Life Beyond a Death Camp

photo of the inside of a cold war-era fallout shelter underneath a residence hall
Overcoming PTSD inspires alum to pursue career helping others.

The path that led Jasmin Dzaferovic to SUNY Brockport has been neither conventional nor easy. Jasmin was born in Zenica, Bosnia and shortly after his birth, moved to a city called Prijedor to be raised by his grandparents. He attended school in Prijedor where he focused on science, and graduated in 1984. After his graduation he began working in a paper mill, but was called to serve a mandatory term in the Yugoslav National Army in 1985.

After serving in the army for one year, Jasmin returned home to Prijedor and began working once again. Jasmin’s life seemed to be back to normal, until the Bosnian War broke out in 1992. In May of that year, he was uprooted from his home and forced into Omarska, a Bosnian death camp. This camp was one of many that existed to aid the Bosnian Serb Army in committing the largest case of genocide since the Holocaust.

Jasmin was moved from one concentration camp to the next for nearly a year before being sent back to Prijedor, where the local Red Cross facilitated his transport to a refugee camp in Croatia.

Because he had sustained much psychological and physical trauma from being a prisoner of concentration camps, he was granted permission from the United Nations to seek asylum in America. He arrived in Rochester in 1993, where he knew no one and did not know how to speak English.

With help from Catholic Family Center of Rochester and Westside Adult Learning Center, Jasmin adjusted to the American way of life, learned English, and enrolled at Monroe Community College’s (MCC) Radiology Technician program. He achieved high grades, but soon was forced to drop out.

Jasmin suffered from many Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-related health issues, and soon turned to alcohol as a way to help him forget the horrors of what he had endured. His alcoholism caused him to drop out of college, a struggle which continued for many years.

But, he credits his own experience with alcoholism, and the treatment and counseling he received at Unity Hospital, as the reasons he decided to pursue a career in substance abuse counseling.

After graduating from his recovery program and working for two years as a peer recovery volunteer at Unity, Jasmin decided to go back to school. Jasmin enrolled in Brockport’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Studies program.

Once in the program, he excelled. He credits much of his success to assistance from Healthcare Studies professors Gary Metz, MS, MPA, CASAC, MAC and Jessica Sniatecki, PhD, CRC, who stated that Jasmin demonstrated a strong aptitude for and commitment to a career in substance abuse counseling from the beginning of his studies at Brockport. His professors also said that Jasmin’s willingness to share his wealth of life experiences makes him a great resource for his peers in the department, and will make him an asset to the substance abuse counseling field.

Jasmin now works as an Addiction and Substance Abuse Counselor for Catholic Charities Community Services. He says that he will remember the supportive and encouraging faculty at Brockport for years to come.

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