Book presentation connects Bosnian university, WKU

President Gary Ransdell, author Mirzet Mustafic and his daughter Majda Mustafic peruse through Mirzet’s book “Forgive Me” after the presentation and dedication of Faruk Caklovica’s book “1479 days, the Siege of University of Sarajevo: A documentary overview of Events 1992-1995” at the Ivan Wilson Center for Fine Arts Gallery.

ShelRogers

The cultures of Bosnia and Bowling Green collided Tuesday night at a book presentation from the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia.

University of Sarajevo graduate Mirzet Mustafic presented books for University of Sarajevo President Faruk Caklovica, to WKU President Gary Ransdell. The two books, “1479 Days, The Siege of University of Sarajevo: A documentary overview of events 1992-1995” and Mustafic’s own book, “Forgive Me,” cover the atrocities of war in Bosnia during the early 1990s.

“These books represent the connection between these two universities,” said Helen Sterk, communication department head.

The presentation took place in the Fine Arts Center Gallery at 6 p.m. and had about 50 attendees, including WKU students, faculty and community members.

“1479 Days” lists all of the students and faculty who continued their education at the University of Sarajevo amidst the Bosnian crisis.

In “Forgive Me,” Mustafic describes his hometown of Zvornik pre-war, the destruction of his town during, and his first years in Bowling Green after fleeing from Bosnia.

Mustafic, who moved to Bowling Green in 1994, thanked WKU for the opportunity to present both his book and Caklovica’s to the community. He then continued his speech in his native language, with his daughter, Majda Mustafic, translating for guests.

Mirzet Mustafic said this presentation was fulfilling a promise he made to Caklovia while promoting his own book, “Forgive Me,” to present the Bosnian literature to Bowling Green, an area with a large Bosnian population.

Mustafic described the “premeditated murders” of elderly, women and children during everyday activities, which are further documented in both books.

“Only half [of the University of Sarajevo’s] faculty pre-war remained after the siege,” Mustafic said.

Mustafic said the University of Sarajevo is now up to 34,000 students and plans on becoming a “true European university.”

Mustafic mentioned that his son, Mirza, was a WKU graduate, and hopes that the cultural ties between Bowling Green and Bosnia “will take international reach to greater heights.”

President Gary Ransdell accepted the books on behalf of the university, saying that the books “will be treasured in our library.”

“I can only hope in time that the countries that came out of the conflict can grow and prosper,” Ransdell said. “Thank you, Mirzet, for the thoughtfulness, work, passion and emotion in presenting these books… At Western, we can’t achieve the first four words of our motto without fulfilling the last three. Thank you for helping with that.”

Donna Renaud, communication instructor, has worked with the Bosnian community since 1997. Renaud said she met Mustafic nearly 15 years ago, while helping to form a Bosnian Club for the Bowling Green area. For her, this presentation brings over 15 years worth of work full circle.

“I got to travel to Bosnia and hear their stories,” Renaud said. “And now some of their stories are on display for the community to see.”

The books will be displayed at the Kentucky Library but will not be available for checkout. Connie Foster, Dean of Libraries, said she’s honored to have these books join the Kentucky Library.

“Anytime we receive rare especially rare publications, particularly with international content, and reflect such a struggle in history, it’s a special honor,” Foster said. “These books won’t be widely available… There are only about four other institutions that have them.”

Majda Mustafic, a 2011 UK graduate, said this event meant a lot for her and for her father.

“It’s so good to see Bowling Green and WKU embrace the books, especially since they’re not even in English,” she said. “My dad’s intention was never to sell a lot of his book, but just to talk about his experiences.”

WKU freshman Samantha McPherson said she learned a lot from Mustafic’s brief talk on his experiences in Bosnia.

“I didn’t even know about the war over there,” McPherson said. “You learn something new every day. I’d really like to look at the ‘1479 Days’ book sometime.”

Also mentioned during the presentation was the 17th Convention of Bosniaks in North America, which will be hosted in Bowling Green during May 25-27. Gina Dzelil, a member of the Bosnian Club, said they are expecting more than 10,000 attendees during the convention.

“There will be cultural, religious activities, music and concerts, and a soccer tournament,” Dzelil said.

Dzelil said Senad Agic, the head imam of the Bosnian Muslim Community of North America, will be speaking about Islamic stereotyping in America.  Along with Agic, Bosnian president Bakir Izetbegovic, was invited to speak. Dzelil said there has yet to be confirmation on the president’s visit.