We’re a family of five. My husband and I were born in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We got married in 1979 in Bosanska Krupa, where we also lived for some time. Our first daughter was born in 1980, and our second in 1982. We moved to Slovenia in 1983, as my husband found employment for an indeterminate period in Gorenjska region. We’ve stayed in Slovenia ever since. In Gorenjska, we lived in a flat owned by a funeral home. In 1986, I became permanently employed in a hospital in Gorenjska. In 1990, our third daughter was born in Slovenia. After living in a smaller town for 18 years, we moved to Jesenice in 2001, and we got a flat that belonged to my husband’s employer. At the time we were moving from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Slovenia, we reported the changes in primary residence in Bosanska Krupa (my husband also withdrew from the military) and in Slovenia right after we arrived. Our health insurance has always been taken care of.
We didn’t apply for citizenship in 1991. My husband was working all the time, I had a job and three daughters to take care of, and because we both knew we had permanent residence and employment with unlimited contracts, we thought acquiring Slovenian citizenship wasn’t necessary. We weren’t aware of possible consequences. We never talked to anyone about citizenship and why we should apply for it. The town we lived in was mostly inhabited by the Slovenes, there were practically no immigrants. We didn’t have any troubles up until 1993.
In 1993, the police came into our apartment and told us to hand them all documents. We gave them our five Yugoslavian passports, but were allowed to keep our border passes. My husband was taken to a police station and given a notice stating our passports had been seized. He was told that we needed the notice to arrange Bosnian passports at the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Ljubljana. We didn’t know we have been erased up until the day the police appeared.
The fact that we had been erased was a big shock for all of us. Even the youngest daughter, who was born in Slovenia and has never lived elsewhere, was erased. All of us, including her, were given Bosnian passports at the Embassy. We couldn’t return to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time, as it was during a time of warfare. From 1993, we all had Bosnian passports and temporary residence permits for Slovenia. We were being given visas that were valid for a month or two, sometimes longer, but never for a whole year or more. This represented a great expense, up until 2007, when my husband, our youngest daughter and I were given permanent residence permits, and our two older daughters were granted citizenship. Being of age, they could submit the applications themselves. Since 1993, we always extended our temporary visas on time and we’ve never been without status. My husband’s work permit is being taken care of by his employer, so he’s never had to deal with it himself. This is probably because he does extremely difficult physical work, and is a good worker, but also because the employer is aware that no one else would do the job for such a low salary.
In 1993, 24 people were fired from the hospital where I worked – people without Slovenian citizenship. Myself included. I received an order, which stated that my employment had been terminated because I was a foreigner citizen with my work permit due to expire (an employer can’t enter into a contract with a foreigner that has no work permit). After the incident, I went to the Employment Service of Slovenia to register as unemployed, but I was told that nothing could be done, since I didn’t have Slovenian citizenship, and as such I wasn’t entitled to any compensation or help. Until this day, I haven’t received anything from the country. I haven’t been given any help, even though I have a permanent residence here. I haven’t worked anywhere else. My husband was supporting the whole family with his salary, which wasn’t high enough to cover all the expenses, so he had to do a lot of undeclared work.
After the war had ended, we went back to Bosnia and Herzegovina to apply for the citizenship. They didn’t ask us to cancel our existing registration in Slovenia, and they didn’t ask for any documents. My husband and I still hold Bosnian citizenship, and we only have permanent residence permits in Slovenia, since we can’t acquire citizenship.
There was an official working at the Administrative Unit Jesenice who treated us very rudely. When my husband went there once to arrange his temporary residence permit, she accused him of stealing in the past and even called the police. It turned out she had mistaken him for someone who had a similar surname. Regardless, it was a great shame for us. One day, in the early nineties, she gave us a phone call and told our eldest daughter that her younger sister wouldn’t be able to extend her visa for temporary residence and would have to move to Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the time of the war. Naturally, we got very scared. The same official caused us trouble later on as well. When one of our daughters was arranging a residence permit for her husband from Bosnia and Herzegovina, she refused to tell her which documents to bring at first. Whenever we thought we’d provided everything, she told us there were still documents missing. To get them, we had to go all the way to Bosnia and Herzegovina and back multiple times, which wasn’t cheap.
The period from 1993 onwards was very difficult for the whole family. Constant stress, having to arrange visas on time, and worrying that our permits might not be extended lead to arguments and increased tension between us. The erasure pushed our family into poverty and all three daughters felt underprivileged, compared to their peers and classmates.
In 1993, after we were visited by the police, the older two daughters received a written notice at school, stating that without citizenship, they could not continue to attend, and should enrol in the elementary school for refugees in Jesenice. They went to the school for refugees for a year or two, until we arranged temporary residence permits. We then obtained an official notice allowing them to return to their previous school. After that, both of them finished elementary school and enrolled in high school normally, even without citizenship. The youngest daughter was in kindergarten all that time without complication. Luckily, all three of them now hold Slovenian citizenship. They each applied after turning 18, and were accepted. In order to arrange their citizenship, we had to bring certificates of no criminal records from Bosnia and Herzegovina for all three of them, including the youngest, who’s never even lived there.