Jasmina Hostert was only 10 when she was severely injured during an artillery attack in Sarajevo and had to be evacuated to a hospital in Germany. She then became a refugee but on Sunday she was elected to the Bundestag.
This is the beginning and the end of Hostert’s story so far, but in between her life was filled with struggles to gain control of her life. She realized early that the key was to get engaged in politics.
“My family actually always wanted us to stay in Bosnia, they always hoped that the war would pass,” Hostert said in a podcast for the German-Bosnian Pangea Network for Economics, Education and Academy.
“Unfortunately, I was seriously injured by a grenade, I lost my right arm in the war and the wound then got infected,” she said.
German doctors who had come to help the understaffed and under-equipped hospitals suggested that the girl should be taken out of the city and she ended up in a hospital in the German city of Bonn.
After her wound healed, Hostert started school but soon the war in Bosnia was over and German authorities started deporting Bosnian refugees. Hostert fought for years for the right to stay.
She eventually went to the United Kingdom to finish high school, before returning to Germany to study political science and history.
“In the 1990s, that feeling of powerlessness,” Hostert remembered, while explaining what motivated her to enter politics.
“That’s where I realized that politics decides my future. For example, this very specific question that was important for my life – whether I can stay in Germany or not. Laws are being passed and they are specifically affecting my life,” she said.
“It hit me hard in the 1990s, when so many people were deported to Bosnia in 1996 and 1997, even though they were integrated quite well here. It made me angry, I thought it was very unfair – that people cannot decide for themselves where to live but others decide for them,” said Hostert.
She joined the SPD party in 2009, thinking she needs to be where decisions are being made and “stand up for what is right and fair.”
“I have always been into politics, and the SPD has always been the only party where I would feel comfortable as a person with a migrant background. It has always been advocating for dual citizenship for example, that is very important to me. It has always had a very progressive refugee policy that respects human rights, and has that stance that every person deserves a chance, regardless of origin,” Hostert explained.
During her studies, Hostert wanted to work for international organizations, and took part in various internship programs, including one for the UNHCR in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Before her party won on Sunday, Hostert said that she was not sure “what awaits her” if she becomes an MP and how many opportunities she will have to help BiH, but that she will try in any way.
“Bosnia is my first home and I always look towards Bosnia, it's just like that, automatically,” she said.
“Of course any person wants their homeland not to stagnate, and unfortunately many processes are stagnant there and I want more to be done in Bosnia, both politically and socially,” she said.
“On the one hand, I think it’s great that a lot of people come to Germany and work here, because everyone should be able to choose where to live and work. But on the other hand, I think to myself, ‘God, how bad it must be down there for our younger generation, but also the older generation, if so many people are leaving Bosnia’. It shouldn't be like that,” Hostert added.
“Now I can't say exactly how or in what capacity, but I will in any case advocate that this path towards EU membership be finally continued,” she said, adding that she thought that EU membership would be very important for Bosnia, as “it would be a motivation and offer new possibilities, a different framework.”
Hostert also stressed the importance of strengthening networking between BiH citizens in Germany and those in Bosnia and that she wants to work on that.