In Their Own Words: Dario Jungi 

From Bosnia, Cafe Owner

[Mr. Jungi came to the US in 1996 as a refugee after four years working in a Croatian refugee camphaving escaped the Serbian ethnic cleansing of Banja Luka, his home city in Bosnia, during the bloody civil war. Jungi opened the Marino Adriatic Café on SE Division last year following 10 years working in Portland to help other refugees find employment. If the café is quiet, you may catch him playing guitar there for his patrons on a random afternoon.—eds]

"We had to falsify papers to get out of Banja Luka—in order to leave the city, you had to swear that you would give all your property to the Serbian Republic, signing away your house, your belongings, everything. You had to swear to leave Bosnia, and also not to stay in neighboring Croatia because the Serbs thought you might return to fight against them if you did.

"My best friend and I left Bosnia on a bus on the 28th of December 1992, and we had to go through 30 barricades where at each one the Serbian paramilitaries could pull you out and shoot you or send you to a concentration camp. It was a lottery to survive.

"At the last checkpoint, they ordered my friend and I out, meaning they were going to kill us—but then luckily, some frontline Serbian troops happened to walk over, and one of the Serbians recognized me from high school. We said, 'hey!' and kissed, and he asked the checkpoint guys what they were doing, and he saved our lives. It was a gift from God.

"He had been this kid in high school with an alcoholic mother and a father in the military, who never learned to read, but I had always been friendly toward him, and I'd always protected him from beatings in school, and I always say to kids in school now, you never know how life's circle will turn.

"In Croatia, we had a better chance because I was Croat. But we arrived in Zagreb two days before New Year and had to spend the night on the street in temperatures of negative 18 degrees—one of the coldest nights ever in Croatia. We slept a few days in the train station, but then the Croatian police started arresting refugees so we had to move on.

"Luckily, when I was a kid in the Croatian town of Gospi, we lived next door to this family with an unusual name. I'd heard that the brother and sister had moved to Zagreb, so I grabbed a phonebook and called all the people with their name. There were hundreds. Then this lady picked up the phone and I said, 'Hello, is this Marissa?' and she said, 'Dario, how are you?'

"She recognized my voice even though I was 24 and had not seen her since I was 4 years old! She said she had dreamt about me coming, and gave us a room to sleep in. It was an amazing coincidence.

"After four years in Croatia I came with my wife to America—and we were a little disappointed, to be honest with you. The Americans I had met in Croatia were all so friendly and outgoing, but in this country people are more individual and centered on themselves. Everybody is stressed out.

"Bosnians are naturally very friendly people, and that's why I opened the cafe—I want to give people a space where they feel appreciated and wanted, as comes naturally in Bosnia. Here, if people want to meet other people it has to be structured, you know they'll go to a woodworking class or whatever. But I would rather just have a cup of coffee with a person. I love coffee." (MD)

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