Zijo and Ramiza Ribić, former protégés of the Home for Children without Parental Care in Tuzla

A boy who witnessed the worst atrocities of the war in BiH, spent part of his childhood in the Home for Children without Parental Care in Tuzla. Before his eyes, 6 sisters, a two-year-old brother, a mother in the ninth month of pregnancy and a father were raped and killed. The eight-year-old boy was saved by mere luck by crawling out of a mass grave. Without anyone of his own, a difficult fate and war brought him from his native village of Skočić near Kozluk, after treatment in Zvornik, and then in Montenegro to Tuzla, where he found refuge in the Home.

Today, Zijo Ribić is a grown-up, married man, the father of a three-year-old girl who, despite everything, does not hate anyone. Zijo proudly points out his Roma origin and says that hatred will not return his family or childhood: “I grew up with people who never separated anyone. Some things come with age, so now I’m sure we can build our future only if we do it together. We cannot forget, we will talk about memories, make sure they do not happen again, but without hate. Hate will not give me back my childhood or my family. What kind of parent would I be if, after everything that happened to me, I taught my child to hate? The greatest reward and pleasure for me is when someone tells me that I have changed his/her mind, opened the horizons.”

Hate will not give me back my childhood

After everything that happened to him in Kozluk, he was placed in a home in Montenegro, where he was treated for trauma as a boy. Since then, he says, whenever he has difficult moments, he stands in front of a mirror and open his soul to the man he sees in the reflection. “In that way, for the first time after the family tragedy, I cried for my family, in that way I still ease my soul today when I have difficult moments. Life is full of injustice and pain, but that is not a reason for my Sara not to go through a life of open soul and love for everyone. The children are not to blame for anything”, our interview explains that his biggest motivation is his three-year-old daughter.

Close relationship with his educator Mirso

When he arrived at the Home in Tuzla, he had a Montenegrin accent. Jokes about Montenegrins started immediately and so he broke the ice with laughter and became friends with his Domci:

“Educator Mirsad Tirić was my support. He fought for us. He pushed us to be better in school, he rewarded us when we deserved it. I remember going to kebabs as a reward, for us it was an experience. Now I know that he paid for some things with his own money, because he tried to give us at least a little more than what we had. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened to me today. At his urging, I enrolled High School of Catering and Tourism because he thought I would be a good cook. I loved it and I still do it today. I am infinitely grateful to him for that.”

He met his wife at the Home

He met his wife Ramiza at the Home, but at that time the difference between them was great. As an older Domac, Zijo was obliged to protect younger children. He remembers his wife as a nice girl, but he had a girlfriend at the time: “When Ramiza grew up and left the Home, she came to the so-called “house on the halfway”, I called her to see how I could help. That’s how we went out and, since our lives were very similar, we continued to hang out and fell in love. Today, our daughter Sara is our biggest motivation to proudly move forward and hope for a better life. I believe that one day we will have our own house and that my wife will find a job”, Zijo hopes, adding with a laugh that his wife and he were born on the same day and that fate marked them in that way as well.

With the help of the City of Tuzla, the Ribić family received an apartment for use, and Zijo got a job in the Public Institution Naše dijete. He currently works as a chef and loves his job. His favorite, he claims, is when he hears laughter, crying, playing at work every morning. He hears life, which he still enjoys despite his difficult destiny. For Ramiza, her parents were not able to take care of her due to a combination of difficult life circumstances, so she came to live in the Home as a little girl. And she remembers the Home only for good things that happened to her. “I used to not even eat at home. As a child, surrounded by other children, life with constant socializing and games was interesting to me. I probably wouldn’t have finished school if I hadn’t come to the Home. I still remember the situation when they would bring us new furniture to the rooms, I remember the happiness and the feeling of pride. Seemingly small things meant a lot to us”, says Ramiza.

Everyone should look at themselves and their children

The Ribić family agree that if the children get renovated rooms, they will always remember it as a positive experience. The help is even greater, because the children-protégés of the Home will feel better because they come to a nice environment. All their stories are difficult, so when you live in a beautiful environment, surrounded by friends who share similar destinies, it becomes a little easier, Zijo said.

Zijo is very happy that the initiative “For My Happier Childhood” was launched to renovate the premises in the Home. He believes that everyone has something to give: “First of all, I think that everyone who has a family, children, should first look at themselves, their children. To look in their rooms and then imagine how it is in the Home. I think that is enough for each of us to know that we need to help as much as we can. It is not only the one who has, but the one who is used to giving a little from his/her humble life, but from the heart. All children are happy when they have a colorful room and a normal bed. For us Domci, the most common new chair brings great happiness. When all this is sorted out with the help of good people, a reward for all of us will be their sincere smile and happiness.”

Zijo and Ramiza invite everyone to join the campaign “For my happier childhood” and learn more about the initiative at: https://bit.ly/308gJH0

A little help means a lot

Zijo says Domci always stay close through life. They are everywhere in the world and their last meeting was a few years ago. They went to the Home and ate kebabs with the children. There were a lot of them from Australia, different European countries, over 50 of them who used to live in the Home. They awarded prizes to the best educators, played with the children and spent the day in having fun. “We hope that by our example we give the children from the Home hope that they can succeed in life if they are diligent and honest. Home is always there in us and we should not be ashamed of that. Domci who live closer meet more often in the countries in the region. For the most part, everyone managed to have their own lives now. They work, some have good jobs, some do not have really good jobs, but everyone works hard and live from their work with their families”, says our interviewee and ads that he hopes that the citizens understand that the children from the Home carry severe traumas and that they need help in everything, because even the smallest kind of support can help them have a normal life.