Photo credit: IOM/Tiago Figueiredo
"I am from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I was born in Bosnia, lived in Serbia and married a Croatian man. I have lived in Portugal for 18 years now.
While growing up, my parents were frustrated to know that I was so passionate about theatre. I therefore ended up reluctantly studying Law for one year at the University in Belgrade in Serbia. Two years before starting University, I had fallen in love with a Croatian scout who was living in Sarajevo. We had been in a long-distance relationship for three years – him in Sarajevo and me in Belgrade – and we got married when I turned 20. I moved in with him in Sarajevo and gave birth to our twin girls. I also quickly changed my University degree, from Law to Theatre in 1990. Unfortunately, the war broke out in 1992 and my dream fell apart. We were in danger irrespective of any of the troops that would enter the city because I was Serbian and he was Croatian. We were able to flee Belgrade to where my parents were living. Eight of us lived in a two-bedroom flat. I continued studying theatre at University and as time went by I began to develop children’s theatre projects and specialized in child theatre. Even though I was very successful, the life conditions around me were hard. Men were mobilized to go to war, essential goods in supermarkets were sold out and we were constantly living in a climate of fear. NATO then intervened in the country in 1999 and we decided to leave. My brother had previously studied in Portugal as part of the Erasmus European program and had lived in Lisbon at that time, so he invited us to stay with him. We arrived in Portugal on the 25th May 1999.
My eight-year-old daughters integrated and learned the language very quickly, hence becoming my translators. It took longer for me to adapt and to be able to work again in theatre. I did not know a word of Portuguese and I thought I would never be able to perform again. I began by looking for places where I could work in English and I found the Irish pub in the Cais do Sodré area. At that time, my husband was working during the day in a transportation company. It looked as if everything was fine, but we were already 'miles' away from each other. We got divorced a year later and he returned to Bosnia. I stayed alone with my two daughters in Portugal.
I knew that I could not work as an actress because I did not speak Portuguese, but I could translate my plays with some help. I ended up translating my first play and preparing all the Portuguese actors for the show. At the last minute, one of the actresses was not able to perform and the theatre company convinced me to learn the lines in Portuguese by heart. This is how I began acting again. It was so motivating, to realize that people were receptive of my work, that I ended up taking advantage of my accent and the fact that I stand out. From then on, I have not stopped. At that time I started children’s theatre and I began teaching theatre classes. I am a member of the Palco de Chocolate association, in which I teach theatre to children and young people. Meanwhile, I also continue to perform and produce plays with my theatre company and I do performances that tackle several social issues. In 2006 I presented the story of my life in a play called “Eastern Wind” (“Vento Leste”) which became a national and international success. It was an opportunity to process the pain caused by the war and a chance to raise people’s awareness about the sad reality of war.
Both my daughters have finished their college degrees in Lisbon and are living apart from each other. One stayed in Lisbon and the other moved to Belgrade, reflecting the way I feel – divided between both countries. Nowadays I feel that I belong a bit there and here.
Are these consequences of war? War is like this, it expels people from their homes and forces them to pack their whole life in a suitcase. I came to understand that it can fit, but it is necessary to start packing well before any war starts. My parents prepared me so well that my suitcase was already packed by the time the war broke out. Life is a challenge, so do not forget to prepare your suitcase, because you never know when you will need it. We need to be aware of our capacities, tolerate differences and always be ready to learn and adapt."