(Edin, Melina,Seka i Midhat)
My love for Bosnia predates my experience with the Kabil family, but not by much. I have known Edin since the late 1990's and over the years we have grown to be like brothers. I have grown to love and respect his family beyond anything I could have ever imagined. When I am with his family we can talk for hours. The way his mother listens to my stories and conversations (even though she understands little English and my Bosnian is awful) is like a doting mother listens to her child. The care and attention paid by his family towards me over the years are some of the best experiences of my life.
Seka Kabil is an amazing woman, strong-willed, independent, caring, kind and compassionate are the first things I think of when I think of her. A strong fighter from Tuzla, she has dedicated herself to the profession of helping others as a teacher. Coming from a family of teachers (my wife is one as well) I appreciate what contribution to society these people make. I have spent time in her classrooms on visits where her students sang songs to me in English, asked questions and visited with me. You can always recognize a schoolteacher in public just by the reactions people have to them when they meet them on the street. Even though I didn't always understand the conversation, the care and deep bond could be seen and heard through any language barrier of my own. During the awful war in Bosnia and the Siege of Sarajevo, Seka offered to put down her pen and pick up a rifle, she went and volunteered to be a sniper in the Armija BiH that was defending Sarajevo at that time (you can read Scott Simons book on female snipers in Sarajevo*). Her offer was declined they told her that her job of educating the youth of the country was more important to the defense of BiH than picking up a rifle.
Midhat Kabil was an amazing inspirational man who's life story could be written for an inspirational book. Growing up as a child in post World War II Yugoslavia he suffered from tuberculosis as a child and was hospitalized. It took him a very long time to recover from this illness, but he went on to finish medical school (just like his brother and sister) and became opthamologist and became a successful well-respected doctor. During the war, because of a massive shortage of doctors, he became a wartime surgeon in a makeshift hospital near the front lines in Sarajevo. Working to stabilize and treat the most awful savage war wounds inflicted upon the cities population, sometimes with little or no medicine or painkillers. He built models of famous Bosnian monuments and paintings and put on art displays in the lobby of their apartment building (some of these events were covered by the international media). Eventually the horrors of war took a massive toll on his health and he suffered two heart attacks and his health declined rapidly after the war. I was his last visitor before he died a few years ago, it was a great privilege that I had the chance to see him one last time in this life.
Edin is like a brother I had always wanted to have. Passionate, intelligent, caring, motivated, funny and someone you could just aspire to be more like. I think over the years we have both helped to make each other into better people. I respect him like few others in my life. It has been wonderful to watch him grow and become his own man, a great inspiration to those who know him.
I remember the first time I visited him and his family in Sarajevo, it became quite an event. Everyone made food and even those were unable to attend the first dinner brought dishes for me to try. It became a 7 or 8 course meal and not wanting to be the rude guest I kept on trying to continue to eat even though I felt like I was going to die if I ate another bite. I could clean my plate and then would come another serving (not knowing at that time that it is a Bosnian tradition that when you are full, leave a little on your plate to signify your are full, that if you clean it, it's a sign your are still hungry). Eventually we finished and it was time for coffee and we moved from the kitchen into the living room were Midhat continued to offer me fruit, sweets like Turkish delights and Bosnian Lokum.
Every time I have visited his family they have made it feel super special for me. From the time his father made me maps of Croatia for a trip to Dubrovnik and lists of places to see and visit to special gifts like a handmade ashtray and Bosnian cigarettes (even though I had quit smoking). I had asked Edin if I could refuse the cigarettes and he said flatly and assuredly "NO"...I still have those same cigarettes ten years later.
Our family bonds has lasted through the 1990's, the turn of the century, Midhats death, my son's birth and Edin's wedding. It has been a treasure beyond mere words or expressions to have built this bond with the Bosnian family that I love.