Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Relocating to Pittsburgh Meant Security for Bosnian Family They Fled the Fighting in Sarajevo in 1995

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Relocating to Pittsburgh Meant Security for Bosnian Family They Fled the Fighting in Sarajevo in 1995

Article excerpt

Fireworks have a visceral effect on Haris Fetahagic.

They revive blurred and discomforting memories of what it was like growing up in the wartime city of Sarajevo, Bosnia, shaken by sounds of machine guns, bombing and artillery fire. Beyond that, he does not remember much from those years of the war and the siege of Sarajevo that lasted 1,425 days.

"I remember very little," Haris acknowledged, "and it's always an interesting subject in my family. My mother always says, 'Lucky you don't remember.' But I have a different view on that: Sometimes it's nice to have memories, whether they are good or bad."

Haris was 7 when his family left Bosnia. It was already close to the end of the war, but back then they didn't know when the fighting would stop. They came to Pittsburgh in 1995.

"It was about our safety," Haris said. "My brother was 16 at the time. He would be drafted into the army. I was a little boy. My dad was fighting in the army. My mom had to make the decision with all those things in mind, and our safety was the priority."

For Haris, childhood memories started in Pittsburgh. He remembers his first day at school, meeting his best friend in the first grade, learning English. He soaked up everything pretty quickly. He was learning English faster and better than he was learning Bosnian. That's why his parents insisted on speaking Bosnian at home.

Adjusting to American life was not as easy for the rest of the family.

"One of the stereotypes my parents had about America was that there were plenty of jobs, plenty of money, plenty of everything," Haris said.

But they quickly found out that those things were not necessarily true. To support the family, Haris' mom worked at CVS pharmacy, putting in 50-60 hours a week for a lot less money than the family anticipated.

The family tried to relocate Haris' grandparents to America, but that plan didn't quite work out.

"My grandfather always had routines," Haris said. "For example, he would often go to the market. …

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