Adisa and Vehid Ahmedović have been married for 27 years. They say it feels like they have been married for at least twice as much. Because they work together they are always next to each other. They were both born in Kakanj, where they still live today. They got married at a young age. Vehid, known as Crni, was 23 at the time, and Adisa was 18. They got married during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 1993.
Crni is of Roma ethnicity, and points out that he does not mind that nickname, meaning “Black” in English. He jokingly adds that people tried to guess his real name to win a prize because everyone here knows him as Crni.
The Two’s Meeting
Adisa is a hairdresser and wigmaker by profession, and Crni graduated from mechanical school. Since Vahid always wanted to be a hairdresser, his career took a turn. They believe that it was their job that brought them together; they met in a hair salon where Crni had already worked, and where Adisa later got a job. They immediately grew fond of each other.
“We had fun for a year and a half and once we fell in love, we just went on with our relationship,” Crni recalls.
The phrase “opposites attract” perfectly describes their relationship. Adisa, describing Crni, says that he is good, positive, calm, and shy.
“Adisa is energetic, hyperactive…which is both good and bad – good for work and bad for her,” jokes Crni.
They Are Always Supportive Of Each Other
Adisa is a very hearty person and she goes through life with the premise that there is nothing she cannot do. She always tries to push her boundaries, and doesn’t lack support from her husband. They try to overcome every obstacle with humor.
She remembers how on one occasion she was supposed to go to Novi Sad for a competition, and she couldn’t use Crni’s because he also needed it. Since she can’t stand a bus ride, Crni was worried about how everything would go.
“I went to the pharmacy and bought everything to help me with the trip. I slept through it all the way, but I managed to get there. You can’t tell me I can’t do something, because there is always a way. I got there, I participated in the competition, but on my way back I forgot to take the pill. I got on the bus, and everything stunk. I told the driver, ‘stop! I have to take a pill, give us a 15-minute break,’ I took the pill, went [back] in, and nothing stunk [anymore]! It was amazing! I am very sensitive to odors,” describes Adisa. Crni jokingly adds that she should get a job as an airport search dog.
Love Conquers Everything
When they met, their ethnicity did not matter. Adisa lost her father when she was nine years old, so her mother was especially protective. Their relationship was unusual for her mother at first and it was difficult. Now she claims that she loves Crni more than she loves her daughter.
“With our love for our job and for one another we can overcome every obstacle. And that is the [best] formula for young people. You just have to fight for everything. Love conquers everything,” says Crni.
“We were very young, but much more mature than many today. We were very positive and were always three steps ahead,” he adds.
Adisa finds it much easier today to marry someone of another ethnicity than it was during the War. Still, she is not sure whether people have ever supported such relationships sincerely.
“Our friends supported us while we were all together, sitting at one table, but as soon you turn around, you could sense the real mood. Those who said, „I could never“ found themselves in the same situation. But we just loved each other and that’s it. Today we live together, we work together. We know it was destined to happen this way. These 27 years feel like three years“, says Adisa.
Crni adds that he did not pay attention to what the society thought or said when they got married.
“I am a fighter. I had 12 years of work experience at the time, I was a very good student. I did not feel threatened at any point. I did not pay attention to it, nor did I have any problems.”
There Is Good In Everyone
While talking about “mixed” marriages before the War versus today, Adisa recalls how she has always taught to value all people, regardless of their identities.
“My Crni is a Roma, but he does everything he needs to do as a Muslim. I see good in all people. It is important to me to be pure before God. People change very quickly. They become evil quickly. I had friends for 25 years, and it turned out that they were with me out of [personal] interest,” Adisa says.
Kakanj today is very uniform/heterogenous, they say. There are almost no mixed marriages, and this is largely caused by the fact that many people have left the city, and the country in general.
“And sometimes people don’t have the nerve to adapt to someone different from themselves. Whatever my children’s choices are, I’m fine with them. My Nana (Aldijana, their daughter) got engaged to a man whose family is very religious. I respect them. Deni’s (their son) father-in-law is a hajji. I often say that I am a prostitute among those people. I like to joke like that,” she says.
They See People As Good Or Bad, Not As Their Skin Color Or Religion
Although Crni is of Roma ethnicity, they never emphasized this in their conversations with their children. They never tried to explain ethnic differences to them by saying things like, “this is a Serb” or “this is a Croat.”
“Deni was 8 or 9 at the time. He was playing football outside and when he got home, he said, ‘Mom, Crni played against Bijeli. I was in team Bijeli.’ Then I added jokingly, ‘you could play on both teams.’ He asks, ‘how come?’ I said, ‘so you see your father is Crni.’ He says, ‘oh, yes. I forgot!’
We are all human. I see humans as good or bad, not by color, not by religion. I go to church with my friends when they have confirmations, baptisms. I support everything that is good,” Adisa tells us, adding that their best friends from Makarska, Kristina and Drago, have always been supportive of them.
“I had one task in my life: to show others that people of the Roma population can be very successful. My employees have been different ethnicities. There weren’t any awkward situations,” adds Crni.
Our conversation was then interrupted by one customer who came all the way from Munich to get a haircut in their salon.
They Rely On Faith And Honest Work
Both are Muslims and celebrate religious holidays. As they tell us, faith is the pillar of the family.
“Faith in God is the pillar of the family, because if there is no faith in one’s home, there is no family. We celebrate holidays as any other Muslim family. We even pray. Our son is a pop artist, and pop artists, well you know yourself…they face many challenges as far as alcohol and drugs are concerned, so faith is the key. He overcame all that and he is a believer as well,” Crni tells us.
Unlike some couples who get married using their inheritance or material support from their families, Adisa and Crni have achieved everything they have today on their own, with their hard work. They have worked for almost 30 years, and even today, regular customers are there, because they recognize the value and quality of their work and them as people.
“The most important thing for me is to be a good person. I don’t hang out with others out of some personal interest. Whoever comes to me is welcome. Because when you want to sell yourself cheaply for money, it doesn’t end up well. It is short-lived ambition,” explains Adisa.
Love As A Driver
“Love conquers all. All prejudices and all existing systems. If it wasn’t for love, there wouldn’t be anything. We have lived together for thirty years and for thirty years, love for our jobs has guided us. The results are visible. We are not members of any party. Dear God gave us what he gave us and we use it, so we don’t need anyone,” Crni proudly points out.
They are satisfied with the results of their work and their status in society. They would not change anything, because they believe that their commitment to work has brought them exactly where they should be.
“If my father was in power, I would be a hairdresser again, because I love it. We are doing this today not for financial gain, but because we love people. That keeps us going,” says Crni. He advises young people in BiH to always try to do what they really like, because only then will satisfaction and success be guaranteed.
A Symbol Of The Working Class Of The City
During the war, Crni worked for UNPROFOR on Saturdays for almost two and a half years, and received an offer for a job in Paris. He refused the offer. As he tells us, even then, and especially now, their salon had been recognized. They are not sorry that they stayed in Bosnia.
“Generals came from Sarajevo to get a haircut. There was once a well-known CNN journalist as well. They loved me and even offered for me to work for them in Paris at the UN base as a civilian and I refused. They couldn’t believe that I was rejecting it so easily. It was 1994, 1995, and I refused because we were already well-known in the city. I remember thinking, ‘why would I give up everything I have here to pursue it over there.’ So we refused and did not repent. It took me a couple of days to think about the offer. Two transporters would come to pick me up every Saturday. The whole neighborhood was at their windows watching what was happening. It was important to them to get a haircut despite the war. And that happened every Saturday.” Crni recalls.
Today, Adisa and Crni have achieved almost everything that a craftsman can achieve with their work, so most new hairdressers learned from them.
“Some say we are the symbol of this city. We built everything ourselves. Our greatness is being able to look everyone right in the eye. I have not changed my phone number for 20 years. There is nothing to hide, everything is transparent,” concludes Crni.
A Reduced Marriage Benefits
Love and faith are necessary for a successful marriage.
“These two things are the key to a successful life. The two of us should be allowed to retire early. It’s not just 27 years of marriage, but 40 years, as we’ve been inseparable. At work for 10 hours, then at home for 10 hours,” he tells us with a laugh.
Adisa adds that balance is essential in everything. They themselves are quite different in character, but they know how to balance their differences.
“I’m more like, ‘let’s get things done,’ and he’s more of a ‘we’ll do that tomorrow’ kind of person. It gets on my nerves, but you get used to it. I will finish everything in time, so I don’t have to do it the following day, and he’s not that kind of guy. We always compete. He does it out of fun, but I have other responsibilities, to cook, to do dishes and laundry. But I’m like that. My ego does not allow me to be just a competitor,” Adisa tells us.
Fight Till The End
There are three loves in Adisa’s life: her husband, her children, and her job.
“The meaning of love is when you can’t wait to get up in the morning and go to work. Our job is God-given. We make a living thanks to it,” she says. She adds that it is worth fighting for the man you love, for your views, and for anything else that is worth it to you.
“It’s different nowadays. Marriage used to be a more serious thing back then, and today people live for two months together and realize that they will not do that anymore. It’s the easiest thing to leave, to give up. It’s hard to stay sometimes. We need to fight till the end,” Adisa concludes.
This story is part of the “Love Tales” project implemented by the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) with a group of Balkan Diskurs youth correspondents. The project is implemented with financial support from the VII Academy, the BOLD program of the US Embassy in BiH, and PCRC’s core grants, with the aim of challenging the common narrative that real connections between Bosnia’s different ethnic groups are unattainable by documenting stories of successful interethnic relationships across the country.