Malisa Rakanovic: Breaking Social Barriers and Building Community

Malisa moved to Rogers Park ten years ago with her husband, a survivor of the Bosnian war. She was drawn to Chicago because of its vibrancy and similarity to her hometown Singapore, but decided to stay after seeing the diversity and inclusiveness of the city. Melissa and her family love the variety of activities Chicago can offer.

This story was produced by One Chicago, a campaign that facilitates access to resources and support for Chicago’s residents, including its immigrant and refugee communities. Since its founding, people from around the country and throughout the world have made Chicago their home.

“My coming to America was actually by chance: I met a guy and then I married him. My husband is an immigrant himself; he survived the war in Bosnia. One of the biggest factors [was that] we decided to stay in the city, because I’m obviously Muslim (laughs). I don’t get the question of, like, “where are you from,” because everyone seems to be from somewhere else. My daughter’s best friend is African American, I have friends who are Jewish–I never had one [Jewish friend] when I was in Singapore.

I want people to know that Muslims are very inclusive. There’s no–I’m getting choked-up (laughs), I just need a minute! I think that even within certain nationalities, interracial relationships are not highly regarded. It can actually be frowned upon, even. I want people to see from my family that we’re actually trying to break that notion, because there’s no such thing as a ‘pure race.’ I feel like Chicago is very representative of that, and that’s what my husband and I instill in our kids. [We] encourage them to be kind to everyone. They’re not brown or white, they’re just kids living in Chicago.

We’re here to serve one another because without a community, without love and kindness…I mean, how do you survive?”

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