Who am I?
A listener. A shoulder. A friend. I focus on helping veterans find understanding for what life after war is like, and support each veteran’s personal journey to find healing, re-find meaning and re-establish life after war. I also help families and concerned citizens learn more about how to support and relate to veterans who have returned from war.
I am open, accepting, and embrace you as the unique individual you are. I see you as strong, resilient, intelligent, normal. You may feel broken, your body may be broken, but you are not beyond hope. I believe in your innate power. I believe in the power of being understood, heard, allowed to express oneself. Sometimes, having someone there who cares and “gets it” means more than anything else.
Who am I not?
I am not a psychologist or licensed therapist.* I am not affiliated with any government organization. I am not someone who thinks there are “text book” answers for what you’re going through. I am not one to talk in “mental health” speak. I am not going to charge you money. I am not going to give up on you. I am not going to judge you.
I am not afraid to hear what you’re having trouble saying.
I am not an activist. I do not publicly discuss politics. I am not looking to change policy.
I am here to meet you where you are.
I am also not a combat veteran.
My experience of war comes from having lived in post-war Sarajevo for several years – where every single person left alive had survived a 3.5 year siege, with snipers, mortars, no electricity or water. Military killing civilians. Civilians killing military. Neighbors killing neighbors. Snipers killing children and grandparents. Landmines and IEDs planted everywhere. (They’re still in various places throughout the city – and in farmer’s fields.)
I was 24 when I moved there. I’d felt a strong calling and heart for Bosnia since I’d been 17.
(Only explanation I have is it must be a past-life connection.)
Bosnia felt like home to my soul. I met the father of my children there, a Sarajevan and Associated Press journalist, and together we wrote about the war every day for three years.
We had our first child, Gregor, in a bullet-pocked hospital too poor to provide their own toilet paper.
I went there whole, confident in goodness, God, my ability to make a difference to the hurting.
I left broken, dead inside, without a god or trust in goodness.
Full of pent-up rage. Hollow. Uncertain if I’d ever find “solid ground” beneath me again.
I quite literally felt as if I’d lost my soul. The me I had always been.
In 2004, we moved back to Minnesota – where I am from, and had two beautiful daughters, Sara and Katarina. Iraq happened and Afghanistan, and I couldn’t bring myself to care about another war. I’d poured my heart and soul into Bosnia’s war. I’d been saturated in the horror, the grief, the anger – by living and caring for survivors who were not “a world away” – but people who were friends, who loved me, who helped me in so many ways as a young wife and the only American in our circle.
Writing about war crimes and landmine explosions and mass graves and secondary mass graves as our daily material – took it’s toll. It became all I could see.
Know that I am NOT comparing my tame, civilian experience in Bosnia with your combat experience.
It can’t compare. Where it can compare is in how we each got run over by this massive force called WAR – and it’s toxic effects on the human spirit.
I remember writing in my diary, “I feel as if my soul is bleeding out, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.”
So, Iraq happened… and I was in a very dark place.
Happy on the outside, a beautiful life as a mother, safe here in America.
Crying, desperate on the inside.
I didn’t know if I’d ever find a sense of wholeness again. If this fragmented, empty shell of my heart would ever have something to stand firm on.
I started to read articles about how our thoughts form our experiences and the way we interpret our lives.
I started to see some hope by letting go of pain and realizing it was okay – that I wasn’t dishonoring those who had suffered – that it was okay to let myself feel happy.
That holding on to the pain didn’t help anyone.
But I still couldn’t look at Iraq and Afghanistan. I knew what my generation was going to go through. What they were facing.
Then, in 2007, a childhood friend of mine came back from 22 months of combat in Iraq – so haunted, so devoid of the boy I knew him to be – and that’s when I knew.
I couldn’t stay silent anymore.
As long as I had walked this path I had been on, and found some measure of hope, I had to reach out.
So I poured my heart into a book. Close to Home.
And wrote it as much to my own spirit as to others.
It was the most healing process I could have taken.
And it brought everything full-circle – I had been broken ahead of the others by the forces of war and I was just a little further ahead in the game.
Vets tell me that what I say resonates – that I “get it”, that it helps.
But I have to admit, I let myself cave to the fear: “who am I to do this?”
People think you need a Ph.D. behind your name to have what you say be relevant.
And I’m sad to say, I let that mentality keep me from sharing the book or reaching out.
Not anymore. I’ve grown. I know what I know in my soul.
If I can help just one veteran find his or her way, it’s worth it.
We don’t have time to waste.
We need healing. We need hope. We need someone to walk beside us.
And that’s what I’m doing.
Walking beside you. Because I know there’s light after the darkness.
The information on this site and provided in private conversations is my personal opinion and is not intended to replace the care/consultation of a medical, mental health, financial or legal provider. If you are in crisis, please dial 911 or contact your local healthcare provider. Any decisions or actions you make based on information I provide are your sole responsibility. I urge you to seek professional consultation and I am happy to assist you in locating a provider.
Britta Reque-Dragicevic is a full-time writer. She has written for The Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times and other media. She works with leading brands to write marketing communications. For several years, she lived and reported from post-war Sarajevo, Bosnia, and, through her experiences living with war survivors and her own spiritual venture with war, has found healing, hope, and a renewed sense of wholeness for life after war.
With a background in nursing and spirituality, Britta focuses on writing about spiritual healing and wholeness. Her corporate profile can be found at brittarequedragicevic.com.
23 thoughts on “Who am I?”
Thank you, Frank. I am so grateful.
I was introduced to your site today so I have only had time to read a couple articles/stories. But I will be spending more time here now. I’ve spent most of my adult life in uniform. Still trying to recover from 9 deployments.
From what I have read, first THANK YOU, Thank you for creating this site and thank you for caring.
This is good stuff
Fabulous piece of writing .
Resonates deeply ❤️.
Thank you, and thank you for sharing your journey. Blessings to you!
Lovely Blog. War is ugly. War is painful. What is does to families is even worse. While Veterans are happy to be home, parts of themselves are still stuck in combat – – having courage to persist against the enemy and “do our job”. You have a nice way of writing. We are not alone. I have been home from war for 12 years and am working very hard to revive my old self. I’m learning now,better late than never for me it’s going into those dark places and finding myself, forgiving myself, and knowing that God was with me in those dark times, and I need to live fully in this life I have right now. I’m blessed and highly favored. There is hope out there. Keep being a light.
Thank you so much, Craig. I am grateful the writings have helped you and that you share them. Maybe someday the VA will wake up and embrace new ways…until then, the rest of us must do what we can. I’m not a saint, but I am called to show up and do what is in me to offer. I hope your friend will reach out if he/she wants more support. I’m happy to be in contact by email or via Facebook. Big hug to you, my friend!!!
All I can say is thank you. I have used your writing to reach out to brethren many times. I have shown it to the V.A. and asked them why it is you understand their population more than they do? I implore them to contact you and officially use your writing to breech that muddled barrier of crap vets surround themselves with and can’t even begin to put words to. I truly believe it would pull so many of us in to seek the help we need. I write to you tonight as I have referenced, and shared a link to your writing, with yet another having troubles navigating life after war.
With tears in my eyes, I too have pushed your writings across the table to a loved one so they may read and begin to understand what it is so many of us can not put words to.
May the Vatican also have you in their near thoughts as they elect Mother Teresa to Sainthood this week.
There are so few of you saints out there.
Thank you, Mitch. I will reach out to you via your email.
I would like to connect with you. I believe we are on similar paths. See also drmitchelltepper.com
I’d been wondering about how you knew our hearts so well. You are one of us, a surivior of war…
Once more tesrs flowed as I read. Your soul called you to Bosnia. Ours called us to follow the orders of our Commander(s) (In Chief), as far ss our consciences let us.
Hearing that you’re Not a PhD holder leaves me w/some comfort. Yet, I cld relate to the feeling tht w/o a PhD no one wld listen to my words. All the same, & no offense to those “higher degree holders who manage to stay grounded, in touch w/their own vulnerabilities/(&) humanness, there jst seem to be many who hold tht part of themselves in hiding, as if signs of incompetence, lacking pro-fessionalism, ending up being more incompetent for it!
As you are very familiar with wht we go thru, we cn surely identify w/your pain, & in time I pray, with your healing. You are a blessed/gifted soul, person, woman. You hv found and are finding your paths to true success, inner freedom, healing, trust in kindness, gooness, love, existing for, not just or primarily from you! That leaves me in awe, and with a bit more hope than I had before reading about your experiences.
I feel honored to be able to read what you’ve written n are writing. You gift all by sharing your love, your heart via your passion & calling of sharing thoights and feelings which help others merely by being expressed publically and privately.
I’d thought that I read all of your articles. Now, it seems I’ve found another treasure trove!
This world is the better having you in it.
I will look into that and yes, if you translate and share the articles, please include my name as the author and a link to my blog. Thank you!!
Another idea. If you are interested in adding a simple translating plugin like google I’d be happy to send out your website address to my friends
that will work. But if I even use it in my posts in Ukrainian I would like to have your permission to quote you
Thank you for your reply
Thank you so much for reaching out. I have not tried this, but you may try copy/pasting articles to https://translate.google.com/ and see if that will work.
I really loved your website. I’m a Ukrainian activist and although the war is not over our people (both civilians and soldiers) need ways to learn how to feel better and psychologically healthy again.
Is there a way to translate your articles?
You’re welcome 🙂
thank you for providing a way to let the gf in without having to express those feelings and habits
Very good piece of work about Iraq and why it bothers you. As a desert storm veteran I feel for the guys and gals who had to go over and finish what we all knew should have been done the first time we were there. It bothers me to no end that wars are fought with no regard to how our war fighters will feel when they see ground they gave their all for, fall right back into the hands of the enemy. It bothers me when I see an veteran homeless on the news and to top it off veterans being provided with sub-standard health care. I am shaking my head at how veterans are treated and looked at. To my brothers and sisters who wore the uniform I just want to say stand tall because for every fool out there that looks at us with disdain there are 5 people who truly get what you did and respect you for protecting our way of life.