10 July 2007

1808) "Being At The Crossroads Is Not Easy" Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador, Jankovic

 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians  Site © Click For Larger Image Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Turkey Nada Jankovic likes living in Ankara, but she says she would like to live in Manisa or İznik, too.

Jankovic: Being at the crossroads is not easy -- it can be windy
Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Turkey Nada Jankovic is impressed by the flagophilia of the Turks. She also likes the Turkish national anthem. She wishes to see the same in her country. . .

According to her, reconciliation is achievable but difficult to reach; only after tackling all the grave economic issues does it become complete. She says it is important to respect victims of war, but it is more important to look forward. She adds that, despite these difficulties, in some ways the Bosnians are happy. By smiling, they shrug off the negative things around themselves. Mrs. Ambassador mentions that during the war, and even afterward, Turkey did much in terms of helping her country -- and still is. Turks of Bosnian descent act as a bridge between the two nations.

The ambassador is evidently an adventurous lady. “I like mountaineering; I like to go up mountains and collect herbs,” says Nada Jankovic. It is obvious that even talking about mountaineering is making her more animated. Throughout our interview, she emphasizes every word with her gestures and voice.

As Ambassador Jankovic puts it, knowing something about herbs means being friendly with nature and being ready to help others, because herbs are mostly used for healing and staying healthy. “Since the beginning of mankind,” she says, “collecting herbs has been the work of wise women.” Of all housework this “wise woman” likes cooking the most. “Cooking gives the feeling of making others happy. I like family lunches very much because, during the meal, you can talk about many things, and not just easy topics,” she says. But she complains that since she is on her own in Ankara she finds it difficult just to sit down and eat sometimes: Her two sons are continuing their university and postgraduate studies and her husband works in Bosnia.

She did not pressure her husband to quit and join her in Turkey because the unemployment rate is high in Bosnia. However, she thinks being a woman ambassador is not difficult: “In many cases it is much easier to be a woman ambassador than a man, especially here in Turkey. People here are always courteous to women. Throughout their whole lives women are forced to compromise and make others happy, starting with their families. So I think a career in diplomacy suits women well. One day all the diplomats will be women,” she says, and laughs.

She adds that at the Bosnian Embassy in Ankara all the diplomats are women. “In my experience women are much harder workers. They always try to do the best they can, which is not always the case with men. For them, sometimes it is just enough to be a man to be a diplomat; half the job is already done,” she says and laughs again.

“But women are in the position of having to prove to everybody they are at least as capable as their male counterparts. So I think when men are doing their job they don’t ask too many questions; they have this attitude of knowing everything. For women, on the other hand, it is normal to ask ‘What would you do?’ and ‘What’s your opinion?’ and ‘Could you help me?’ For men, to ask for help is sometimes shameful,” she explains.

Bayrams, baklava and reconciliation

After graduation from the Faculty of Economics at Sarajevo University, the ambassador continued onto a postgraduate education in international economical affairs. However she didn’t complete her Ph.D. “because of the children,” she says. Throughout her career to date she has been working for the state in different ministries. She worked at a public institute for planning and dealt with foreign economic affairs for 10 years. After that she became an adviser to the minister of education, culture and science. After the war she joined the Foreign Ministry. She served in such international bodies as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), before being appointed to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina at their embassy in Ankara.

“To be honest I am really happy to be here. This was pretty much my choice, because I was offered a few countries but Turkey appeared to me as the most important one and the most interesting,” she says.

Ambassador Jankovic is a Bosnian Serb, but does not like to be wholly identified with her Serbian roots, she says, because “Bosnia is a country of three main peoples: Bosnians, Serbs and Croats.” She adds: “And we have been living together throughout history. Nobody came there from somewhere else. We all have Slavic origins, and the only distinguishing point is religion. Religion was brought in by the big powers.”

The ambassador sheds light on her view with a quote from a Bulgarian writer: “The Balkans is a crossroads and a bridge; living on the crossroads is not easy, because it is very windy.” She talks about her memories as a child: “When I was a kid, I didn’t know any difference, although I knew that all my Muslim neighbors celebrated bayram but that we didn’t. I asked my mother why we didn’t take part in this festival, and she simply answered that it was not ‘our celebration’. But I was always waiting for bayram to arrive so I could eat some baklava,” she elucidates, smiling.

“Back in Sarajevo, you can see a Muslim mosque, a Russian Orthodox church, a Jewish synagogue and a Catholic church all together in one 200 meters square area. It is a sign that we have been living together all this time. I don’t want to say in different cultures, because we make up one unique culture and tradition based upon different religions. That is the reason we have a really special culture in Bosnia; we had and still have much success in all the arts. Our only Nobel Prize winner for literature [of the countries that previously made up former Yugoslavia] was from Bosnia. We have excellent movies and music,” she says.

When she talks about her homeland, her eyes light up; when she mentions the beautiful lakes, rivers and mountains of her country, she doesn’t just say beautiful, but “beeeauti-ful!” She mentions the Winter Olympic Games of 1984 as a “gorgeous event.” But she tempers her enthusiasm with a dose of the current reality, adding that “it is not easy to live in Bosnia today because of severe economic problems.”

She also thinks that reconciliation is a complex issue and inextricably linked to the economic situation. “The question of reconciliation is really complex. Not only because of the war. Almost full reconciliation has been reached. However it hasn’t been reached fully since people are without jobs; they can’t find the means to support themselves. But at the moment Bosnia-Herzegovina is getting gradually better in economic terms. When we are better off economically, I think we will have full reconciliation and we will have the society that we once had. I really hope that the economy will improve so reconciliation will automatically [improve too],” she says.

Ambassador Jankovic thinks that some politicians focus on old issues too much, probably because they don’t want to be asked what they did to improve the lives of the people, she says, and they end up stirring up the present situation.

Like everybody in her homeland, she lost many friends in the war. But, she concludes, it is important to look forward. “War is something that should not be forgotten, but put aside. Now we are in the position to move and to look forward because going back to the war is not a positive outlook. We should respect the victims, help their families, but should stop using the war to play political games,” she underlines.

“The other thing is, if you are living in such a society as the Bosnian society, in which you have different religious groups, different people, you have to respect all of them, you have to fight for the rights of all people, not only for your own. The most important part is not to expect somebody else to solve your problems. We have to do it ourselves,” she says.

She says that both during and after the war, Turkey has been doing a great job in Bosnia. “They have provided full support. There was a lot of aid after the war and they are still helping us. Turkey is trying to establish and strengthen relations with the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state, not only with one part,” she says.

She mentions that there are many Turkish words in the everyday language of her country, and the dishes are almost the same. The folk music of the two countries is very similar, too. “Music is a way of expressing yourself, which means we are so close,” she says.

Turks of Bosnian descent act as a bridge

According to the ambassador, Turks of Bosnian descent -- who migrated to Anatolia after Bosnia was annexed to the Austro-Hungarian Empire following on from the Berlin Conference of 1908 -- is another bridge between the two countries: “Recently I visited a village near Manisa. They still speak Bosnian, in a beautiful way but a little archaic. But so nice to listen to. They are loyal Turkish citizens. But their hearts are with Bosnia. Most of them speak the language and are interested in what is going in Bosnia through watching Bosnian TV programs. They were happy just to hear a word [of Bosnian]. And they did a lot for the Bosnian people during the war. A lot of them are economically strong. They often travel to Bosnia to find opportunities, mainly in investment.

“They organize cultural events just to speak the language and to exchange ideas. That is great. I did not have any information before I came here, but they told me that there are 7 million Turks of Bosnian origin. That is a huge number. I was surprised. But we did not do enough for them. When we become economically stronger, we can help them; we can offer some books, libraries, organize some events they would like to have.”

Ambassador Jankovic feels something special for Manisa, not only for the Turks of Bosnian origin, but because of the landscape and the nature of the city. “It is not far from the coast and it has beautiful mountains. I would like to live there. I like İznik, too,” she says.

She traveled a lot in Turkey and there is something she really admires: “I was impressed by the love of flags. I like them. Recently one was put on a hotel opposite my residence, a huge one. To see flags waving, it is really something. I can feel that these people are so proud of their country and how much they love it. I would like to see the same attitude in Bosnia. I like the Turkish national anthem, too. I am always mumbling it when I hear it. Our anthem is good, but we don’t have the words yet,” she says.

Another element of the Turkish lifestyle she admires is that, in her opinion, Turks are such hard workers. She jokes that maybe all Bosnians should come to Turkey to learn something about being hard workers.

Again speaking of her own country, she says: “When we are talking about Bosnians everybody has his own approach in all issues. Sometimes it is good, but sometimes it is not. Especially in this post-war situation, it is not easy to manage to hold the transition from a socialist society to a democratic one with an open market. After the war, in a post-conflict society, construction, reconciliation, recovery, it is not easy to start the work. They don’t know what to expect, what to do. On the other hand, as a newly independent state, we still have a weak administration. Although it is improving a lot, but still weak.”

She adds: “Please put in the newspaper: we are really grateful to the Turkish authorities. Not only for the assistance and support, but also for the understanding and the patience. That’s really true because sometimes very good initiatives can’t be implemented because it takes so much time to respond, to prepare and so on in Bosnia.” She continues: “You should learn about the Bosnians. You would be very surprised if you go to Bosnia. I just told you about the grave economic situation but go up to the streets, you will see so many people, not only clean and well dressed, but in some way happy and smiling in order to protect themselves from the negative things around them. We have a nature that means we are not easily brought down.”

10.07.2007
AYŞE KARABAT ANKARA / Zaman

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