On Being Bosnian


Yesterday, as part of my quest to obtain local health insurance for my family here in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I received something I never thought was possible.

A Bosnian social security number. 

Here it’s called a “matični broj”, or JMBG (that’s an abbreviation for “Jedinstveni matični broj građana”, or “unique citizen identification number”). This is the first step in the process — once someone has this number, it is then possible to go ahead with other legalities. 

In spite of being told this was the first step, I was still suspicious that this wasn’t exactly what I needed. However, at the end, the civil servant handed me my number and said confidently, “Now, you can come back tomorrow and apply for national health insurance with this number.”

A weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could now go home happy and satisfied that a day’s work had not been done in vain. 

Ultimately, I’m no more Bosnian than I was yesterday, but I can’t deny the feeling of satisfaction. After five years, the joinery continues ever deeper, with no signs of ending soon. 

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