UWF to host International Rescue Committee site director for presentation

University of West Florida | news@uwf.edu

The University of West Florida International Programs will host Una Bilic, site director for the Tallahassee International Rescue Committee, or IRC, at 6 p.m. on April 7 at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts. Bilic will share her experiences as a Bosnian refugee and discuss the reality refugees face today in her presentation, titled “From Refugee to Citizen.”

“We are very excited to be hosting this event,” said William Vittetoe, director of International Programs. “Global citizenship and a global mindset are increasingly important for our students and community.”

The IRC is a contracted agency that oversees previously arrived and new refugees’ transition into their respective communities. The Tallahassee IRC supports approximately 15 families in an area that stretches to Panama City.

Bilic is familiar with the challenges of assimilating to American life. She left Bosnia at age 10 after being struck by shrapnel from an exploding shell. Bilic was playing with other children in a courtyard near her home in Sarajevo when she felt the metal pierce her head, legs, arms and back. Five people died from the explosion.

With Bilic unable to receive proper medical treatment for her head injury in Bosnia, the United Nations evacuated the family, first to an Italian hospital and then to Orlando. Two families, totaling nine people, shared one room in an Orlando house until a local mosque found them and took them to an apartment. The woman who housed the two families was later arrested for spending the money meant to care for them on herself.

Bilic’s parents worked at McDonald’s and eventually as housekeepers at Disney World to support their two daughters and ensure they received a college education. Bilic attended the University of South Florida for her undergraduate studies and earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Central Florida.

The Tallahassee IRC hired Bilic as site director in September 2015. She oversees the development, implementation and completion of all grants, contracts and activities related to resettlement and refugee services.

The UWF International Programs event is free and open to the public.

For more information about International Programs at UWF, visit uwf.edu/internationaloffice.

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