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BS in Business Administration
“I feel very strongly that one individual can make a world of a difference. All it takes is one person to make a stand in order to change the world. I want to be a person like that.”
It's 1992. War has just broken out in Bosnia-Herzegovia. Edita Salkic is three years old, living with her family in a small village. Her parents decide to leave their beloved country and seek sanctuary in a German refugee camp. They could not have known then that Bosnia would never be their home again. And that this conflict would become synonymous with genocide and some of the century's most horrific atrocities.
Being wrenched from home, seeing your country invaded and shattered by violence--it's an experience most Americans cannot fathom. For Edita Salkic, it was the beginning of a quest for understanding, and a belief that peace is just not the absence of war, but an individual choice.
“My parents had to choose--either stay in Bosnia and try to get through the war, or move to a refugee camp in Germany,” Edita says. The decision was heart wrenching, especially for her father. “He wanted my brother and me to be safe. But we had to leave everything behind, including our grandmothers, who chose to stay.” The family has been back to visit Bosnia only once since then. “It's a beautiful country,” Edita says. “But after the war, there were no opportunities for us there. So we came to America.”
When her family left Bosnia, she lived in German refugee camp for a year. They were then given permission to live in Wurzberg, Bavaria (coincidentally, a sister city of Rochester, NY). “It was absolutely gorgeous, “Edita says. “There were old castles and palaces, fountains and gardens—I loved it there. My parents loved it there. But we didn't have permanent status—so my parent's couldn't work.”
Seven years later, the Bosnian war was coming to a close, and her parents had to make yet another choice—return to their country, or move to the United States. Edita says, “It was hard not going back to Bosnia. But my parents wanted my brother and me to get an education. There are so many more opportunities here. I can go to college here, and if I fail, I have other options to turn to. It's not like that in all countries. I absolutely love it here!”
While Edita majors in Business Administration at SUNY Brockport, she is also an unofficial ambassador for peace, hoping to raise awareness among her fellow students to prevent future wars. “Many American students today have never heard of the Bosnian War,” she says. “And although the US is at war in Iraq now, unless you know someone over there, you're not directly affected.” Edita wants to change that—to educate people on war, not in the abstract, but as a reality. And to remind all of us that we have a responsibility to peace. She says, “For a long time, my mother wouldn't tell me about what she saw during the war. When she did, it was shocking. It was a genocide; a holocaust. It's important to talk about that, so we can prevent it from happening again.”
The Freshman Summer Reading Program at SUNY Brockport has given Edita a forum to the discuss issues of war and peace. The program is like a big book club: incoming freshman all read the same book during the summer, then discuss it in a series of campus events. Edita recommended The Bone Woman by Clea Koff, a forensic anthropologist who exhumes mass graves to study genocides in countries like Bosnia and Rwanda. The author will give a talk at the College as part of the event. And, Edita will be on a panel of students and faculty who have had real life experiences with war.
When Edita talks about the impact war has had on her family and life, it is reminiscent of the famous quote by Anne Frank, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” “Many people would think that I'd be bitter about the war, or that I should hate the Serbians,” Edita says, “but it's had the opposite effect on me. For every story of atrocity, there is another of hope--about people in war making brave choices. For example, I've read about Serbian soldiers who were ordered to rape Bosnian women, but they only pretended to—they couldn't actually go through with it. They made the choice to risk their lives when it would have been easier not to.”
Edita says, “People think war is between countries and governments, but when it comes down to it, it's about individuals, and the choices they make.” And, it's about taking a stand for what you believe in. “Often people don't speak up because they think, 'I'm only one person—what can I do?' But I believe one person can make a huge difference.”
Edita says her goal in introducing the subject of war to her fellow students is to help find a common thread, despite different backgrounds, political affiliations, and ethnicities. To Edita, that thread is the tie that binds people together. It is the small, still voice in us all that chooses to do the right thing. As it winds through our lives, it is the beginning of hope, the path to peace and the journey that started a brave young woman's rite of passage.