It’s common to find ourselves discontent — searching within and asking God for a great mitzvah or life mission. For me, I felt as though my greatest work in life would be my art and film achievements. Having my use of acrylic critiqued by Jemima Kirke, an accomplished portrait painter, seemed to be the capstone award I was waiting for. That idea left quite an empty feeling and I was unable to pinpoint why living my dream didn’t fill the void.
In my late teens and early 20s, I battled addiction after my trust was abused and my innocence was stolen. My way of coping was to dive into creativity. Being a history buff, I was browsing the internet for a subject I could write about for a cathartic narrative feature. Sarajevo seemed to find me. I was researching besieged cities while sitting in the cafeteria of Anne Arundel Community College when I read “The Siege of Sarajevo” and aloud I said, “Oh, Bosnia...” as if one were reuniting with an old friend — one I recall hearing about constantly in my early childhood (late 1990s). Then suddenly, the prettiest voice positively exclaimed, “Bosnia?! I am from Bosnia.” Perhaps Amna, whom that voice belonged to, was that old friend from a past life.
Being a detail fanatic, I had to know all of the history if I was going to write a decent script. This led me down a dark path in regard to the crimes committed and the shear violence that took place. Shocked, horrified and never again was I the same after learning the truth of what happened to Yugoslavia — contrary to what we are told to believe. I am a staunch Zionist, so this “mitzvah” was easily relatable. Being of service, which I gained from the recovery world, was now my greatest asset.
In 2017, I began volunteering for the 28. Jun nonprofit organization led by recording artist Filip Filipi and Snežana Dimitrijević. My film career started to become less of a priority as I was reminded of the joy received when we live for others.
“Emet is one of our secret weapons,” Filipi said. “It only made sense for a staunch Zionist with a full comprehension of what was perpetrated against Yugoslavia to join our team.”
I’m one who tries to play surprises on people, but one was played on me when I received my membership card in an unexpected care package put together by Snežana — marking the week 28. Jun became inducted in the Forbes Nonprofit Council. This act further drove me to acknowledge the humility of someone halfway around the world who has bestowed compassion and empathy upon me in the past.
Snzežana reminds us of the last queen of Bosnia prior to the Ottoman conquest, Katarina Kosača. Her intense devotion to her faith, family and absolute strangers is a trait reminiscent of a bygone era, usually recorded in history, as is such the case.
28. Jun is a special consultant to the United Nations and is the only humanitarian organization of the Western Balkans recognized by the United Nations.