Ljiljana (Lilly-anna) Galich is thankful to many Greencastle residents to have escaped as a refugee, with her husband Hrvoje and 13-year-old son Boris, from the civil war that ravaged her home country of Bosnia and resulted, among other crimes, in the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys, whose bodies were unearthed from mass graves near the city of Srebrenica by American soldiers.
The International Court in The Hague, Netherlands, is continuing to hear the genocide case against the former Serbian leader at the time of the killings, Radoyan Karadzic.
Lilly-anna, her husband, and Boris, now 29 and living and working as a mechanical engineer in Virginia, came to the U.S. with no job prospects.
But they did have green cards and gained many dear friends in Greencastle immediately and over the intervening years between 1996 and 2012, plus the critical and sustained support of members of St. Paul The Apostle Catholic Church and Gobin United Methodist Church, both in Greencastle, Lilly-anna explains in her heavy, but endearing accent.
Don and Kay Weaver, Glenn and Edith Welliver, Edward and Joyce Myers, Teresa and Bernard Batto, and Professor James Mannon and wife Sue Rice, all connected with DePauw University in some way, were especially helpful and have Lilly-anna's eternal gratitude.
Another helpful soul who helped steer son Boris in his studies and engineering career was DePauw professor Dr. Howard Brooks, his Boy Scout leader, who was instrumental in guiding Boris to three years at DePauw plus additional work at Washington University in St. Louis to work on his studies and career preparation.
Her husband is presently looking for work in this area.
Born in Serbia, where her father served in the Serb military, Lilly-anna recalls a "good childhood," in the country of her birth in 1954. Only later did the family experience the heavy boot of the Serbian government.
"There was discrimination against people with religious affiliations," she said.
Her Catholic father's military career did not flourish because of his and her family's Orthodox Christian religion. Eventually, the family left Serbia, which had been a part of the former Yugoslavia, as was Bosnia. They moved to Doboy, Bosnia, where she became a biology teacher in high school. Her husband taught (Croatian) language classes.
Living in America in Greencastle has been a very different life experience for Lilly-anna. She seems to have thrived on it, however, and smiles as she explains some of her cultural moments.
Without judging, she says "What is important in Americans, it seems, is green grass and money, especially spending it. People have nice green grass (not this season, Lilly-anna) and it impresses me. Also, everybody here says 'hi' and smiles."
"People says Bosnians and Serbs are mean-faced, and don't tend to smile a lot. People in my former country walk everywhere by the thousands, and it's hard to walk in those numbers and smile and say hi to everyone who walks by you," she notes with perplexion but appreciation.
"In Bosnia families would say 'Save, save, save' before you buy a car, but here in the U.S. people have told us to 'just buy a car; they don't cost that much they would say,'" she smiled.
She does not have a car and walks daily to Asbury Towers from her rental home in the 500 block of South Jackson Street.
"I walk just about everywhere or friends give me a ride when I really need to go somewhere."
Lilly-anna began working at Asbury Towers in 1997-98. Former executive director Mary Brown asked her if she would like to learn to cook, "so she came to my house one night and ate supper -- I guess it must have been 'my tryout,'" she recalls.
"Oh, I liked your supper," Mary Brown said of her visit.
And the rest is culinary history.
Around 2002, LA left Asbury Towers and went to work as one of two cooks at DePauw's Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority on Locust Street.
"It was very nice, and I liked the students there,' she confided.
Two years ago she was invited to return to Asbury Towers to cook and has done so since that time.
"Now I like to cook better than I like to teach," she said.
Her favorite creations are cookies and cakes -- all desserts, she admits. "I enjoy working with people in the Asbury kitchen. They don't give me a difficult time or make me feel uncomfortable because of my language. People here are so nice; they don't make me feel embarrassed because of my obvious accent," she said.
Lilly-anna says the recent Fourth of July celebration reminded her of the mandatory citizenship studies required of her and her family to receive American citizenship. Right along with hundreds of other Putnam Countians, she celebrated the Fourth, sitting on the bleachers along the third baseline of the Robe-Ann Park softball diamond, viewing and enjoying the beautiful pyrotechnic display.
"The Fourth is special and it always reminds our family of going to Indianapolis in 2002 for the annual citizenship swearing-in ceremony when we became American citizens and learned more about America's history and its battle for independence," Lilly-anna explained.
"I am really happy I am here in the United States," she added with a wide smile on her face.