Amir Hadzic builds legacy at Mount Mercy after escaping war in Bosnia

Published: Oct. 18, 2020 at 11:20 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Amir Hadzic has experienced many things in his life, including war.

He came to the United States 25 years ago from Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. In the early 1990s, civil war broke out in the country and every day was a struggle of survival.

“Mom would wake me up in the middle of the night and say that they’re bombing again,” Hadzic said. “We would go in the middle of the apartment in a hallway that was a little bit safer.”

It wasn’t just the constant bombings that were a problem. Hadzic and his family also struggled daily to find wood, food and water.

“I would get up in the morning and have a family meeting with my brother and my parents,” Hadzic said. “My dad would say, I’m in charge of wood today. My brother said, I will be in charge for food. I’d say that I’ll be in charge of water. The nearest source was about four or five miles away, you stay in a line together with hundreds of other people, praying a mortar would not come at that time and kill you.”

After experiencing almost four years of civil war, Hadzic knew he couldn’t stay. He made the difficult decision to leave friends and family behind. He packed just two bags and the only way out of the city was a 1/2-mile long tunnel that went to the airport.

“It’s a really primitive, narrow tunnel near the river and you have mud to your ankles,” Hadzic said.

He was able to escape to Croatia and spent the next eight months at a refugee camp. He joined a professional soccer club, but realized the war would never end. He eventually came to the United States and found his way to Iowa. He saw an ad in the local newspaper about an opening for a soccer coach at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids.

The only thing Hadzic had for a resume was a scrapbook he brought with him after leaving Bosnia. It contains many newspaper clippings and notes of every game that he played in as a young boy to a professional.

He was given the head coaching position at Mount Mercy and he’s been there ever since. The school celebrated his 25-year anniversary recently on Sept. 28 naming the new soccer field, Hadzic Field.

Hadzic feels blessed he’s built a life here in Iowa. Experiencing the war has taught him to appreciate the little things in life.

“It’s amazing how we take things for granted,” Hadzic said. “I coach a lot of young people and often times I think about that and how people think it’s normal to drive a car when you’re 18 and have everything you need. I don’t think people think how fortunate we are in the United States to have that kind of security.”

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