Dzenana Brkic (22) is a very brave young woman from a small town Busovaca (Bosnia and Herzegovina). She was born blind. Given the hard circumstances during the war in Bosnia (92-95), not much could be done about it. Even though three surgeries were done, only a amount of sight could be restored. Before starting her primary school education, she developed glaucoma (high eye pressure) which resulted in almost almost total loss of her sight. Today, she can only see colors, light and shadows.
At six years old, she came to the Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children and Youth in Nedžarići, Sarajevo. That’s when her education began. She completed her primary and secondary education there. During the third year of secondary school, she got the opportunity to go to the United States where she spend a in school in Indiana. Having enjoyed learning English, she enrolled to the International University of Sarajevo in 2013, studying English Language and Literature. She is currently in her fourth and final year at university.
“There were so many times when I thought I will give up. A few times I nearly did give up, but so many times I did not. Despite all the obstacles and the fact that I have to make more effort than other students to find the accessible materials for studying and preparing for exams, no matter how many obstacles I encountered in going around – the list is too long, I do not give up. At the end, the effort is what is appreciated the most, not the results or grades.“ Dzenana says.
Decision to Wear the Hijab
Seven months ago, Dženana made a decision which changed her life in so many positive ways.
“I’ve wanted to wear the hijab for so long. I was afraid of so many things. But all these fears became irrrelevant once I realized how a big obligation it was for a believer. When I finally did it, I felt so fulfilled, like I finally found the missing piece for the puzzle. I felt complete. I thought that my old friends would abandon me. Some of them did, but the ones dear to me did not. Moreover, I gained some new, honest ones. Many wondered why it is important to me so much, why I write about it so often. Yes, it is important. It is important to help other sisters do the same and comprehend the beauty nearly slipping out of their hands. And it is also important because it is closely related to my disability.“
Her dream is to be an English teacher or a writer. Dzenana actively writes for a blog called “Riječ kao trag“ (The word as a trace), where she writes about her thoughts, poems, and experiences. She is also planning to publish her first book of poetry, short stories or a novel. For her, it is a huge success when others are motivated and encouraged by her writings.
“I love to read, and I often find the inspiration to write something myself. Writing was always part of my life; in it, I found strength and it was a way to express myself. Recently, I sometimes post things on my blog as well. That is my way to show the world who I am, what I face every day, and that I am a human being like everyone else regardless despite my disability. I have the same wishes, feelings, ups and downs.
At times in the past, I blamed everybody for the state I was in. It was sometimes hard to accept the fact that I am blind, the fact that I needed help from others often. Once I started realizing that I only depend on Allah, that’s when my inner peace started growing. Once you accept what you are not able to change Allah’s will, that’s when you realize that everything in life has its purpose. Once you believe, completely, you stop asking why, you only accept and rely on the One who knows what is best for you.“
Dženana mostly writes about women, hijab, disability. She loves poetry and short stories. That is what inspired her to make her own blog, which is a stepping stone to bigger aims, like publishing books, novels and editions.
“I created my blog a few days after I put on the hijab. I had always written about the things happening to me, but this time I felt the need for others to read about what I had to say that was connected to the hijab and religion. I was motivated even more when a couple of women wrote to me about their impressions, and when some people told me that they liked my writing. The biggest motivation for my blog was Ammara Šabić, who is very successful although she suffers from multiple sclerosis. Reading her writing, as well as some other pieces by successful women and people with disabilities, I realized that words are the only treasure which leaves a trace once we are gone. That’s how my blog got its name “The Word as a Trace“.
Her biggest inspirations are difficulties which she faces and overcomes. “Difficulties teach me about life. They show me what a human being can do, how much he is unbreakable, strong, courageous. My falls are my inspiration. My faith in Allah and hope in Him are my inspiration. There is always some good in the things which happen to us. My disability has its purpose – it helps me to write.“
Dzenana explains that there are many prejudices surrounding people with disabilities. People do not realize that all of us have certain needs. When people see a particular disability, they automatically make their opinions about that person, not even trying to meet him/her, which is wrong. Physical appearance is not the only thing which describes a person.
“So many times in my life I have met people who jump to conclusions about me without asking me first. For example, they think that somebody else writes on my behalf on my laptop without even asking me how I use the laptop, how I prepare my exams, how I go around doing everything. They think that somebody else has to do all the things with me, that I am not able to do anything by myself. This makes me very sad when they think that if you are not able to see, you cannot do anything else, not even speak for yourself.“
Words of Wisdom
Her message to everyone is simple, but profound: look at your life and be grateful for all the things you have, and do not be sad about the things you don’t have. You will not be able to count all the blessings from Allah, which none of us deserve. How then, can you be ungrateful and complain?
“The advice I give to others I always give to myself, too. Don’t allow the things surrounding you to influence you so much and push you down. Don’t allow the comments and opinions of others discourage you, because it doesn’t matter what they think. What matters is what you think. The only way you can succeed in something is through effort and devotion. There will always be many things you cannot do, but success doesn’t come overnight. It is important that you do not give up. You don’t have to make adjustments for others in order to be accepted. It is better to be alone than in a bad group of people.“
About the author: Nedim Botic is a motivational speaker, educator, writer and journalist from Bosnia. He completed memorization of the Qur’an by heart and finished MA studies in the field of Religious Pedagogy. He writes for major educational and news sites in his home country, Bosnia and Herzegovina and region (including Al Jazeera Balkans).