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QUEENS COLLEGE GRADUATE IZETA POBRIC FINDS A NEW LIFE
AFTER HER LONG JOURNEY FROM SARAJEVO TO FLUSHING
FLUSHING, N.Y, May 20, 2004 — Izeta Pobric always loved to teach.
Just ten years ago Pobric was presented with the UNICEF Teacher of the Year award by the Children’s Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She’d earned it. When the schools closed down in war-torn Sarajevo, this experienced teacher organized her own school in the basement of an abandoned apartment building. It lacked heat, electricity, and water but, she explains, “it was secure deep in the basement.” Parents improvised a stove from scrap materials, and the children took turns bringing wood to burn in it.
Pobric and her husband had resisted suggestions that they flee the country, never believing that fighting would break out. Then they withstood the war for over two years, taking separate routes when they went out so they wouldn’t risk dying together and leaving their three daughters orphans. It took over an hour just to get across the boulevard to her school every day because of the shooting.
“Every morning I’d look back and see my kids watching,” she recalls. “I’d think, ‘Maybe I’ll never see them again.’” When her daughter’s screamed warning helped her narrowly escape a sniper’s bullet, Pobric and her husband decided they must emigrate.
Arriving with just three suitcases among them, almost immediately Pobric started studying English. She worked first as a messenger in Manhattan, then as an accountant in Queens. A resident of Bayside, she entered Queens College through the Adult Collegiate Education (ACE) program for students over 25, and was able to transfer most of her education credits from the University of Sarajevo.
For the next five and a half years, she attended classes on evenings and weekends. “I promised myself I wouldn’t give up. I have to be a teacher again,” she says. She decided to pursue a second degree in psychology. “With all that’s happened I want to discover what’s going on in people’s minds,” she says. “Why aren’t people turning to education instead of violence?”
Once she revisited Sarajevo, carrying a wristwatch that she had promised one of her former students if she ever returned. “I had the gift,” she says, “but all the children had disappeared.”
Though she has witnessed many painful scenes, Pobric says that she “thanks God that people here are so warm and helpful.” She is determined to move on, and is currently gearing up for the teacher certification exam. She also hopes to be able to help Bosnian children in this country. Pobric left behind a big house and material comforts but now says, “You don’t need anything. You just need your health and dinner every night.”
Although she earned her BA in psychology in February, Izeta Pobric and her proud family will be attending Queens College’s 80th Commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 3 at 9 am on the campus quad. Queens College is located at 65-30 Kissena Boulevard in Flushing, Queens.
Queens College (CUNY) is dedicated to the idea that a first-rate education should be accessible to talented individuals of all backgrounds and financial means. Founded in 1937, the college offers an exceptional liberal arts curriculum, with over 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Located on a beautiful 77-acre campus in Flushing, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. Its nearly 17,000 students come from more than 140 nations, creating an extraordinarily rich and welcoming environment. The college’s outstanding faculty have received numerous fellowships, awards, and research grants, including Guggenheim awards and Fulbright fellowships.