Alida Vracic is the director and founder of the Sarajevo think tank Populari, a small research institute examining political, economic and social trends in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Alida studied law in Sarajevo, worked at the Human Rights Commission at the Bosnian Constitutional Court and for the Department of War Crimes at the BiH State Court. She describes this work as a formative experience:
"The War Crimes Chamber changed me. I have been involved in cases which I wasn't aware of as a child in Sarajevo. I was 14 at the time war broke out in Bosnia, and to me at that time it seemed as if Bosnia was a huge country. While other atrocities were happening elsewhere I was in Sarajevo under the siege.
Covering Northern Bosnia at the war crimes chamber, I woke up again. I've started living other peoples' war stories; concentration camps, rapes, killings. All of a sudden, being under siege in Sarajevo from 1992-1995 seemed a minor thing."
In Alida's early childhood – under Socialism – national identity did not seem to be important. "Brotherhood and unity" was President Tito's slogan. Alida remembers how in early 1992, just as the war was about to break out, she learnt about ethnicity.
"It was just another ordinary day at school in Sarajevo, when a friend of mine, Ognjen, said he was Serb. The pride he said that with perplexed me, so as soon as I was at home I phoned my father at his work. I said: 'Dad, listen… today at school, Ognjen said he is Serb. Am I Serb too?' Dad said: 'Well, no, where did you get that from, you are…ermm…well, you are from Sarajevo, so you are Sarajka!' Right, OK, that makes sense – I thought. And it did, more than I knew at the time."
Soon, Alida started to comprehend the meaning of being from a mixed family. Alida's father is a Bosnian Catholic of Croatian, German and Austrian origin, and her mother is a Bosnian Muslim of Turkish origin. She belongs to the Daut family, which originally came from Istanbul.
Alida likes to say that she has always remained nothing but a Sarajka – an identity shaped during the years she spent as a teenager in Sarajevo, zigzagging across streets, dodging snipers, collecting water, and doing her best, like other Sarajevans, simply to survive the siege.
As a student Alida worked in a Sarajevo bookstore, paid in books instead of cash. After her experience at the Constitutional Court, she – like many others – left Bosnia to study international public policy at University College London. In 2007 she came back, however, and set up her new think tank, "Populari".