Tijana Milenkovic was in the fourth grade in Sarajevo when the war that broke apart the former country of Yugoslavia erupted in 1992.
She remembers avoiding the windows for fear of snipers and catching rainwater to take showers. Enduring a 20-mile exodus from the city that took nine hours to pass through military checkpoints. And walking two hours through woods potentially littered with hidden land mines.
Yet Milenkovic said simple meals best illustrate what her family went through.
“We were without proper foods for months,” she said. “We ate rice without any spices, and pasta without any spices. To this date for 30 years now, I cannot eat rice. I can’t. It’s just my war trauma.”
“As a woman in engineering, you have to have a very thick skin. I think all of it prepared me for who I am.”
She credits those crucible experiences, along with role models like her mother, with making her stronger, equipping her to land where she is today as the Frank M. Freimann Collegiate Professor of Engineering at Notre Dame.