Beautiful Women: A woman who represents the "Beauty of Courage"Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) -- Many of you spent this Mother's Day celebrating a beautiful woman who's made an impact in your life. Tonight Kerstin Kealy shares the powerful story of a Moorhead woman who has overcome incredible challenges, showing a strength that has changed her life and her sister's life forever.
By: Kerstin Kealy, WDAY
Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) -- Many of you spent this Mother's Day celebrating a beautiful woman who's made an impact in your life. Tonight Kerstin Kealy shares the powerful story of a Moorhead woman who has overcome incredible challenges, showing a strength that has changed her life and her sister's life forever.
It's a story that spans 3 countries. Irma Ciber is an amazing woman who's survived war, a devastating explosion, losing a mother, being pulled from family and home and becoming a mother figure at just 9 years old to her younger sister.
Our Beautiful Women team recently went to Irma's Moorhead home, and heard an incredible story. One we'll never forget. All representing the "Beauty Of Courage".
They are images of war, unthinkable to most of us. Sarajevo, Bosnia - Hertzogovina 1992. For then 9 year old Irma Ciber and her family, this was their daily reality - filled with fear, loss and heartache.
Irma: "It was just like trying to fight for your life basically. I just remember one night they were bombing Sarajevo really hard I mean it was nonstop - shells were just flying it was lit up bombs back and forth. Ground shaking."
Living through war was terrifying and uncertain. Irma's father had put a makeshift gas line in their home after their electricity and water were cut off by the enemy. In the middle of the night, Irma woke her mother to use the bathroom. Life changed forever when her mom struck a match to light a candle.
Irma: "The whole place, it was such a huge explosion the windows busted out. It was so quick. It was like a flash fire."
Irma , her sister and mother were rushed to the hospital with severe burns.
Irma: "At that point we were separated from our mother. We didn't know what was going on with her because they wouldn't share anything with us. And me and my sister were alone in the room amongst wounded soldiers."
Just days later, the girls were evacuated to Italy, not knowing if their mother had survived - leaving their entire family behind.
Irma: "Nobody knew where they were taking us - nobody would tell us. People on the airplane were not even speaking our language."
Suddenly, Irma and her sister were in a foreign country, all alone, with no one to rely on but each other. A 9 year old forced by circumstance into the role of mother to her 3 year old sister, not knowing if her own mother survived.
Irma: "I believe she passed away because everybody came in and surrounded her and they took us out of the room. And they took us to a different hospital, which was a children's hospital because they had a lot of kids there. And that was it. We didn't know if she survived or if she died or what happened to her and no family around. It was just me and my sister."
Today, she cherishes this tattered photo of her mother. Holding onto every memory they shared in their short 9 years together.
Irma: "She always made sure that we were ok. Such a sweet soul, yes, and to this day its still hard. Yeah, it's been 18 years."
Amid the heartache, the young girls found joy and love in Italy. After months recovering from severe burns and multiple surgeries, which was documented by Italian Television, they were placed with an Italian family and even shot these home videos of family outings.
Irma: "Thankfully, they ended up being the most wonderful family, I mean, two children could ask for."
Meantime, their father, a soldier still at war in Bosnia was fighting to get his daughter's back. He took his pleas to Bosnian newspapers and Italian TV, But the Italian government wouldn't allow them to go back to a country at war.
Irma: "I didn't want to go back in the war, I don't want to go back to where I don't have food to eat. I don't want to go back to where I can't play with my friends. I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to go back."
The compromise, they could be reunited in a 3rd country. It's a decision that led the family to Fargo, ND near Irma's 12th birthday.
Irma: "People here were so welcoming everybody was just so generous. I never felt like I was out of place in Fargo."
In the 16 years since, Irma and her younger sister, Dijana have thrived. They have a unbreakable bond, one that when Dijana tried to talk about it, brought her to tears, unable to speak.
Dijana: "I can't do this, I can't."
Words not needed to know the love and admiration she has for an older sister, mother figure and much more.
Now at 28, Irma is a mother to a toddler of her own. She's working to give back to a community she says has given her so much as a Executive and development assistant at Family Healthcare Center, known for having a constant smile on her face.
Irma: "Staying positive - it's helped me grow. It's helped me face the challenges I've faced in my life and it's going to help me in the future I hope."
She has a wisdom beyond her years, and despite scars left from those horrifying days so many years ago, has moved forward with incredible strength and courage.
Irma: "I don't have anything to be sad about. What is there to be sad about? Look what life has given me, yeah, challenges, but nowadays, I'm doing good things. I was able to go to school and get a degree. I have a job. I have a home. I have a family. I mean, what more could you ask for?"
Irma stays connected to her father and family here in the metro. She plans to go back to Italy soon to collect her mother's remains to give her a proper burial in Bosnia.
If you have an amazing woman in your life, go to beautifulwomenof.areavoices.com and nominate her today.