20 years later, Bosnian refugees are thriving in St. Louis
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20 years later, Bosnian refugees are thriving in St. Louis

Date: November 29, 2012
By: Lauren Bale
State Capitol Bureau

The Bosnian community of St. Louis have aided in the revitilization of the South side of the city.
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Wrap: There are now more than 60,000 Bosnian's living in St. Louis and they have been credited with spurring eceonomic growth in the city .

Bosnian immigrant Ibrahim Vajzovic says many Bosnian's have bought properties in South St. Louis that were abandoned and cleaned them up.

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Description: "We purchased lots of properties, we fixed them and we increased the value of housing in St. Louis."

With more than 1,000 Bosnian owned businesses in South County St. Louis, Kukic says the community is good at adjusting.


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Description: "Bosnians are very hard workers. Pretty much positive about anything. They experience in their life a lot of bad things during the war and stuff but they adopt to life in America fast."
St. Louis has become the 2nd largest Bosnian community in the world, after Bosnia.
Sadik Kukic found safety in St. Louis when he was 28, after fleeing a Bosnian concentration camp.
When he arrived in the US, he had close to nothing.

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Description: "We didn't have a choice. It was war in Bosnia and I come here with 100 German marks, which is about 60 US dollars. I didn't speak any English and I didn't know anybody."


While non Bosnian Muslims in St. Louis have talked about facing discrimmination in their daily lives, many Bosnians say they have not experienced it as strongly.
Vajzovic says this is because the Bosnian culture is more like American culture than Middle Eastern muslims.

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Description: "It was, I would say a little bit easier for Bosnians to adjust than for other cultures, other immigrants in St. Louis. First of all, we were coming from Europe and then we had kinda same standards and same values as United States of Amderica."


It's no accident that St. Louis has become home to many Bosnians.
The U.S. Resettlement Program was established by the U.S. Department of State and annually agrees on refugees to be resettled from war torn countries around the world.
After war broke out in the former Yugoslavia in the early 90's, the program decided St. Louis would be a good place for Bosnians to resettle.
The International Institute of St. Louis sponsored the refugees. The organization's president, Anna Crosslin, says the city was selected for many reasons.

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Description: "Affordable housing, at the time an abundance of entry level jobs that fit the skills of many of the Bosnians that were arriving."

Crosslin says the Bosnian population is resiliant and have done well over the years.

She says she believes Bosnian's education levels played a roll in the communitie's ability to adapt.

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Description: "They arriaved with substantiale education in many cases. They had skills and so individuals when they arriaved over here brought those benefits with them. So they arriaved over here in better condition than many other refugee populations have."

 Crosslin says Bosnians and other refugee groups are the single largest flow of new population into the city of St. Louis and have helped the city in many ways.

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Description: "So these are new people who fill neighborhoods, start businesses, start homes, children in schools etc."

Kukic says Bosnian's quick adaption to life in the U.S. is even more apparent in younger generations.

He says his son never learned to speak his native language, but doesn't see the change as a bad thing.

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Description: "As a father, as a Bosnian American I can tell for sure my son is more American than Bosnian. We come here with our heritage. We come here with our culture but very quickly we melt and become apart of United States and I think that's what America is about."

 Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Lauren Bale.