Family Life Month
New culture brings challenges
Sticking together is the key to starting over
to resettling families
By Crystal Delwiche
Being a single parent isn't easy, just ask Zorica Kravic, Appleton, who not only is a single parent, but also arrived as a refugee in 1996.
Zorica came to the United States as a refugee because of fighting in her homeland of Bosnia. She arrived with her daughter, Jelana, 14, son, Ivan, 10, and her parents.
Before leaving Bosnia, Zorica was a doctor working in the pulmonary field. Since arriving here, she has had to start from the ground returning to school at Fox Valley Technical College for a degree in nursing. She will graduate in December.
"It's been hard because I had to start over with my family," Zorica said. "Back in Bosnia I was done with work and the children done with school at 1 p.m. The rest of the day was spent together."
Now her days are busy rushing to class in the morning, working at a medical clinic in the afternoon, studying at night, and helping newly arrived refugees a couple of hours a week as a case manager for the Diocese. Finding time to spend with her family is hard.
"We try to eat at least one meal together a day," Zorica said. "The weekends are family time and we try to find time in between hectic days."
Growing up in Bosnia her mother stayed home and was there for the children all day. Zorica has learned a different lifestyle and had to adapt to her situation.
"I'm lucky because my parents live with me and can help out," Zorica said. "But I feel bad when I have so many things going on and I have to rush all over. I feel that I'm letting my children down sometimes."
If the children have a sporting event or band concert Zorica makes a point to attend. If she can't be there, her father will be so at least somebody from the family is there to support the children.
Zorica tries to keep some of her heritage and values from Bosnia but like most refugee children they want to be "Americanized" and it's a struggle to keep some values relating to her country alive with her children.
"Because I started at zero, I want my children to be their best but it's a struggle every day to keep things together," Zorica said.
Being a parent isn't easy in today's world but families like Asim and Nusretta Mustafovic and their children, Ferida, 18, Maida, 16, and Emina, 4, believe that as long as they stick together they'll make it.
The Mustafovic family arrived in 1999 from Bosnia. Living in Pulaski has been a very different transition for the family. In Bosnia there were 180,000 people living inside the city in an area 6 x 3 miles. Most of the buildings had 16-22 floors.
"You could put the city of Pulaski in one of the buildings in Bosnia," Asim said.
Before the war in Bosnia, the rent on an apartment would be about $100 for a two-bedroom apartment with $1,200 a month for a salary.
"We had to get use to the cost of living here," Asim said. "It's harder here to find a job so it's harder to support a family."
Schooling in Bosnia is just as important as it is here in the United States, but it is harder. Typically by seventh grade the students are learning physics and chemistry, Asim said.
Right now Ferida is concentrating on getting her GED but it will be hard catching up in areas such as English.
Asim and Nusretta worry more about their children here in the United States because of the laws that are not strictly followed.
"Most of the time a teenager can walk into a gas station and buy cigarettes without being checked here. There are no problems like alcohol or cigarettes in Bosnia," Asim said.
Meals are very important for the Mustafovic family. It's time to sit back and talk about what has been happening in their children's day.
"It's nice because my brother just moved here so we spend a lot of time with him and his family," Nusretta said. "Even thought we like living in Pulaski, it's good to have family close by because we miss our home in Bosnia."
Rahma Haji Said Abukar and Bashir Guled Mahamed, Appleton, fled Somalia and lived in Eygpt for 10 years before arriving in the United States as refugees. They were in a country that they couldn't become citizens because living there is suppose to be temporary (even their children who were born there weren't considered citizens) and finding jobs was difficult. Bashir looked to other countries such as Malaysia which is a 12-hour flight from Egypt to find steady and well-paying work.
"It was cheaper to live in Egypt but there weren't a lot of permanent jobs so it was hard being together," Bashir said. "Now I feel much better about our future."
Since arriving in Appleton Bashir has found a full-time job at an electric company and goes to school. Volunteers from St. Pius in Appleton have helped the family assimilate to the United States by introducing them to the community and helping the children.
"Because of the support I have gotten, I decided in the future to attend the University of Wisconsin Green Bay to get a degree in surveying as that is what I did before coming to the United States," Bashir said. "With the education I will be able to buy a house and support my family better."
One thing that is important to Rahma and Bashir is that their children, Abdullahi, 13, Abdurahman, 12, Abdilhakim, 10, Faduma, 9, and Ruqiya, 2, can attend school and get an education. In Egypt the schools were private and expensive.
"I go to the school and volunteer my time in the library so I can help out," Rahma said. "I also try to help the other children understand our culture by doing presentations and giving them a chance to ask questions about our family."
The children did have a hard time at first but with help from students at Lawrence University serving as tutors they now are doing well in school. Abduraham even helped out as a translator when two new students who only spoke Arabic started at his school, Bashir said.
The family believes that giving back to the community is an important part of being a family. Bashir will help people with anything in the neighborhood while Abduraham helps a friend with a paper route.
"As a family, we have never felt different here, we've always felt welcome," Bashir said. "Our new friends love us and we love them and we want to help them like they have helped us."
The family is like most families where their children go to camp, play sports, or have friends over. The only difference is that they had to start over with almost nothing and had to have the confidence in themselves to do many things.
"We want the chance to have our family learn and grow while we live here in Appleton," said Bashir.