Zuhdija Saric, Janitor at Washington University in St. Louis Village East

Zuhdija Saric, Janitor at Washington University in St. Louis Village East

“After a month and fifteen days of living in St Louis, he got his first job in a factory. He was eventually laid off from that job, but was fortunate enough to get the job at WashU and he’s been here for the past 15-16 years now. He’s worked in many places on campus, including Park-Mudd and now in Village East. He said as much as it’s common or expected that rooms would get messy and dorms would get messy, some workers still say “it’s so dirty,” but he likes and knows what his job is and likes that he’s cleaning after students that are hard working and that are using it for rightful reasons.”

“My father first started in boot camp with the Yugoslav national army when he was nineteen. Things got really complicated because there was a civil war between Bosnian Muslims, Serbian orthodox, and Croatian Catholics. In the midst of that there was a regional conflict as well within the religious sects. It was essentially a war inside a war with brother fighting brother. Every time he saw a neighbor, he questioned whether he could be trusted and whether it was safe to go home. He learned a lot, even in times of despair, just about the value of people. At times, even though he was confused about what the war was really about, he developed a strong sense of brotherhood with those he fought with.”

“When we were living at the refugee center, my father was fortunate enough to get a call for an interview. We were finally approved to get in [to America] and it had taken so long even though we had family here. It was a moment when our fate and destiny rested on a decision that we had no control over. It’s hard when you’re living in a refugee center because there’s no way to get a phone call and no way to get a letter. I’m surprised, not only that people were able to remember the interviews, but also that they were motivated to start working right away when they got to America. Four years later, we finally got our green cards.”

“He values family more than anything and I see it everyday. Just this morning he woke up at 9 am to call family back home. Even though our uncle lives here, every day they’re calling each other. Those family values are part of why he’s so happy that I’m a student here. He always tells me that not everyone is fortunate enough to be living in this country, to be alive after war, and to not be stuck in refugee centers like many kids are. I don’t think he was thinking about college as he was growing up in a refugee camp. He never envisioned he would be living in St. Louis.”

This Unsung Hero story is a bit special. Our Unsung Hero, Zuhdija Saric, does not speak English. Because of this, we used an interpreter for this interview. It turns out his son, Meris Saric, is a Freshman here at WashU, so with Meris acting as the interpreter, we decided to get both of their stories about immigrating to the United States as well as their experiences at WashU.

Thank you Meris for helping share your story! Zuhdija is slowly learning English, and loves to say hello and good morning to the students he sees, so if you see him be sure to say hi and thank him for being our Unsung Hero. Follow Unsung Heroes of WashU to learn more about the heroes who keep the Washington University in St. Louis campus running behind-the-scenes!!

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