"Ireland is like my country now"
Over 20 years after fleeing Bosnia, Hamo Muhadzic owns and runs a thriving restaurant business in Dublin
Hamo Muhadzic takes a break in 'His Food', the Dublin restaurant he established in 2010
© Teresa Rupp
When Hamo Muhadzic arrived in Ireland in 1997, he knew little about the country he was about to call his new home.
“We didn’t decide to come to Dublin,” he says. But “Ireland is like my country now.”
Hamo fled Bosnia for Serbia in 1992 in the course of the country’s devastating war. Long lasting inter-ethnic tensions and nationalist disputes between Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats had developed into a full-scale conflict, with civilians caught in the middle of it.
“We had everything! A restaurant, a company, a house” says Hamo. However, as a Muslim married to an Orthodox Christian, his family’s situation became increasingly precarious.
“It would have been totally different if she would have been Muslim and I would have been Serbian, but because me, the man, was Muslim it was very dangerous for us.”
In addition to the increasing pressure for being a mixed married couple, Hamo says their economic success put the family on criminals’ radar. “War is very dangerous for people who have something. Criminals will want things from you.”
“I like that I didn’t get America because it is too far away. I love Ireland.”
In Serbia they applied for refugee resettlement with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. They hoped to go to the United States, but in hindsight, Hamo is relieved he didn’t. “I like that I didn’t get America because it is too far away. I love Ireland.”
In Dublin, the family lived in Cherry Orchard Hospital with a large group of Bosnian refugees before moving to Tallaght. “The Irish people were very polite”, Hamo remembers. “Everyday people came to the hospital to drop off stuff they thought we could need.”
However, settling in wasn’t easy. Arriving in Ireland with no English Hamo found it hard to learn the new language and find employment. “I had worked my entire life and had my own restaurant. Learning the language was definitely the biggest struggle”, he remembers.
The memory of food made things better, and in 2001 Hamo decided to open his own business in Dublin. Starting off with a supermarket importing Balkan goods, he opened a restaurant ‘His Food’, at Moore Street Mall in 2010. Most of his customers were Bosnians and other people from the Balkans, eager to taste the winter warming Goulashes and thin flakey pastries of home.
However today its seats are filled with happy customers from all over the world.
“People travel more, they travel to Croatia and other places and they like the food.”
It’s a long way from the turmoil of war, yet 20 years later, Hamo can’t help but think of his own experiences when watching people flee in search of safety today.
“Every country should help refugees. As long as they respect the country and the law, why not help if you can?”