May 18th 1993. Devla Tomic arrives in Luleå with her husband Zvonko and daughters Aneta and Anita. It is nighttime when the bus reaches the refugee camp at Lv 7, now called Kronan. The gate towering outside the bus window causes Devla Tomic to panic. She clings to the armrest, determined not to leave the bus. Even today, she is grateful that she finally dared.

It’s been 22 years. Devla Tomic opens the door at Tunastigen in Luleå and lights up with one of her biggest smiles. She gestures wildly as she talks. Eagerly showing the way to the kitchen where Bosnian delicacies are ready. Devla Tomic has been baking all morning. She exudes warmth and strength at the same time. Two qualities that has made her a well-known Luleå personality.

Since 2008, she has worked at Luleå’s labor administration office, dealing with diversity and integration, two issues close to her heart.

“Love of mankind drives me. It does not matter who you are or where you come from, everyone should feel that they are included in society.”

Bringing people together through various activities is what Devla loves most. She also helps people from other countries to find associations and organizations that meet their interests.

“We meet and do needlework, organize exhibitions and go on snowmobile trips. At the end of the day, I’m overjoyed when participants exchange phone numbers with each other. It’s great that Luleå is a city filled with organizations and associations. And there are always volunteers.”

This year’s Luleå Profile

From blooming lilac trees to large snow drifts. But also from falling grenades to a roof above one’s head. Devla’s life in the new country was not at all what she had imagined. Here, the family was welcomed with open arms. Here, she and her husband, had a third daughter, Emma.

“Luleå has stolen my heart. Aside from spending time with my family, my favorite place in town is where I work. I feel a great value in my job.”

In November, Devla Tomic was named Årets Luleåprofil (Luleå’s Profile of the Year) by Luleå’s Southern Rotary Club. The motivation mentioned courage, enthusiasm and the fact that she has developed the residential area of Hertsön in Luleå. At first she did not believe it was true.

“I’m so proud. It is a great honor for me, but also a duty. I care, I react. I think everyone should react, all the time. Nothing should be allowed to stop our courage. When I do something
good for the community, it makes me feel very good.”

She stirs happily around the five hundred hearts that she alone has made. Hearts for Luleå. One larger than the other.

Text: Vanessa Cicero
Photo: Susanne Lindholm