JACKSON, Tenn. – May 24, 2002– Growing up in Sarajevo, Bosnia, at age 22, Lada Mujkic never expected life to turn out the way it did.
“We saw ourselves just like the United States – war always happened to some other country – never to us,” said Mujkic.
But in 1991, war did happen to the tiny country and with a vengeance.
For the first time in her life, Mujkic was forced to experience what many third-world countries are used to – no water, no food, no electricity. She and her family fought strictly for survival and the fear of losing people close to them.
Haris Mulic (left) and Lada Mujkic (right) have both come from Bosnia to study at Union.
“It wasn’t all bad though,” Mujkic stressed. “Good things also came out of this horrible war – people were closer, we shared everything – we took care of each other. We learned how to appreciate life and the small things.”
The turning point for Mujkic came in 1999 when she was hired as an interpreter for an American general, General Herb Lloyd who was in charge of an American unit stationed in Sarajevo. The intelligent, soft-spoken and compassionate 27 year-old impressed Lloyd so much that he was determined to make a difference in the shattered lives of Mujkic and young students like herself by providing them with a college education in America. Mujkic was the first of 34 students to be accepted by an American university with a full four-year scholarship – that school being Union University.
Arriving in August of 1999, Mudjic found adjusting to American life challenging at first, but she soon discovered the warmth of her professors and fellow students. Taking extra classes during the summer and winter terms in addition to regular semesters, Mudjic worked hard to finish early, anticipating the moment she could return home to help her countrymen.
Graduating this May with several honors and awards, Mujkic did finish a year early, and is the first out of the initial group of Bosnian students to graduate. The second Bosnian student to come to the States, Haris Mulic, will graduate from Union in December.
A psychology major, Mujkic was accepted by both Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s graduate programs. She will attend U.T. Knoxville’s program in the fall, but will go home to Sarajevo to her parents and sister for a much-anticipated family reunion this summer.
“When I came to Union, I started experiencing life,” said Mujkic. “I want to go home and make a difference in someone else’s life in return.”
Lada and fellow Union student Haris Mulic stand in front of war-torn buildings in Sarajevo.
Sara B. Horn,