How were you received by the UK when you arrived? - "During the journey to England I was overcome with a mixture of emotions; I was grieving at the fact that my homeland had been destroyed, I was left with nothing to my name. I was angry at the abuse that my body had been through for so long but also relieved and happy my wife and I were together, and finally safe.
I received medical attention very quickly in England, I can't appreciate that enough. They prepared rooms for the refugees when we arrived, it was a relief but I was still on edge, the future was uncertain.
England gave us the necessary encouragement and financial help we needed to restart our lives; we learnt English, my wife went to university again, I got a job in electrical engineering. I often think about Bosnia and how different our lives may have been if the war had never happened, but I am now content with my job, my health and my family.
This year UK MP's voted yes to retaliate against terrorist attacks from extremist groups and to motion air strikes on the so-called Islamic state in Syria. Recalling back to your time in Bosnia during the war, if you had you heard this decision was made in regards to the Bosnian war, what would your reaction be? - Well it’s hard to say. Back in Bosnia, we couldn’t defend ourselves, the opposition took everything we had and we saw no end to the war. Bosnian Muslims were being massacred and my people were being wiped out, their goal was to ethnically cleanse the country and fast. We were so desperate for an end; personally I would have wanted some sort of action to end everything even if consequently I became one of the causalities.
My name is Selma Kesedzic. I am the daughter of former refugees Vahid and Ermina Keseszic and was born in Bradford twenty-one years ago. Growing up with two Bosnian parents meant I was surrounded heavily by the Bosnian language, however my parents ensured English was my first language as this was my home. I identify as British with Bosnian roots. As my parents were brought up in a trying-communist country there was no particular religion pressured onto them, it was their own choice. I had the same choice growing up; no religion was pressured onto me. Which is why even though I identify as Muslim and celebrate Eid, I do not practice it religiously.
Growing up I celebrated both Eid and Christmas, and although I am not a Christian, I am surrounded by British culture. So ever since I can remember, every year we have had a Christmas tree. As a child in school all of my friends would ask, 'what did you get for Christmas!?' and I am grateful to my parents that I was able to join in, understand and celebrate the culture of the country I was born in and call England my home. My parents think it is important to embrace the culture of the country you are living in. I don't have many family members in England, most of them were separated and dispersed throughout the world at the time of the war and I still have distant relatives I've never met due to location. It is difficult around Christmas and Eid time when my friend's families come together to see one another and if I want that I'd most likely have to buy a plane ticket.
Many of my peers at school in Bradford had never met anyone from Bosnia before, and even though Bradford is a very multicultural town there are not many Bosnian s. It was in high school when my classmates began to question the origin of my name and why is it that I don't sound like I'm from Bradford if I was born there. To this I have no response. It could be due to the fact that I grew up learning two languages, perhaps the way I speak was moulded on my parents Bosnian accents and also English. I could tell that my peers at school could not comprehend how I could be a Muslim, yet white. As a child I explained countless times, 'I am a white European Muslim, everyone in Bosnia looks like me, and no I am not from Asia.' Most individuals my age have never heard of a European Muslim and it was difficult having to explain each time.
Even as children they'd ask questions I did not even know the answer to. I felt silly. Some individuals were ignorant and because they didn't understand it, they made fun of it. Eventually I stopped giving out too many details about myself and kept the fact that I was Muslim and Bosnian quiet. I didn't lie, I just never brought it to light.
Now, as a twenty-one year old, I understand Bosnia and my religion more. I've learnt about Bosnia's history through discussion with my parents and can answer any curious questions I will most likely receive in the future. I will never hide my roots or background again. I want to write about my mother and father's story as I find their journey a unique one, and to me they are inspirational individuals. Both of them overcame the greatest grief and restarted their entire lives. They are hard working individuals who give back to the community and the country which saved them. I respect this.
When I see or hear news in the media about the current refugee crisis I strongly sympathise as the situation of these refugees is not much different to my parents. Refugee's seek safety for their families and the majority of them most likely did not want to leave their homes, but if they wanted a chance of survival, they had no choice.