My husband and I were both born in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He first came to Slovenia for seasonal work of highway construction in 1972. In 1974, he got called in for military service. He was in the army for 15 months and he returned to Slovenia in 1976, where he got the job again. A year later he got married to his first wife. In 1978 they both unregistered in Bosnia and register their permanent residence in Slovenia. A few years later he got divorced and married me in 1984. I moved to Slovenia and registered here. For a while we both worked at the hotel in Gorenjska. In 1985 I gave birth to our first son and in 1990 to the second.
In 1991 we did not submit the applications for Slovenian citizenship. I had health problems. I was in the hospital and I was not aware that there is a deadline for applications and did not even know what it means. When I returned from the hospital and I learned that we should had submitted an application for citizenship, it was already too late. We were not aware of the consequences, especially not for the two children, since they were both born in Slovenia. My husband and I had the ID cards issued in the administration office in Jesenice. When they expired, we were without any documents for a long time.
In 1991 or 1992 both my husband and I had to take forced leave of absence, and then we both lost our jobs. Because I was working there for only about a year, I was not entitled to compensation. My husband worked there for about seven years, so he was receiving the compensation for two years. In 1992, when I was told that I am not entitled to social benefit and child allowances, we finally realized we were erased. That is when we also remained without any documents.
After these two years (probably in 1994), my husband got the job at one private practice. He says, he did not have any work permit and that he did not know he needed it. He was working for them for almost nine years. He did not know that they never registered him, and that in fact he was working for them illegally. On the payroll it was written that he had paid all contributions, and we thought we all have insurance through him. But in fact all those nine years we did not have health insurance. I found out this when I took my younger son to the doctor, and they told me he has no health insurance. Fortunately, the rest us never had any health problems and we did not need medical assistance.
My husband’s employer soon went out of business. Then (probably around 2001), he got another job, where he was regularly employed for a year and a half and he had arranged work permit and was paid all the contributions. In 2002, he arranged himself a Bosnian passport at the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Ljubljana. That is when he also received a working permit, which was extended after one year. He was travelling every day to Nova Gorica, so he wanted to find a job closer to home. And he got a job at some private practice in Jesenice. He still had his working permit valid when he started working there. Unfortunately, after about three years, the employer went out of business, and he failed to pay my husband more than 3000 euros.
The older son finished primary and high school without any problems. Nobody ever asked anything about the fact that he did not have citizenship. The younger son had health problems since being born and he was in the hospital very often. He finished kinder garden normally, but then we needed to enroll him in primary school with special needs. He finished it and got enrolled in high school with a special program (two and a half years). After few months he dropped out of school, because his schoolmates teased and insulted him and he did not feel good at school.
Both sons normally went to primary school and got enrolled in high school, even though they had no citizenship and no documents. But they were not eligible for subvention for meals and transport, like other children who had Slovenian citizenship were. They could not go on school trips, if they went abroad. The older son wanted to play football, but he could not enter the football club because he had no documents and could not play in Austria and Italy, where they had a lot of matches. So my sons never went anywhere, the older one up until he was 18 years old and got citizenship, and the younger until the age of 19, when he got a passport for foreigners (he received it in 2009, and it was valid for 2 years) and an ID card for foreigners. After that he went for the first time to Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit his grandmother.
I also (as my husband) tried to obtain a Bosnian passport at the Embassy of Bosnia and Hercegovina in Ljubljana, but I was unsuccessful. I called my consultant at the municipality of Jesenice and then received an appeal to come there. They told me that I did not get the Bosnian passport because my son and I were citizens of Montenegro. I was very upset, since I had never lived in Montenegro, my son was born in Slovenia and he never even went out of the state. The officer in the municipality wrote me some certificate, with which I could go to Bosnia and get their passport. He told me that I could normally cross the border with this certificate. That was in 2001 or 2002. Both my husband and I went to Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the Slovenian border we were stopped and told that without documents we cannot cross the border. When I told them that I have this certificate to go across the border, they told me that I must first pay 20,000 SIT of penalty and then they will take me away. My husband paid 10,000 SIT because he did not have more, and then they did not take me anywhere, but I was unable to return to Slovenia for six months. My two sons remained in Slovenia and were taken care by the neighbors. My husband was able to cross the border normally, because he had a Bosnian passport, a temporary residence permit and a working permit. So he went back home, and I returned to Bosnia with the aim to obtain a Bosnian passport. For half of a year I could not get a visa for Slovenia, because the Slovenian Embassy in Sarajevo required a letter of guarantee from a Slovenian citizen who is employed. Later I got it from a friend from Slovenia. I had to be in Bosnia for 6 months, separated from my children.
I received my first passport (Bosnian) in 2001 and the first temporary permit in 2005. Then I was renewing permit for temporary residence until 2007, when I received a permanent residence permit. My husband had a temporary residence permit until 2007 and received a permanent residence permit at the same time as me. I tried to apply for citizenship for both my sons, but I failed. The municipality officers always said that I need to bring papers from Bosnia and Herzegovina (proof of no criminal record, a confirmation from the register…). When I told them again and again that the two of them have nothing to do with Bosnia and Herzegovina, because they never lived there, they asked me if they were in a war, if they were in the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina! My sons did not have written anything about citizenship in their birth certificates.
When the older son was 18 years old, he was eligible to apply for a citizenship on his own. I guess it made a difference that he was arranging everything with another officer in the municipality. I was arranging all my matters with the same officer, all this years. My son had to bring a certificate from kinder garden, certificates from primary school, certificates from secondary school, proof of no criminal record and birth certificate. He was waiting for citizenship for about a year and a half, he got it in 2006. Before he obtained it, he had to sign a statement that he will not seek for any compensation from the state! He just signed and did not ask about anything. Before that he had no status – he never had a permit for temporary or permanent residence.
I have repeatedly tried to obtain a citizenship for the younger son, but they tell me every time he has to be employed, he has to bring a certificate of no criminal record from Bosnia and Herzegovina and that he has to have first permanent residence permit and a Bosnian passport before he can submit an application for Slovenian citizenship. They gave me a confirmation from the register of birth, where the section of citizenship is not filled in, and told me to go with this to Bosnia and Herzegovina and register him. I did not do that. I already have had problems with arranging a permanent residence permit, because they did not want to register him on the address where we actually live, because the building is not written down in the land register, therefor for them it does not exist. When the younger son got the card – permanent residence permit, it was written on it that he is a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We did not have any serious problems with police, but it happened twice that we were stopped and asked for documents. We told them we were erased and have no documents. They let us go, but we were teased and bullied that they are going to take us with them. In the municipality office they have always been very rude and they were insulting us and telling us to go back to Bosnia.
A few years ago I got the job in a private cleaning service, where I worked only three days. Working conditions were intolerable, we were working from morning until late evening and the boss was behaving very rude towards us. Most women stopped working there after three days. After that I worked for two years in a laundry room. When I received my first salary they told me I do not have a working permit. They told me to arrange that. I paid for this permit around 150 euros. Then they told me they cannot employ me permanently, because I do not have a citizenship. Now I should get work in a nursing home, but they have not called me yet. In believe it is because I do not have a citizenship. My husband is registered at the unemployment office and occasionally they find him some work, but they do not employ him permanently because he is almost 60 years old. We receive 400 euros of social support and recently the younger son got it as well. The older son had a job, but he recently lost it. I went to the Red Cross to ask for help several times (for a package of basic food), and they told me that I am not entitled for it. For years I had been helping elderly neighbors and they had given food and helped me. Now they are all dead and therefor I do not get this help anymore.
We live in a municipal apartment, which is maintained by a private firm. When we moved in, my husband paid a deposit for an apartment and signed a lease agreement for indefinite period. Since we did not have money to regularly pay the bills, we now own this firm around 3000 euros. We received an eviction order. Then we filed in a complaint and got a new date for the eviction. We asked for an extension again, because we thought that the older son will get a job for an indefinite period and will be able to take a loan to repay this debt, but we just received another order to evict. Since the older son has lost his job, we do not know how we will repay this debt and what will happen after the eviction, because we have nowhere to go. Even in Bosnia we do not have any house or assets. All three of us would like to obtain Slovenian citizenship in order to get a job, take a loan and pay off this debt for the flat and not get evicted.
We are hurt the most about the fact that we did not have a right to work and documents. If we had this documents arranged, we would not have fallen into debt and could have lived normally now.