A sympathetic ear and a shared history of war

Returning from a conflict zone can be a pretty lonely experience.

The immediate danger has passed, of course, but the sights and sounds of war are still fresh in your memory – and impossible to convey to those back home.

Mrika Tahiri, a case manager for Tangiers International, knows this more than most.

Growing up in Kosovo in the late 1990s, she saw first-hand the horrors of armed conflict on her doorstep, the pain of family separation and the compassion needed to successfully resolve both.

She said: “We were in the capital so, luckily, we got out with minimum casualties in my family but we were displaced from our home. The militia was separating men and women so myself, my mum and my sister were split up from my brother and my dad.

“For a few days we did not know their whereabouts – or even if they were still alive.”

Mrika spends her time facilitating the assessment and treatment of Kosovar nationals returning from active war zones – namely Iraq and Afghanistan – where they have worked as civilian contractors.

The role involves building relationships with healthcare professionals, helping to devise treatment plans and ensuring patients can re-enter the workforce despite any physical or psychological injuries they may have sustained. 

But it is the personal interaction where her own experiences of conflict come into play.

She said: “The war ended in 1999 so we have all lived through the same events. When people return from war zones, it’s important to relate to what it’s like to live under those sorts of conditions.

Patience and compassion are crucial. It’s about not dismissing the intense feelings of these patients.”

After being displaced, Mrika and her family found refuge in Macedonia. Shortly afterwards, she was admitted into the United States as a refugee where she was taken in by a host family in Kansas City, Missouri.

Despite missing her home, she was received with warmth and friendliness in the US where, after a short time, she obtained a full scholarship to study at college.

It was here that she began the long journey which led her to Tangiers International – working as a medical technologist in the US, receiving an MBA degree in Greece and working in development projects back in Kosovo.

Mrika has been with Tangiers for three years, beginning her career as a field agent before quickly graduating to case manager, and has plenty of opportunity to employ the skills she has learnt along the way.

She said: “The unemployment rate here is almost 50 per cent, so a large number of people will look out for jobs abroad, especially in war zones. With these large numbers, we see a lot of people being injured and having to return home.

“The health system here is still developing. We need local expertise to know the best health care providers and how to enable the best treatment for our patients.

“Whenever I accomplish an objective or help someone there’s also a sense of gratitude to have been in the States and acquired these skills. It’s a real sense of satisfaction.”