Sylvia & Me
Amra Sabic-El-Rayess: Author ‘The Cat I Never Named, A True Story of Love, War and Survival’, Genocide Survivor, Educator & Scholar

Three best teenage girlfriends living in Bihac, Bosnia. They had grown up together – a Muslim, a Serb and a girl who was half Jewish. Best friends until the start of the Bosnian war and the Serbian military siege in 1992. Amra Sabic-El-Rayess was only 16 when it started. For 1,150 days Amra lived under the Serb’s siege and survived the ethnic cleansing. 1996 saw Amra emigrate to the United States with the help of four people – a Quaker, a Jewish Philanthropist, a Catholic Sister and a Muslim with some Serb.

‘The Cat I Never Named, A True Story of Love, War and Survival’ is Amra’s story, a Muslim teen struggling to survive the Bosnian genocide. It’s a story that is told from Amra’s 16 year-old self. A story of love, survival and the power of education that is meant to be read by all ages. And a cat who gave her comfort and hope.

Only three years later, December of 1999, Amra had earned a BA in Economics from Brown University. She then went on to earn two Masters Degrees and a Doctorate from Columbia University. Today Amra is a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College working on understanding how and why societies fall apart and what role education can play in rebuilding decimated countries. She has published on education-related issues and has lectured around the world to adult and adolescent audiences. Feedback from her students? ‘One of the most inspiring professors they have encountered.’