From October 1996-October 1999, I was the program manager for the NC refugee resettlement program administered by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). This is an update on one of the families our team resettled.
It’s 1998, and an exhausted, young couple arrives at Charlotte-Douglas airport with 2 plastic suitcases and dreams of a better life. Only slightly more than kids, these Bosnian Muslims are in search of peace far from the atrocities that they have witnessed in their short lives . . .
Through the magic of Facebook, my husband and I arrive at a well-kept home in suburban Jacksonville. Two immaculate cars are parked outside. We stroll up to the front door, eager to see the couple that we once knew, guided and loved.
We are greeted by Majda, Mehemed, their two boys, Haris (9) and Tarik (7) and Max, a 3-month old Maltese puppy. After the initial introductions, the boys return to their video games played on a large screen television, comfortable in two cushy recliners.
We follow Majda and Mehemed into the family room. For a moment, there is just silence as we all take in the gravity of the moment and what it means to us individually and collectively. Majda and I look deep into each other’s eyes, conjuring up images of the people we were when we met. We begin to cry and give each other an extended hug. We then get down to the business of catching up. While they are eager to learn about our lives for the last 13 years, their journey has been far more exciting.
After leaving Charlotte, they settled in Des Moines, Iowa in search of the Bosnian ex-patriot community. Always keeping their minds on their goals and their eyes on their finances, Majda was transferred by her Charlotte employer and Mehemed began driving trucks. During their stay in Des Moines, they gave birth to two boys, a trucking business and Majda’s quest for higher education. They also bought their first home. However, they quickly grew weary of dealing with the harsh winters and people.
During a visit to Jacksonville to visit friends, they decided the climate and environment suited them much better. So they packed up, sold their home and moved to Florida. While in Jacksonville these past 5 years, they have thrived. The boys are fluent in Bosnian and are good students. Madja recently completed her MBA and is a unit manager with a large insurance company. Mehemed is still driving trucks and has found his passion as a soccer coach. Living in their second home, they continue to plan for the future, searching for the best educational experience for their boys, looking out for their next home and planning their American Dream.