Making a New Home in St. Louis
June 23, 2013 12:09 PM   Subscribe

The Bosnian Resettlement, 20 years later. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Twenty years after St. Louis became the center of one of the largest refugee relocation efforts in the nation’s history, Bosnian refugees have remade this neighborhood at Gravois Avenue and Morganford Road into a thriving business district, with restaurants, bars, markets and a newspaper.
posted by notsnot (17 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This is what you can do when you don't fire your entire photography department!

Cool stuff, notsnot.
posted by limeonaire at 12:28 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of the many aspects that make St. Louis such an interesting city.
posted by saul wright at 12:34 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in Iowa and we got a lot of Bosnian refugees as well in Des Moines and Ames (other places probably as well). There's been some interesting social aspects from this. There was a woman that was fired for speaking her native language while on break because her supervisor had no idea if the woman was talking smack about the supervisor. I believe she was reinstated. There was the baker who put up a "No Parking for Serbs" sign and the people who objected were fairly resoundingly trounced in public opinion. And when I had my first tech job I was told I had to kick a young woman off her computer because she was using it to chat. I went to do my job and she explained it was her only way to communicate with her friends at home, many which she was still trying to find out if they were alive. I told the woman that had requested I kick her off that she needed to be her own bad guy. We have tons of Bosnian named people in the area, many born here or who came here at a young enough age to never have known their homeland. This is what America is supposed to be.

Seems we've forgotten this.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:39 PM on June 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Thank you so much for this post. One of my closest friends in Chicago, where I moved right after a not so great divorce, was a Bosnian refugee. He was a huge 6'5" brilliant corporate lawyer stuck in dead end job as a doorman and night security guard simply due to the pressures of having to support his family and not having local legal credentials (or fluent English). He was one of the kindest, sweetest people I've ever had the good fortune to meet and seeing this FPP reminded me of him, and of hanging outside for a smoke and talking about life, philosophy and the world as it is. (This was over a decade ago.)
posted by infini at 12:39 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I remember when the resettlement began. I was in middle school, my mother was a social worker who also helped immigrants get their citizenship, and my dad had lived in St. Louis since the late 40s. Both were (are) keenly aware that St. Louis has a troubled history regarding race relations. Although they knew this new community needed help, they were worried that it would just add to the racial tensions of the city. I'm happy to see that so much good has happened, and so are my parents.
posted by Groundhog Week at 12:43 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the baker I mentioned above was a doctor in Bosnia and his wife was a vet. Here they made soup and bread and loved life and people.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:48 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

My sister worked at the Southern Commercial Bank mentioned in the article. We're half Croatian (ethnically about the same, just Catholic instead of Muslim), and she only knows English, but has Mediterranean features. She'd be working the teller window and every other customer would just start talking Bosnian to her. She said it was pretty funny when she told them, "Sorry, I only know English" and to see their amused chuckles.
posted by notsnot at 12:49 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Here they made soup and bread and loved life and people."

...except for Serbs.

I'm about as pro-Bosnian and anti-Serbian as anyone with regard to the Balkan wars of the 90s — I mean, seriously, I enthusiastically supported the NATO interventions and take great satisfaction in the capture and prosecution of Serbian war criminals today — but not all Serbs, there, at that time, did awful things or even supported those who did awful things and we're not even talking about people who are ethnically Serbian or of Serbian descent who happen to live in Iowa, have for generations, and just want to stop at a bakery and buy something. But apparently they're not welcome there and, worse, "public opinion" is okay with that bigotry. Apparently, you're okay with that bigotry.

The Serbian bigotry against Croatians has its roots in WWII, when Croatian fascists formed a puppet government for the Nazis and carried out an extermination program against the Serbs. So are we to be sympathetic to a Serbian baker in Iowa who places a "No Parking for Croatians" because he doesn't want notsnot's family's patronage?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:14 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you want to see how this looks 40 years after a US war overseas instead of 20, you might look to the Hmong community in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the upper Midwest.
posted by escabeche at 1:23 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I speak decent Bosnian, I loved landing ion St. Louis on my way over, to go live in Sarajevo a year. I loved hearing the language spoken all around me. I did not get to visit that neighborhood because of transportation issues. You never know, someday I might, but it's not likely.
The 'No Parking for Serbs' thing was a bad idea.
The funny thing is that you don't see that so much in Bosnia itself. People deal with each other at least on a business level.
It's good to see a successful resettlement, but I am sure there are people who wish they could go home. Great pictures btw.
Pageing DeeXtrovert!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:34 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

P.S. I actively lobbied for intervention during the 90's. this is before I knew my family have some Bisnian roots, before I learned the language, or went there.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:36 PM on June 23, 2013

The funny thing is that you don't see that so much in Bosnia itself.

I think Balkanization exerts an influence in many ethnic enclaves.

There's a pretty big community of Ukrainians in greater Rochester, NY. We ran into the culture issue when we tried to place my younger brother in a Ukrainian weekend school at his insistence.

It turned out that the Ukrainian of their schoolbooks was some kind of weird synthetic Ukrainian that was purified of Russian influences through heavy use of archaism and native neologism. I don't know how well understood it might have been on the streets of Kiev.

We also got a huge dose of condescension for not making my brother a part of "Ukrainian life" from early childhood. As one example, they refused to place him with age-appropriate peers, despite the fact that at the age he was then, language comes relatively easily.

All in all, "Ukrainian heritage" turned out to be very different from the living experience of actual Ukrainians in actual Ukraine. Ethnic culture turns weird and insular out of context.
posted by Nomyte at 4:30 PM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was really impressed with this article's layout. Kudos to St. Louis Post-Dispatch for that -- I'm glad such a pretty city has an equally aesthetic newspaper.
posted by odasaku at 5:12 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I was really impressed with this article's layout."

Really? I hated it. On my browser (Chrome) the text was far too large and there was far too much whitespace to either side. It was difficult to read.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:05 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

it blinks nonstop on my iPod. I will have to try the Kindle.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:15 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't remember, IE or Chrome; but the website fried each time and I had to shut the window.
posted by buzzman at 9:39 PM on June 23, 2013

Good article. We just bought a house that is two houses down from a home owned by Bosnian immigrants. We actually passed on buying the house next to them out of what I believe is a cultural difference - staring. We visited the neighbors house three times and every time the owner(s) of the Bosnian home were standing outside or sitting just inside their garage (it's their front porch) and every time we got out of the car on the street, walked to the front door, they watched us. They watched us even after I gave a friendly wave to say "Hello and I'm aware you're watching me," and we even caught the husband walking out to look into our car when we were inside the home, and again peering around the side of his house to see what we were doing in the backyard of the prospective house. I chalk it up to cultural difference or the fellow is just plain rude, but none the less, he likes to watch and stare.

They also have beautiful roses growing in their yard and flower boxes that line their sidewalk full of blooms.
posted by Atreides at 7:48 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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