A former Bosnian refugee will speak about her experiences, as well as the reality facing today’s refugees at a lecture at the University of West Florida.
Una Bilic, a Bosnian refugee and site director for the Tallahassee International Rescue Committee, will present her lecture “From Refugee to Citizen” at 6 p.m., April 7 at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.
The lecture is being presented by the University of West Florida International Programs.
“We are very excited to be hosting this event,” said William Vittetoe, director of International Programs, in a statement. “Global citizenship and a global mindset are increasingly important for our students and community.”
The IRC oversees previously arrived and new refugees’ transition into their respective communities. The Tallahassee IRC supports approximately 15 families in an area that stretches from the state’s capitol to Panama City.
Bilic is familiar with the challenges of assimilating into American life. She left Bosnia at the age of 10 after being struck by shrapnel from an exploding shell.
As she played with other children in a courtyard near her home in Sarajevo, Bilic felt metal shrapnel pierce her head, legs, arms and back. Five other people died as a result of the explosion.
With Bilic unable to receive proper medical treatment for her head injury in Bosnia, the United Nations evacuated the child’s family. They were first evacuated to an Italian hospital and then to Orlando. Two families, totaling nine people, shared one room in an Orlando house until a local mosque secured them an apartment. The woman who housed the two families was later arrested for spending the money meant to care for them on herself.
Bilic’s parents worked at McDonald’s and eventually as housekeepers at Disney World to support their two daughters and ensure they received a college education. Bilic went on to attend the University of South Florida, before continuing on to the University of Central Florida, where she earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Central Florida.
The Tallahassee IRC hired Bilic as site director in September 2015. She oversees the development, implementation and completion of all grants, contracts and activities related to resettlement and refugee services.
This event is free and open to the public.