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Updated On: May 13, 2009
From War-Torn Yugoslavia to California’s Good Life

It isn’t easy to begin life anew in a foreign country with two small children, especially when you can’t speak the language. But UFCW 8 member Drazenka Trkulja succeeded remarkably.

Trkulja, who works at Raley’s 229 in Auburn, is a native of the former Yugoslavia. She and her two children survived more than 15 years of war, but she lost her husband, some extended family members and many friends.

“My husband was the love of my life,” Trkulja said. “It’s been more than 15 years, and I’m still not over it.”

When she arrived in the U.S. in 1997, Trkulja was determined to make a better life for herself, her daughter Nikolina, now 20, and her son Drazen, now 15. She came to Sacramento because her brother and aunt were already living there.

Soon after her arrival, friends told her that Raley’s was hiring and she decided to apply, even though she didn’t know a word of English. “I had to bring an interpreter to the interview,” Trkulja said. “After I was hired as a Produce Clerk, I kept a little paper in my pocket with some English phrases that I could read when a customer spoke to me.

Things like: ‘How are you?’ and ‘Have a nice day.’”
As a single mother who worked full time, Trkulja didn’t have time for formal English instruction.

Drazenka Trkulja
Raley’s Head Clerk

“I learned on the job,” she said. “My coworkers helped me a lot. They never made fun of my inability to speak the language and were supportive. I consider them family.”

To say that Trkulja is happy with her new life in the U.S. would be an understatement. “My kids have a chance for a good life and to eventually get a good job in a country free of war and ethnic conflict,” Trkulja said. “That’s why I came here, I wanted a better future for my children.”

Trkulja has found a better future for herself as well. She has received a number of promotions at Raley’s and is now a Head Grocery Clerk.

“I like my job,” she said. “I find it challenging, and I learn something new every day.” Trkulja also likes her Union benefits. “When you have a family, having good health insurance is important,” she said.

“I never have to worry about paying huge medical bills. And because we have a pension, my future is secure.”
Trkulja is grateful both for the opportunity to resettle in the U.S. and to become an American citizen.
“I applied for citizenship the first day I could,” she said.
“My children did too. And we all passed the test on our first try. “I’m proud that I am now a citizen of this great country.”

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