The Economist: Bosnians are Successful B&H Community in St. Louis

December 21, 2015 7:15 PM

st louisAMERICA has always been conflicted about immigration,” says Anna Crosslin, head of the International Institute of St Louis, which sponsors refugees and helps them after they arrive. In the 1840s brawls erupted in St Louis when Germans took against the Irish newcomers. The same happened when the first Italians came to a town then considered the gateway to the West. In the late 20th century the influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants created a familiar tension, reports the Economist.

It was no different when thousands of Bosnian refugees fleeing civil war in the former Yugoslavia were settled in St Louis in the 1990s. The city and its previous waves of immigrants were fearful and even resentful of the newcomers, who were almost all Muslims. When some built smokehouses in their backyards and spit-roasted a whole lamb, the International Institute received phone calls from locals telling them that the Bosnians were barbecuing the local dogs,” wrote the Economist.

The fear and suspicion lasted for two or three years, during which the new arrivals rebuilt their lives at sometimes astonishing speed. Ibrahim Vajzovic came to St Louis in 1994, aged 35, with his wife and three children. Within six weeks he had an entry-level job at a printing plant, and he quickly advanced to warehouse manager. In 1999 he enrolled at graduate school and earned a PhD. Today he owns three businesses and teaches at Webster University. His son is an engineer; one daughter is a lawyer at a well-known firm in Chicago, and his other daughter is at Harvard Law School. “We made big sacrifices,” admits Mr Vajzovic. His biggest problem when he arrived was his inability to speak English,” reported the Economist.

The Economist further writes, thanks to enterprising Bosnians and Herzegovinians, an entire neighborhood in the south of St. Louis, Bevo Mill, turned from dangerous area with abandoned houses and the high rate of crime in a pleasant neighborhood with small shops and restaurants.

Today, more than 50,000 B&H refugees and their children live in St. Louis. They built two mosques and established chamber of commerce. Their community has a lower rate of crimes and unemployment than the average.

According to Jack Strauss from the University of St. Louis, refugees and migrants in that part of America are earning 83,000 USD in average per year, which is more than the income of Native Americans by 25 %.

They are more likely to decide to start their own businesses, and they are three times more likely to be better trained for a job and to have a higher level of education. In general, the refugees and migrants are far less likely to receive food stamps or financial assistance from the government.

At the restaurant Bosna Gold, business was slow at lunchtime on a sunny December day. Neither the employees nor the solitary diner spoke English. All attention was focused on the Bosnian soap opera on the television behind the bar. Bosna Gold is busier at night when men come to eat tripice (tripe), sarma (stuffed cabbage) and cevapi (sausage), drink, smoke and discuss sports (Bosnians have lifted the level of St Louis soccer). The older generation is homesick, torn between the beautiful life they have created here and the country they left behind, says lawyer Nedim Ramic,” as reported by the Economist.

(Source: novovrijeme.ba, economist.com)

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