When I asked people on my Facebook page to give recommendations for people from Bihać, community champions, those who are working within their community to improve the environment in which they live, I received a recommendation for Tajana Bišćević (Taichy). I saw that she graduated from the Faculty of Sports and Physical Education in Sarajevo and learned that she holds trainings in gymnastics for children as well as functional women training with her colleague Irma Memagić. And I wanted to meet her, and then, in conversation with her, I learned she had quite an incredible life path. She is an example of how far we can go with little will, persistence, and the help of others which, in her case, was just as unexpected and very inspirational, and that led her to think about how she could help others. The conversation that just made my day, inspired me and I’m sure you will find it very interesting since Tajana is definitely a person we can learn a lot from.

Tajana – Taichy

My name is Tajana Bišćević Kozlica, I am a teacher of sports and physical education. I completed secondary medical school and after that I went to for further studies at the university. What is important in my life, and what has made a difference in my life is this sequence of events when I was to enrol in faculty after secondary school. But there was one major problem here. When I was to enrol on the last day or two, it turned out that we didn’t have any money to enrol in university in Bihać. It wasn’t a big sum, but I understood that this was not a priority.

My goal after secondary school was to enrol in faculty of sports or a medical school.

When this became impossible, I realised I shouldn’t lose one year waiting for the next generation, and that instead I should enrol in any programme. So I chose to spend that year volunteering at the hospital. I immediately completed an internship lasting for six months. During those six months, I worked at the Cantonal Hospital in Bihać at the Internal Medicine Ward. It was great. I mostly prepared medicines, gave shots, administered IV, transfusion, and other, really interesting things.

Somehow I met a man in that period. He opened the club for extreme and acrobatic sports in Bihać. The name of the club was “KODOKAN”. On time, he suggested that I come to train with him at the club.  At that time I was already working as a gymnastics coach at the Medical School in the-then Una Gymnastics Club, and so I decided to join that Kodokan club to train myself. It was a club of extreme and acrobatic sports such as breakdance, parkour, acrobatics, gymnastics, etc. In discussions with this man, we came to the topic of why I did not enrol in faculty because it was just around the time of enrolments, and he saw I graduated. So then to a complete stranger, for reasons that fail me, I tell him the whole story on how it got stuck. He told me, “C’mon, we’ll come up with something, you’ll go to study.” Ha. Ha. Okay, I thought to myself, “What’s this guy talking about? Today it’s impossible to study even when you do have money, let alone without it.”

So nothing, I ignored him. Some fool, I thought, but I’d let him talk some more. And it all went on as normal, I continued with trainings, still volunteering at the hospital … somewhere before enrolments, he again raised it, “You know, faculty, this, that, apartment, Sarajevo …” Ha. Ha. ​​I said to myself: “This guy is quite a fool. I don’t have the money to enrol in a faculty in my hometown, and he’s talking about Sarajevo. I’d need an apartment there, costs, everything …” Sure I didn’t take him seriously. However, around one month before the entrance exams for college enrolment, he called me to let me know he collected money for scholarship for the first year. Whaaaat?!

It turned out he was not a fool – I was for not trusting him. So, scholarship you say, okay fine. Then it took me a long time, forever to persuade my parents and explain to them that this man wants nothing in return, he’s not asking organs, or to marry me, or anything, he is married and seems normal. So simply, for some strange reason, he collected money for scholarship for me. Why? I didn’t know either, but it didn’t matter to me. He paid me a scholarship. Scholarship to study. The happiest girl in the world.

And what else to do? I went to Sarajevo to take admission test. I ranked fifth or eighth in total score, I don’t recall, anyway good result. Really great, I’m satisfied and got admitted. So I then went to the university and graduate from the Faculty of Sports in Sarajevo.

As for our faculty, I was really pleased, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a bit stricter criteria because it was not so challenging. For me it was far more difficult to advance more personally. However, we had a lot of workshops at the faculty aimed to help us develop as persons and prepare us for the market. The aim was to teach us how to set up our own business and how to be an entrepreneur, instead of waiting for someone else to offer us a job. Most of our courses were like that – some management, leadership, everything that teaches you not to wait for the job, but to make one yourself.

While I was studying, already after the second year, I decided that I no longer needed the scholarship from that man and my parents, but that I would just simply start working. To start my own business, to study and work at the same time. And then, on the third year, I started the Sports Association Challenge in Sarajevo with colleagues from the faculty. We started with sports activities for women and it was quite enough for me to finance some 70% of the costs for the faculty. My parents would send the remaining 30% and this guy would also send scholarship. But, it was quite enough to graduate.

After I graduated, there were many offers, even to go to Dubai to train some princesses there, but I decided to return to Bihać because I had already married. My husband is from Bihać, and I was from Bihać. I said I’ll go back to Bihać to change the environment a bit there, to activate women and men and all that.

And so I come back to Bihac. They have already offered me a job because they saw that I was successful doing this in Sarajevo, that I had clients, satisfied, there were results … and I got a job at the Nahla Education and Research Centre. My job was to train and hold trainings for women, to focus on their health, to change their perception of life and the rest. That’s what I started doing last year. At first, there were not too many women, maybe some 15 women who’d come during the day for fitness. Group trainings have only started because I introduced some new programmes that didn’t even exist in Bihać. These were highly intensive exercises (HIITs) that efficiently eliminate fatty tissue, cellulite and the rest, just what women need. And then it took a while for women to see it is effective, how it goes and the rest. And thank God, very quickly this proved itself as a right choice, because the number of women increased drastically. So that after half a year, that number of 15 to 20 women grew to 100, 150 and more and I was very pleased.

I was focusing on women, but I still missed that part when I trained children.

I said already that before my studies I had gymnastics for children so I missed that as I came to understand that’s late to take care of the health when someone is in his 20’s, 30’s, 50’s and that one should start in the early childhood. And then with my colleague Irma Memagić I founded a gymnastics club, also under the name of “Kodokan”. We started last year in May, and our first anniversary is approaching. In the first month we already gathered around 20 children. That was great considering we never had gymnastics here before and there were plenty of after-school activities. Anyway, we gathered a lot of kids. Now, after a year, we already have around 60 children. Thirty of them are already active competitors who are ready to go to competitions throughout BiH. Others are still beginners as they started later on. We are engaged in activities for children aged 4 to 12, when the focus should be on children’s development.

One thing I’ve noticed in children is that the biggest problem is parents who do not notice flat feet in their children. With failure to notice flat feet on time, children end up with spine deformities, and sometimes at the age or 10 or 11, they are recommended orthotics insoles that do not work in fact, or corsets that do nothing again. These only help temporarily. And then we realised that we needed strengthen children’s musculature from early age, to teach kids how to walk on their fingers, to strengthen their feet muscles, to correct at the beginning the existing deformities. Because it’s too late at the age of 10, 11 years to correct it and then children, people, women, suffer spine problems their whole lives and cannot stand long hours, or walk for too long, have various pains and all that. As for women, the population I train is about 20 years of age, and we even have women aged 60 in our activities. And even these over 40 are the most active. They are most frequent in trainings and work hard to make it to trainings, probably because they realised how important is health.

Why is this segment with women important?

We did not focus only on women’s health or on weight loss because that would be very stupid. We mostly focus on somehow motivating women and empowering them. Because it’s not about losing weight. The point is for the person to understand how much she can actually do and how much strength she has in her. We were doing regular tests on women. For example, when someone comes to the initial test, we see muscle strength, we measure size, to see how much how much fat there is and all that. And then we do a test after 3 months where we repeat the muscle strength tests. Believe me that women put some limits to themselves, they say “I can do 40 squats and that’s it.” And we had cases where women, those very same women would reach 400, 500, and even 1000 squats. Just because I “yell” at them, and I don’t let them give up and finally they get to see what they can actually do. Because they really can, they are not aware of how much their body can and how much they can do. But somehow people often set their own limits. People say to themselves, “That’s what I can do and that’s enough for me”. They never try to break the limit, to say “then I’ll try a bit more to see if I can do it.” So if I’ve come this far, I’m going to do a little more. And I think this is the main segment and the main point of our whole story, and that is to help people see how effective they are and how much they can do. Because if they see in this segment that they have underestimated themselves, they will see also somewhere else, “maybe I’ve underestimated myself here too, so let’s try a little bit more, I’ll do a little more.”

Because, why would I set my own limits if I don’t have to?