“I have always read,” Florence resident Aneta Zivkovic said. “Books are like best friends. I don’t understand people who say they don’t like to read. That’s like saying you don’t like to breathe.”
Her brother, who is five years older and still lives in their native country of Bosnia, would take her to the library on a regular basis when they were children.
“Books are really magic. (Through books) children develop their imagination. It motivates them to explore the world,” Aneta said.
She said the education she received in Bosnia was excellent and challenging. She learned English in high school. She read Russian, American and English literature. Students received a solid educational foundation, then they could choose which subject to pursue, whether it was the law, music or another area.
The book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee inspired Aneta, 62, to become a lawyer in Bosnia. She described Atticus Finch, one of the book’s main characters, as brave and a fighter for justice. A resident of Sarajevo, Aneta worked in labor and constitutional law. Forty years later, she said she wouldn’t make the same choice. In today’s world, she would prefer to be an advocate for people.
Aneta is also an advocate for libraries. She worries they will disappear with everyone reading on Kindles and other such devices.
“The library gives people so many opportunities,” Aneta said She cited the Florence library’s Carnival of Cultures, which exposes children to other countries such as Japan and Mexico. Aneta also appreciates the book sales, concerts, speakers and the money she saves by using the library’s books and other resources.
“I like every kind of book (but she prefers non-fiction),” Aneta said. “You can learn something from every book. Even if you don’t have the money for college, you can still get an education through books.”
Aneta’s father also earned his living as a lawyer. Shortly after World War II, Bosnia was still united with Croatia and seven other federated entities to make up Yugoslavia, which was ruled by a king. An outstanding student, Aneta’s father applied for a scholarship to attend law school, which the king granted.
Aneta and her family came to the United States as refugees after the Bosnian War. Fought between 1992 and 1995, several different factions including the Bosnians, Serbians and Croatians wanted to establish their own independent territories. Before and during the war, the Bosnian economy plummeted and money was devalued. Prices rose and everything was very expensive. Aneta and her family struggled to survive for three years with no electricity and limited food.
“After all these years, I still don’t know why the war happened,” Aneta said. “Serbians, Bosnians – they all live together again and they have to work together to support the country’s economy.”
Aneta still does not attend Fourth of July celebrations. They remind her of the war.
The Zivkovics were allowed entrance into the U.S. through the United Nations refugee program. They lived in Ft. Wright before moving to Florence 15 years ago. Aneta became a U.S. citizen in 2001.