â€śOne morning I told him while we were having coffee that I see no reason for us to live together anymore, but he did not accept it, he continued threatening me. He thought I was I coward, that I would be completely helpless on my ownâ€¦â€ť
By: Abela Purivatra
The story you are about to read is no ordinary story. This is not a standard newspaper article about a woman who fought for her freedom. It is not a manifesto of woman power or a cry for help. It is a story about life. A story about the strength we all bear within. This story tells to women, victims of violence, that they do not have to suffer. It is told by Mehira Crnica, a single mother of four who spent eight years suffering physical and psychological violence and who, one morning, as she said, while having coffee, decided that she could not and would not keep quiet anymore.
Every morning, around 8 oâ€™clock, the thirty-five-year-old Mahira Crnica opens a small shop in the Sarajevo community of Dobrinja. She makes various cookies in her shop. â€śSmall, big, white, red, dry or filledâ€ť â€“ Mahira explains with a smile. She says she is happy. She works for herself and she does what she loves. â€śThere were always cookies in our house. I was always good at making them, but I never considered it in a business manner. Seemingly, it all happened overnight and by itselfâ€ť â€“ she says. Mahira has been managing the small, but adorable, sweet boutique successfully for a year and a half. She says that business is doing well. She is a single mother of four. Her eldest daughter is twelve, her youngest twins are five. â€śWhen I had twins, I decided to pull the brakes, put a stop to it. Your education and everything is for nothing if you work for others and cannot pay your bills. How do you raise four children then? Two of them attend school, and two are about to start. They have grown. Basically, they helped me decide, my children. I had to try. You cannot accomplish anything if you sit around and expect a miracle. You have to try something.â€ť
The shop in which she makes and sells cookies is just a small part of a great shift and change that Mehira made. She was a victim of domestic violence for eight years. She was in a marriage that was, as she states, a burden and torture. â€śI married when I was 22. It happened around the time I enrolled in the School of Economics and Business here in Sarajevo. Now I believe I married for a caprice, that my marriage happened by chance. Back then I thought I would finish faculty after I married, that we would live a normal life. However, it wasnâ€™t like that. Everything happened on the contraryâ€ť â€“ says Mehira Crnica. She says with her eyes lowered: â€śI donâ€™t like remembering my marriage, although I talk about everything quite often.â€ť She nevertheless continues.
â€śIt was difficult to decide to end a marriage that was a torment for me. Times were different then. They called it a shame, because marriage is sacred. It is all fine and I respect that, but only when the partner is good. When he is not, it is not worth the suffering. Year after year I thought things would change. I was married for eight years and it was always the same.â€ť When asked to tell when she decided to end it all, Mehira replies that it happened when she found out she was pregnant with twins. With a shy smile on her face she says that she was simultaneously happy and frightened when she found out she was pregnant. She especially remembers the moment when she found out she was pregnant with twins.
â€śI wanted twins all my life and finally God granted my wish in all the chaos. That made me think.â€ť She says that the eight years were the most difficult period in her life. â€śI was always stressed. Would he leave for work, would he yellâ€¦ I could not raise my children under such conditions. I could not allow them to listen to the everyday yelling. I had no rest. I knew it was the end and I was looking for a way to tell him. One morning I told him while we were having coffee that I see no reason for us to live together anymore, but he did not accept it, he continued threatening me. He thought I was I coward, that I would be completely helpless on my own. That was when I told myself that, regardless of whether we had one or four children, I didn’t wish to live like that. I wanted to raise my children in peace, for them to play freely, to know that they are raised with love. I wanted a normal life for them.â€ť
â€śThat was when I looked for helpâ€ť, continues Mehira. She says she visited the Social Care Center and that, after the discussion, since that is what the procedure states, they directed her to marriage counselling. Although, as she says, she knew that nothing would change, there was still hope. So she went to counselling with her husband that lasted for nearly half a year. She recalls that he constantly cried for a month or two and said that he would change. â€śAll that time, I knew he wouldnâ€™tâ€ť â€“ says Mehira.
â€śThe last year of our marriage, the violence was more psychological. He called me worthless. There were plenty of such scenes, of more psychological than physical violence. It was more difficult to endure than a hit. One day I told him I didn’t want to live with him anymore. One morning I just decided. I sat behind that very same table where I always used to sit, had coffee, and packed the kids. It was the same as any other day, but I knew that things would never be the same again. I saw that nothing would change and that I had to take matters into my own hands. Everything Iâ€™ve done was for the welfare of my children.â€ť
On that day she left. She looked for help in a Safe House where she spent three months. There she regained her confidence, she says. Through cooking there, she thought she could make delicious cookies. When she left, she started making money in that manner. At first she worked at home, and after a while she opened a small shop. She had the support of the society and friends. â€śI am happy nowâ€ť â€“ she says.
â€śI told my story, not wanting to offend anyone. By talking with representatives of the Institute for Youth Development KULT, I realized that I wish to participate in commemorating the Orange Day â€“ the day of fighting violence against women and girls. With my story, I tell to BiH women that they donâ€™t have to and shouldnâ€™t suffer violence.â€ť
The Institute for Youth Development KULT will commemorate the Orange Day with a street action. The activists of the Institute will, in festive spirit, distribute Mehiraâ€™s cookies made in the Dream Cookies workshop to citizens in the Holiday Market and in the streets of Sarajevo.
The Secretary General of the UN declared every 25th of the month as â€śOrange Dayâ€ť, the day of remembering the importance of preventing, stopping and punishing violence over women and girls.
The â€śOrange Voicesâ€ť initiative is conducted with the support of the American Embassy in BiH.