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United Kingdom

Dejana Mekanic, 31

Refugee from Lukavac, Bosnia, temporarily living in London

I was just finishing 4th grade and they were teaching us in school how to recognise the different air raid sirens, as each siren means something different. Once war broke out, our school closed. We were being hit every day by bombs. It was hard because we had to sleep in the basement. My dad is a Bosnian Muslim and my mother is a Bosnian Serb. They got divorced when I was little, before the war. Food was scarce, there were alarms throughout the night and there was no electricity.

My mother was by herself, with me and my grandma. My dad was in the Bosnian Army fighting during the war. There were many airstrikes on the city. It's so incredibly loud and for a kid it's just unbearable. After that, it started getting really, really bad. I had a nervous breakdown. I was just beside myself and I couldn't take the attacks anymore. I was crying, I was screaming, I couldn't do it.

I was on the last bus that was leaving town. My mother was trying to come with me but she wasn't allowed because she was a Bosnian Serb. It was only women and kids. Men couldn't go, because they had to join the army and fight. I still remember my mother putting her hand up against the window of the bus on the outside and mine was on the other side.

I lived with my aunt in Kosovo for a year. My mother was desperately trying to get out so that she could come and be with me. She finally came after a year. When she came, she didn't even tell me and she surprised me at school. That was the best moment ever. She had some friends in Germany, and Germany was accepting Bosnian refugees during that time, so we moved there.

We lived in Stuttgart and then we moved to Tuttlingen. We stayed for five years. I finished high school there and I managed to excel. When I finished 10th grade we had to leave, the war was over so they were deporting refugees. A lot of people didn't want to go back to Bosnia because there was nothing there. My mum's case was that she was a Bosnian Serb and she couldn't go back because the city now is in the Bosnian Federation, it's predominantly Muslim. So that was the reason we could go to the US.

We had to sell everything we had. My mum had some savings and we were off to start a new life across the globe. It was very hard for me because at that point I had a lot of good friends. It was devastating for me. I hated it so much. I was crying for days. I couldn't understand why I had to leave again. I kept asking my mum why people kept kicking us out, we hadn't done anything wrong.

We went to San Jose. It was difficult and expensive. My mother was working all the time and I had to work two jobs and go to school at the same time. I was able to get financial aid from the state of California so they paid for my education, which was amazing. I went to San Jose State University for four and a half years and I graduated with honours in International Business, and a minor in German.

I got a really good job working in Silicon Valley with HP and I was so proud of myself, a Bosnian refugee going through so many things in so many countries. I was successful, I had a diploma, I had a job, I was making good money. I even bought a house four years ago. But I still felt lost. Even though I am successful and I am doing all these things I still feel like a refugee in my heart, because I don't feel I belong anywhere.

Now I'm living in London temporarily. My only hope is to settle down and to feel that I belong in a place and not feel that I have to leave. I just want to be happy in one place that I can call home. I don't know if that's possible at this point.