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Bosnian living in Bayside to receive degree

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School itself was not even supported by the state. Without heat, electricity, water or the luxury of school supplies, she established a school in the basement of an abandoned apartment building in a time when the absence of gunfire was students' only crossing guard.

"I had a terrible life during the war over there," she said. "Every day I had classes, and with bombing it was hard to go across the boulevard."

Pobric, a Bayside resident, will be one of nearly 4,000 students to walk down the aisle at Queens College graduation Thursday at 9 a.m. on the campus quad, earning her bachelor's degree in psychology as part of her preparation for the teaching certification exam.

"We had such a good life, everybody there. Why did people start killing?" she said of her motivation to study psychology after living through war.

Pobric's degree comes after 5 1/2 years of attending night and weekend classes. A mother of three girls, one who will attend Queens College this fall, she decided to pursue a degree in psychology to understand the dynamics of murder and war.

"With all that's happened I want to discover what's going on in people's minds," she said. "Why aren't people turning to education instead of violence?"

She and her husband decided to leave Sarajevo, where she also earned education credits at the University of Sarajevo, after one of her three daughters' screams prevented her from being killed by a sniper's bullet.

That was 10 years ago. She has been enrolled in Queens College since 1998.

When Pobric got to the United States, "I just knew how to say 'hi' and 'bye' - nothing else," she said. "I started to study English and I said, this must be my country. I don't know how to go back."

She did return to visit her former students at one point and said she was distraught to find so many of them missing from her old neighborhood, especially one in particular.

"I promised I would come back, I promised," she said, recalling how her students did not want to see her leave Bosnia. "I asked, 'Do you have any wishes?' and (one boy) said, 'I want you to bring me (a) watch.'"

When she returned with the gift for him, she said he was no longer in the neighborhood or the school. To this day she does not know what happened to him.

"I was afraid to ask," she said. "I was totally afraid. I could cry now."

But she did not cry during the war, she said, at least not in front of the children who depended on her.

"Believe it or not, I never cried, to show my students," she said. "I cry after midnight, not to show my kids."

She said her energy is now focused on attaining her teaching certificate in New York state.

"It's very, very hard. We'll see if I pass," she said. "I want to teach. I want to work with the kids. My whole goal is to enrich and work with children."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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