“For good business, we need to be pioneers and go forward bravely and remove every stone from the road. As they would say in Serbia – go ahead and drive Miško! “
An entrepreneur can be me, you, but all of us! We recently had a conversation with Bakhytzhan when they call Bach in Serbia, a refugee from Kazakhstan, who shared with us his remarkable story about starting a business and entrepreneurship, but also details about adjusting to life in Serbia from the refugee’s point of view.
Our interlocutor started his life in Serbia almost seven years ago, when he first came to Belgrade fleeing his country of origin due to persecution. Thanks to his previous experience in the field of physiotherapy, he finds his first job in Serbia as a masseur. After that, through a lot of work and motivation, he continued to work as a physiotherapist, and soon decided to start his own business in this field.
The road itself was full of ups and downs, but, the most difficult part, according to the interlocutors, was the beginning of life in Serbia. Bach started life in Belgrade when he submitted an asylum application to the Ministry of the Interior, the Asylum Office, with the desire to stay in Serbia and receive refugee protection. Shortly afterwards, in the asylum procedure, he was granted protection and a recognized refuge in Serbia – when his path of struggle and adaptation to our culture and way of life began. Throughout the process, he was supported and provided with legal assistance by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, which represents refugees and asylum seekers in Serbia and helps integrate refugees through access to economic, cultural and social rights.
Although the Law on Asylum and Refugee Protection equates most of the rights of refugees with Serbian citizens, obstacles and problems are numerous, mostly of an administrative nature, uneven practices of bodies and ignorance of regulations in the field of refugee protection. Bach’s main problems were difficulties in opening a bank account, inability to obtain a travel document, while not knowing the language made his life in Serbia even more difficult.
It is not easy to work alone, did you have someone who helped you at the very beginning?
The biggest support at work is my business partner Branka, who also gave me my first job in Serbia. She has been with me since day one and has never had a problem with being a foreigner and a refugee. I also received a lot of help from the Belgrade Center for Human Rights and the UNHCR in Belgrade, which helped me with the purchase of the Cedar barrel needed to develop my business as a physiotherapist, I would not have succeeded. Of course, my friends supported me at the very beginning – because the best advertisement is a sincere recommendation. It was also challenging during the coronavirus pandemic, when I did most of the work using a bicycle instead of transportation, then the scope of work decreased a lot.
What is your motivation to start your own business in Serbia?
People in Serbia are very nice and friendly, when you make your first friends, you quickly get the desire to stay and work here. You realize that thanks to your background, you have a unique experience that few have and that you can offer exclusive content by offering what no one else can.
What would you recommend to someone who is just starting out?
If you want to open your own shop, you need to try it first and find a job as a salesman. The same goes for any other business or business. Only then will you be sure how much work it is for you. Also, before you start your own business, analyze the current needs of people – then you will know if what you offer is necessary and if your business will succeed.
Every business must have plans for further work, what are your ideas for the future?
We want to expand our work, to offer other facilities that are not available in Belgrade, in addition to saunas and massages. I would also like to help other refugees who came to Serbia and have experience working as masseurs or physiotherapists. I have trodden the path and I want to help others to get employed and independent as well.
Finally, if you could, how would you present your business in one sentence?
My job is to make men happy and women beautiful .
If you want to support a small business, but also to feel the charms of the sauna in Kedro barrel and other exclusive content on offer, visit the Fitme website ( https://fitme.rs/ ) and do something nice for yourself.
Note – the text was created as a collaboration between the KAS Center for Education and the Belgrade Center for Human Rights with the idea of promoting the importance of the topic of refugees as entrepreneurs.