A Colorful Mix | Vienna’s Bosnians

I have been privileged to call Vienna my home for some years now. But to be honest, it wasn’t a love at first sight. 

I was in my early 20s when we made a stop here on our way to a student conference in the south of France. As with all students – especially those of us from Bosnia and Herzegovina, with all our difficulties getting the necessary documents for a Schengen visa – we were hungry for adventure, eager to see more, know more, do more. 

So that winter of 2008, after hours in the car, we finally reached Vienna to spend the day. 

I can still remember my first ride on the famous U-Bahn – the U3 taking us to Mariahilferstraße all the way from somewhere called Ottakring, which I can only vaguely remember. The weather was moody that day – a bit of rain, a bit of snow, even a bit of clear blue skies, but also windy, as it often gets. I wasn’t impressed. Little did I know that I would keep coming back to Vienna again and again for years to come. 

Each time, the city revealed something new to me, but it was its multicultural reality that really swept me off my feet, with the Bosnian community being a part of that colorful mix. 

Today, over 20,000 Bosnian Viennese make up part of that picture. These well-integrated and often very engaged citizens are certainly the best ambassadors we could want. From activism and politics to entrepreneurship and culture, the Bosnians of Vienna are contributing to the life of the city in almost every sphere. 

Some of them are changing the face of Austrian politics, like the Minister of Justice Alma Zadić, who escaped the war to settle in Vienna with her family, and others who are engaged on a local level working to improve life in their municipalities. Some of them, like the RahatLook vintage store founders Elena and Bjanka, have turned their passions into sustainable businesses.

Others will serve you with the most delicious burek you have ever tried. Edin from Pitawerk has shared the secret to making this traditional Bosnian delicacy, which for us Bosnians inevitably brings distant childhood memories and warmth around the heart. 

But it may be in the world of culture that we Bosnians do our very best. In an interview with the acclaimed filmmaker and theater director Nina Kusturica, we spoke about why in Austria, even though there may be gender representation among film students, most women don’t stay in the film business after their first movie, and how she managed the win against those odds. 

So, what is the secret to the success of Bosnians in this city? The ties between two countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Austria, between two cities, Sarajevo and Vienna, have existed for centuries. 

Yes, the first electrical tram did first run in Sarajevo before Vienna and yes, you can find Austrian-Hungarian architecture in Sarajevo, but you can also hear Austria in the everyday Bosnian language. From what Austrians refer to as BKS (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian), Bosnian-born linguist Azra Hodžić-Kadić sets out to explain what makes Bosnian language so special and what place it has in the multilingual Vienna. 

And especially for you, we have compiled a list of German loanwords in Bosnian, so you will more easily recognize it next time you hear it on the street or in that marvelous U-Bahn

With these and other Bosnian stories, our small team hopes you will be inspired to learn more about our country and our culture and, if you haven’t yet done so, venture out to explore Bosnian Vienna. And if you have never been to Bosnia and Herzegovina, well, we hope this issue will be a sign: There is no time like the present! 

Yours truly,