GRAND RAPIDS – State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) has introduced House Resolution 391 marking July 11 as Srebrenica Remembrance Day and July 11-17 as Bosnia and Herzegovina Tribute Week in Michigan. Michigan became home to thousands of Bosniaks following the war that raged from 1992 to 1995 in the region of the former Yugoslavia. July 11, 1995 is the date of the Srebrenica massacre, in which more than 8,300 Bosniaks – many of them civilians – were slaughtered. About 145,000 Bosniaks found refuge in the United States during and after the war, and approximately 8,000 were settled in the greater Grand Rapids area.
“Our country became a safe haven for families whose lives were torn apart by the worst war in Europe since World War II, and I’m grateful that so many of them chose to make Grand Rapids their home,” Brinks said. “A strong community of Bosniaks has grown in West Michigan, and now about 16,000 Bosniaks live, work and own businesses in the Grand Rapids area. We are fortunate to be their neighbors, and I’m proud to have introduced a resolution to commemorate their struggle and triumph.”
The war in the former Yugoslavia started shortly after Bosnia and Herzegovina achieved independence in 1992. The conflict with neighboring Serbia displaced more than 2.2 million people from their homes, according to the United Nations. Thousands of them came to Michigan as refugees, settling in greater Grand Rapids, Holland, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Muskegon, Detroit, Flint, Hamtramck, Battle Creek, Big Rapids and Traverse City. The Bosniak community in Grand Rapids is the second-largest in the U.S., second only to the community in St. Louis, Mo.
“I celebrate the spirit and hard work of our Bosniak community,” Brinks said. “They arrived in Michigan after suffering devastating losses during the war, and they worked hard to build a thriving community here. I’m glad to count Bosniaks among my friends and neighbors, and they contribute to the vibrancy and strength of our state.”