‘Little Bosnia’ residents tell their stories in documentary now on Amazon Prime
During the Bosnian War in the 1990s, St. Louis became a place of refuge for many people. St. Louis is now home to nearly 70,000 Bosnians — more than anywhere in the world, apart from Bosnia itself. Joseph Puleo’s documentary “A New Home” tells their stories.
Nejla Mustafic is an American-born Bosnian who is featured in “A New Home.” Her parents took refuge in St. Louis when they were children. Mustafic told St. Louis on the Air that learning about the history of Bosnia and the Bosnian War was a core part of her life growing up.
“My entire childhood was about ‘remember, remember and remember,’” she said.
Puleo noted that most of the documentary’s pre-production time was spent researching the Bosnian War. He had little knowledge of Bosnian history before he made this film, mainly because Bosnian history is rarely taught in schools in the United States.
“You can't make a film on this subject matter if you're not going to dig deeply into what is, for all the people that we interviewed, the worst experience of their life,” Puleo said. “Now we are asking them to relive that on camera. … But as you see in the film, it's so necessary in order to really understand what happened to these people.”
Today, Bosnian history is extensively taught in public schools and Universities around St. Louis because of the influence the Bosnian population has had on the region.
Nedim Ramic, a Bosnian refugee who works as a lawyer in St. Louis, said that at first, people didn’t see the difference between Bosnian refugees and immigrants from other countries when they fled to St. Louis — and that there is an important distinction.
“Certain immigrant populations come here by choice,” Ramic said, referencing a quote from the film. “Refugees are forcefully displaced from their homes, just barely getting out with their lives.” Ramic said that even still, Bosnian refugees worked hard to rebuild their lives, benefiting the St. Louis region as a result.
Many Bosnians in the documentary note that a large portion of Bosnia’s population is white, and that their race made success in the United States more attainable.
“We definitely thought it was an important part of the story that needed to be included, and probably one that might be overlooked by others,” Puleo said. “I was asking other refugees, ‘Do you think that the fact that you were of white race had anything to do with [the] perception [of Bosnain refugees]?’ It definitely had an impact.”
“Little Bosnia” remains a meaningful place for Bosnians of all generations in St. Louis. “This is the place where everything kind of started,” Mustafic said. “This is where my family and friends first came.”
After winning several awards in film festivals this summer, “A New Home” is available to stream on Prime Video.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.