Leila Dizdarevic, COMSFOR's Interpreter
By Capt. Luis Barber
First published in
SFOR Informer #97, September 27, 2000
Sarajevo - She is always there - not quite at COMSFORs
side but usuallly standing discreetly to one side and hanging on his every
word. She doesnt want to miss the slightest nuance because she is
about to interpret his words - and at the levels at which COMSFOR works
there is no room for error.
Leila Dizdarevic, COMSFOR's interpreter, was born in Mostar, Bosnia and
Hercegovina. But very soon, when she was only six years old, she moved
to Kuwait. "With my parents because my father was appointed to Kuwait
as the representative of the Yugoslavia Chamber of Commerce."
During her five years there, she attended an English school, and began
to learn the language that in the future would let her to earn a living.
Returning to Yugoslavia in 1982, she has been in Sarajevo since 1986.
Although she had started medical school during the war, Leila found opportunity
to start work with the United nations Protection Force in 1995. She was
a radio announcer for UN Radio for nine months. In December 1995, Leila
changed her job and began to work in the IFOR (now SFOR) Coalition Press
"But, I thought that the job they offered me was below my standard
of expertise. So I talked to the Chief of the Public Information Office
at that time to see if there was something else, and he said they couldn't
offer me another job in the CPIC, but he would ask in the Personnel Office,"
she said. As a result of that, she began working part-time as an interpreter
and part-time as a media analyst until 1997, when, her skills having been
noted by COMSFOR, she moved to the Commanders office.
As an interpreter, her work consists basically of translating for COMSFOR.
"There is a lot of responsibility because in my job just one word
might cause a political scandal. So I do have to be very careful."
She also has the chance to meet all kinds of people from various nationalities,
religious and ethnic backgrounds.
Having no former experience in this sort of job, she tried to learn and
watch other interpreters. "This was my only way to learn things because
I had no education in translating but a very strong desire to try and
to succeed," said Ms. Dizdarevic.
She says she is now very grateful to all those people that gave her a
lot of support.
"All of the work we do in the COMSFOR's office is a team effort.
It takes everyone, so it is not only me, it's all of the people,"
Due to her job, she has to travel a lot. And the most frequent way of
transport is helicopter.
"For my first travel by helicopter, in 1996, I was in high heels
and a suit," she explained. "Then suddenly I saw this big helicopter.
I remember how I just froze. It was an awful experience."
But now she enjoys these helicopter rides, admiring the beautiful landscapes
from her country.
She has worked for all the commanders of SFOR, and said, "Each one
of them had certain traits in helping my professional development. All
of them are people I have actually learned from so I cannot compare one
to the other."
As a medical student, she spends at least three hours a day studying for
the last course of her degree.
"I don't want to give up medical school because I want to become
a medical doctor, but I don't want to quit this job," said Dizdarevic.
"I had to take a break (from studies) for about four years and then
decided to continue last year for the final exam."
This young, elegant woman, said in a very determined and passionate way
that she doesn't regret a second of her decision.
"It's a great honor and a pleasure to work with the people who have
worked to help my country - and the people who are still working,"
she said. "I feel that I have been participating in history because
SFOR is part of the history of my country. I'm very grateful to all of
these people who are away from their families to help the people of Bosnia."