Jasmina Bajraktarevic was a Bosnian astrophysics student studying in Croatia. She found that the refugee camps did not have teachers for math and science. "They didn't have any teachers for the camps, so I just went to help out, she said,"I never had any intention of doing social work." Soon, she found herself working for a refugee organization. Subsequently, when war came to Bosnia, she and her family became refugees themselves.
Relocated to Australia, she continued on the path of a different life plan than science. She continued to pursue the path she began in Croatia. "I started out in the camps just doing little things - helping organise women's groups and childcare -and soon realised that work with human beings was much more important than my physics studies", she said.
She ended up working for the New South Wales Service for the Treatment of Torture and Trauma Survivors. She wrote about integrating Kosovar refugees into safe havens in Australia. She got her college degree from an Australian institution by distance learning, and added the married name "Hayward" to her name.
Although she had lived through some of the most violent and divisive times in a society that fragmented in plain view, she refused to simplify the dilemma into a matter of "centuries old ethnic conflict". She said "We didn't talk about multiculturalism; we just lived it. In Sarajevo, you were able to see within 300 metres the Orthodox church, next to a Catholic church, next to a mosque and next to a synagogue, the biggest synagogue in the Balkans. People were visiting each other when they had their religious holidays. It didn't really matter which language you spoke. Everybody was accepted there, and it was quite obvious". Although she had seen first hand what could happen when nationalism got "out of hand",
she declined to shrug and take the easy path of "inevitability".
Sometimes it becomes so easy to see ethnic, political and religious division as insoluble problems--"the poor we will always have with us". But I try to learn from people who have been through Hell, and yet don't believe that the flames inevitably consume.