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Home » Child/Adolescent Mental Health » Who’s At Risk? » Refugees » Bosnia/Herzegovina » Bosnian Refugee Cultural Considerations

Bosnian Refugee Cultural Considerations

  • For many Bosnians, a sense of national identity is closely tied to ethnic and religious affiliation.
  • Bosnians with Catholic ancestors identify as Bosnian Croats, while those with Eastern Orthodox ancestors identify as Bosnian Serbs.
  • Many Bosnian Serbs pride themselves on their heroicism; Bosnian Croats often emphasize their proper behavior;  Bosnian Muslims identify themselves as warm in personal relationships.
  • Even during the war, many Bosnians kept their extraordinary sense of humor, especially their ability to laugh at themselves.  The attitude of ceif (to act spontaneously for enjoyment and without regard for consequences like cost and time) is valued. 
  • Bosnia has a patriarchal tradition in which women are expected to be subservient to men.
  • Education is important to Bosnians.  Children begin primary school at age seven and must attend for at least 8 years.  Secondary school lasts four years but is not mandatory.  However, many schools were closed during the war from 1992-1995, leaving children with no access to education.
  • The medical system was hard hit by the conflict: facilities were destroyed and staffing and supplies could not adequately serve the enormous number of casualties.
  • Because the war is still very present in the minds of many Bosnians, and because current vocal nationalists emphasize ethnic differences, reconciliation is hard to achieve.  Shame, fear, or anger inhibits reconciliation in regions where all sides committed war atrocities.
  • Nearly 60% of houses were destroyed in the war and many hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced today.  Resettlement is an enormous economic challenge.