Vanja Ilic came to the United States as a refugee in 1999 and, being a refugee herself, she has a passion for the needs of refuges and started volunteering her time with the Lutheran Refugee Services.  She then began working part time for them and was hired on full time in January of 2001.  Lutheran Refugee Services is a program of Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska that provides services to refugees before, during, and after their arrival, including resettlement and employment services. They prepare for a refugee’s arrival and help them obtain needed services such as: pre-arrival administrations, English classes, cultural orientation, employment services, appointments with the Department of Health and Department of Social Services as well as providing programs for church groups and civic organizations, pulpit supplies to help ministers speak about refugee resettlement and training and support for sponsoring congregations.

Tell us a little about your family– We are family of three plus a few animal members which makes as eight all together.  We came to Lincoln in April 1999 from Europe  (Germany). We came through Lutheran Family Service/Lutheran Refugee Services Resettlement 11 years ago. I was born in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina and moved to Germany in 1992 when war began in my country. I married in Germany and gave a birth to beautiful girl, who is now 16 years old.

What do you see as one of the biggest turning points in your life? –  Escaping war, and having a second chance. Realizing we take so many things for granted in our lives, unfortunately. Having a second chance in 1992 I promised myself I would be thankful for every day in my life, and I will live thinking it may be my last.

What is your favorite thing to do on a day off? –  Being surrounded by the people/animals I love the most. Going for a walk with my dogs.  Having a cup of coffee at the downtown Mill with my girlfriend. Have a moment for myself and for the things I like the most-painting and guitar playing.

What are you the most proud of? – The way we were able to rebuild and establish our life in the USA, starting all over with a new culture, country, language etc. That was the biggest challenge we ever faced and accomplished.

What is the one goal you would most like to accomplish? – I would love to lose another 20-25 pounds before summer and stay that way forever and not have yo-yoing affect every holiday season.

Which talent would you most like to have? – I would love to be a magician and make our world a perfectly peaceful place to be.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? – I wish I could change the past and be born in USA. My life would have been much easier.

What is your favorite movie? – There is few of them, but let’s say Doctor Zhivago, Gone with the Wind, & The Pianist

What is your favorite TV show? – Criminal Minds

What is your favorite Lincoln restaurant? – El Potrero Restaurant in the Haymarket

If you could have dinner with one famous person from the past or present, who would it be? – Mother Teresa and my mother.

What is the best way to reach you? – Call  (866) 721-6229 or visit our website at