When Dijana Sabic escaped war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina 20 years ago, she dreamed of making a better life for herself and her children. Today, she has found that life in Lorain County.

Sabic, 41, will earn an Associate Degree Nursing from Lorain County Community College on May 5. She lives in Elyria.

 In 1992, Sabic was a kindergarten teacher in Bosnia, living with her husband and two small children, ages 2 ½ and 1 ½. War broke out and the family retreated to a basement shelter where they lived in fear for six months. When she was able to sneak out, Sabic would tend the wounded in the streets.

Finally, Sabic and her family were able to escape and cross the border into Croatia. They connected with the Red Cross and were sent to Germany, where they lived for the next six years. In Germany, Sabic returned to school and became a paramedic.

“When the war was over in Bosnia, we were told we had to leave Germany and return to our home country,” Sabic said. “I did not feel safe to return, but I didn’t have any choice.” Before the left Germany, she wrote a letter to the American government asking for help, but had to leave for Bosnia before she received a response.

Sabic was determined to find a way out of Bosnia and traveled to the America embassy in Zagreb, Croatia. In an eight-page document, Sabic recounted her life journey to the embassy.

“Two long years later, I finally got an answer from the American government and a ticket to Cleveland,” she said. Her family landed in Ohio in 2000.

She quickly landed a job as a welder in a Cleveland factory. Though she spoke multiple languages, she did not speak English. With a background in education and health care, Sabic had never used welding tools, but she quickly caught on to the trade and was soon producing well over her daily quota for parts. She stayed up late each night working on her language skills.

“I had a dictionary in my hands all the time and studied every chance I got,” she said. Before long, she was able to communicate well with her coworkers.

With the help of her German speaking skills and her paramedic training, Sabic was hired to work in a nursing home in Strongsville that had many German-speaking residents. She soon earned her STNA license and moved on to a job at St. John Westshore hospital in Westlake.

“I worked at the hospital for seven years,” she recalled. “When I was laid off, a friend encouraged me to continue my nursing education at LCCC and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

College courses in the United States are different from her higher education experience in Germany and Bosnia, she said.

“The instructors here really care about how you are doing,” she said. “In Germany, people were jealous of me for being at the top of the class because I am not German. At LCCC, everyone is so much friendlier and encourages you to do your best.”
After graduation, Sabic plans to pass the Registered Nurse exam and hopes to work in a local hospital in either the surgical floor or in the intensive care unit.

“I’m very proud of myself. It’s been a long journey. I’ve been through so much in my life but it keeps getting better,” she said.