St Catherine's, NV Pays Tribute to Refugee Gardener

During the 10am Eucharist Service at St. Catherine’s, Capilano May 14, a special presentation was made to Esad (Eso) Ramadanovic who had recently retired as St. Catherine’s gardener. Eso was accompanied by his wife Nada Djurovic, their son Bojan, Bojan’s wife Hilary, and the newest member of the family 13 month old Arslan, Eso’s grandson.  

Long-time parishioner and parish leader, Alison Watt noted that many in the parish know Eso and his family, but some may not, so she explained how St. Catherine’s and Eso’s family connected more than 20 years ago.

The Refugee Committee of St. Catherine’s was very active from the time of the Vietnamese boat people, and in 1994, Michael Ashby was the chair of this group. The focus of the committee at the time was to get a young Somali refugee from a refugee camp in Kenya. The Yugoslav civil war had started in 1991 with a short war in Slovenia, then moved to Croatia and reached Bosnia in 1992. The City of Sarajevo, which had hosted the Olympic Games in 1984, was then under siege, the longest and cruelest siege of a capital city in modern history.

The St. Catherine’s Refugee Committee was approached by a refugee from Yugoslavia, “Sacha” Pavlovic, who sought help to sponsor his dear friend – Eso Ramadanovic’s family. Eso’s son Bojan was in danger of being drafted into the Serbian army which was holding Sarajevo captive. In November 1994, after months of paperwork and waiting, Nada and 17 year old Bojan arrived in Vancouver from Belgrade, having fled their home in Sarajevo. Eso had not been able to escape, but stayed with his father in Sarajevo until his father’s death in the dreadful winter of 1994-5. He escaped the grip of the siege through a stroke of luck one day, and travelled out of Sarajevo to Split in Croatia and was reunited with Nada and Bojan in Vancouver in late August 1995. 

As with many immigrants and refugees, Eso was unable to establish himself as a photo journalist here in Canada, but evidence of his work and his time trying to survive the Seige of Sarajevo is portrayed in a great photo that he gave to St. Catherine’s many years ago in thanks for the support of the Parish.  That photograph hangs in the hallway outside the chapel. Unable to pursue his profession, Eso set up his own business as a landscape gardener, working initially with several families from St. Catherine’s and branching out to many other clients on the North Shore.  Eso became the gardener at St. Catherine’s more than 20 years ago, and has been keeping the Memorial Garden and surroundings in great shape ever since.

Both Nada and Eso were able to work thanks to the people from the parish, as Nada worked for many years at Deloitte.  They were in their late forties when they arrived but “worked here for over twenty years and have had a very good life” says Nada.   Their son Bojan finished high school at University Hill Secondary School, and earned bachelor, masters and Ph.D. degree. He is working as a project leader in the Complex Systems Modelling Group of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences (IRMACS) at SFU.

On behalf of the Wardens and the Parish of St. Catherine’s, Robb Watt, ODNW presented Eso Ramadanovic with the “Friends of St. Catherine’s award” in grateful thanks for his wonderful dedication to St. Catherine’s over all the years.   A presentation of flowers was also made to Nada thanking her for her involvement in the St. Catherine’s, North Shore, and Diocesan Refugee Committees – bringing much needed advice and understanding to the work of these groups.

IMAGES

  • Nada and Eso
  • The photo of the water line-up in Sarjevo taken by Eso displayed in the hallway at St. Catherine's
  • Eso and Arslan

PHOTOS by Alison Watt

ARTICLE SUBMITTED BY ALISON WATT