There was a time when Daliborka Matanovic believed that only bad things would happen to her. Amazingly, the 27 year-old junior investment manager from Croatia is now grateful for what she went through.
Daliborka was very little when her family arrived in Croatia as refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Soon after, her father passed away and by the time she was 12 she was looking after her sick mother and younger brother and sister. They lived in a small house without heating or running water. Despite the enormous effort, she never stopped going to school.
“After school I went home to cook. Every two days I needed to fetch and carry drinking water from a neighbour who lived one kilometre away,” Daliborka says.
It is therefore understandable that when Daliborka and her siblings went to live in the SOS Children’s Village Lekenik after their mother passed away, it felt strange to not “worry about a thing”.
From the moment she arrived in Lekenik, Daliborka stood out and is remembered as an “exceptionally conscientious, responsible and hard-working person”. Her hard work and ambition paid off when she received a scholarship to study economics and management and was named one of Croatia’s top 30 students in 2010.
Daliborka Matanovic. Photographer: SOS Archives
While studying, Daliborka advocated for the rights of young people living in out-of-home care on various international platforms. Her efforts were acknowledged when the SOS Children’s Village Lekenik asked her to join their governing council. After graduating she worked on a financial sector project for USAID, before accepting a job as junior investment manager with an investment fund.
But to Daliborka her top achievement was when, at the age of 18, she became legal guardian to her brother and sister – the youngest person ever to be given this responsibility in Croatia. Her sister still lives with her and she regularly keeps in touch with the SOS Children’s Village Lekenik, always ready with help and advice.
“Although it might seem strange, I am grateful for those bad moments in life. They taught me to tell good from bad, they taught me to stay realistic and down to earth and appreciate all the good values in life. I’m grateful because all of that made me strong and independent. Now, I can handle anything.”
“Daliborka is not only an example to young people living in SOS Children’s Villages, but to all young people who face difficulties growing up. Although she went through a lot, she persevered to achieve more in life, also motivating others to achieve more.”
Mr Josip Marinkovic, SOS Children’s Villages co-worker.