profile in determination: vinka carapic

April 19, 2011  |   column: WHAT'S NEW

vinka carapic is one of the artisans in our women for women international (wfwi) hand in hand program in bosnia. before the war in bosnia and herzegovina, she earned a teaching degree and worked as a clerk at the pension and disability insurance office. she has two grown sons and a husband who is an excavator operator. we spoke to vinka about how her life was affected by the war and her experience as a participant in our hand in hand program.

we had a nice life, but when the war broke out in 1992, my children and i were separated from my husband for ten months, during which time we were refugees in germany. we then returned to a territory outside of sarajevo where we experienced the difficulties of war but not to the same extent as those who remained in the city. i had a garden and bred chicken and pigs.

after the war was over in 1995, i tried to get my job back but was rudely rejected. i lost my faith in humanity. i withdrew into myself. i tried to find a teaching job but wherever i went, i encountered a closed door—i was unwelcome in the serbian part of the territory because i’m croatian and the croatians rejected me because i’m married to a serb.

i heard about an organization from washington that had started a program selling handicrafts made by local women. i began doing embroidery for churches in america but the organization quickly folded and i again had no income. i then heard about wfwi and that’s where my new life started. i was afraid of contact with other people until i started a weaving course at the wfwi headquarters in sarajevo. there i met women of other nationalities and tried to understand and relate to them. they too had been through the horrors of war. many had been through experiences worse than mine. we trained together and became friends.

learning about the hand in hand program was the light at the end of the tunnel—a possibility of permanent employment. we work hard but it pays off in the end. women who like to work have dreams. i often see in the media how women can make wonders with their hands. this inspires me to dream about someday reviving some long forgotten handicraft techniques dating back to my grandmother’s generation and before—crochet, lacework and gold embroidery. i dream of going to new york with our handiworks.

the income from my hand in hand work has helped me meet needs that would otherwise be impossible to fulfill. i bought furniture for my son’s room and i would like to refurbish the bathroom. for each hand in hand project i take on, i have a goal for the money. but i also have goals that are not material. this work gives me spiritual satisfaction. i devotedly work on every product and then admire it. i think about how somebody in america also admires my products—gloves, hats and scarves. this is what keeps me going and how i consider my money well-earned.

i have many dreams but they all seem so far away and unrealizable. i primarily dream of peace, peace, more peace and health. i want my sons to get married. i want to have grandchildren but my sons are choosing not to have children because the future is so uncertain.

it is hard to predict the future of bosnia, but i do not see an out. what i know is that i love my country. i have been abroad—in germany and sweden—but this is the most beautiful country in the world to me. this is the country of love, soul and sevdah—our traditional music. i am thankful to zainab salbi, the founder of wfwi, and kate spade new york for giving us the opportunity to work, improve our current lives and have hope for a better future.

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