


SA: Do you feel at home here?

MM: Home? Tell me again?

SA: Living here, does it feel like home?

MM: Yes. I love you, but… I have my bigger home, my country. But over here, smaller apartment, that’s ok. I have peace. Only my… I’m tell her, last…I love you, America. I’m told her for talking about for Obama. You bring you…bring you Bosnian. Stop your war. Stop you kill for all country. I know this problem, you have a lot of problem from other country. You know? I’m tell her for Obama, “Please help you for not occupation from us. Please for everybody you help.” Last day is kill mother, and father, and children two years. For my country, I’m looking killed. Why? I don’t know. It’s a religious problem? I can’t really…


DN: So why do you feel at home here? Because your family is here. And your children, and your grandchildren? Your heart is still…a little piece of your heart is still in Bosnia, because of…

MM: Oh yeah.

DN: Because of why? Why do you feel that way?

MM: But over here…I love you over here. It’s good police. This woman you heard, especially for woman good. ‘Cause my country you having a lot of woman trouble, with her husband. Over here…very good country. Especially for woman. That…I don’t have any problem from my husband, before. Not never. I know a lot of woman, who having any problem in my country. Too much drink, too much fighting, too much everything. But over here, that stop. I love you so much. It’s very peace.

DN: I keep hearing you say “my country.” So if I were to say, do you feel like an American now, or do you feel Bosnian still? Or do you feel both at the same time?


MM: Oh no, no…just American.

DN: Just American?

MM: Just American, very good… I love you my country. You know this. I have children. I have family that died. My mom, my dad, my family missing. Now they’ve died twenty years. But this America, very [unintelligible] country. Very [unintelligible]. I have peace. I like peace. I’m scared. I’m go visit, I’m scared out. This is neighbor maybe fighting for me, I don’t know why. Before, it be here together. Everybody. You be here peace. Everybody, “Hi, how are you?” “Going visit neighbor. Right now.” “No.” ” Why you coming? [Unintelligible]. Why you coming? You need kill again?” I’m not good.


DN: Muharema, this is your story. Is there anything else you want to share with us? To tell about, or to say anything about? How you feel? Your beliefs? What you hope? Your dreams? Anything.

MM: [Sighs]. I don’t know. I want for whole country peace. All country, especially for children. Mom, dad, youngest children. My dreams…I love you everybody [laughs]. You know, everybody G‑d help you, G‑d bless you, only peace. Doesn’t matter eat food, doesn’t matter clothes, only peace. You still together, you be happy. You be separate, not ok.


DN: Sarah, are there any other questions that you can think of you might like to ask? (Pause) I think that talking about peace between people is a wonderful way to end this interview. Thank you so much.

MM: Thank you, thank you, thank you. You welcome anytime. I’m here.

DN: Thank you.

MM: Thank you.