Ten-year-old Ivana Corak is enjoying the stability our neighborhood offers. Her family is happily living within an apartment near Northlake Elementary. In fact, it’s a big improvement over the Corak family’s former homestead – an apartment hallway in Bosnia.

“Even if you’re sitting on the couch, they could throw a bomb through the window, and you’re dead,” Corak says about the Bosnian war.

Corak, a Bosnian native, experienced firsthand the first two months of the war in Sarajevo.

“If you left your apartment for about an hour, somebody would move in. Sorry,” says Corak, with a “that’s life” tone in her voice.

Here 13-year-old brother’s friends were playing marbles several blocks from her home when they were hit by a bomb. Two of the boys died, and one lost a leg, she says.

With the help of Lake Highlands resident Rae England, director of Love and Action, an organization based in Garland that helps needy people throughout the world, and the Lake Highlands Church of Christ, the Coraks fled the war and moved to Lake Highlands.

England ran into the Coraks in October 1993 during a food and medical aid trip to Bosnia and Croatia. She returned in April 1994 to bring the family back to Texas.

Corak has adjusted quickly to life in America, speaking perfect English after only two years as an English-as-a-Second-Language student at Northlake Elementary. Her teacher, Maggie Cox, says Corak is an extremely intelligent fourth-grader who’s at the top of her class.

Cox says she seats students who aren’t doing that well in class next to Corak, and by example, Corak ends up motivating the apathetic students to do their work.

Corak recently won Northlake’s Invention Convention and represented her school at the school district’s competition with her idea of a built-in, pull-down, sun shade for the front window of a car. The Coraks have a fold-up, cardboard, sunvisor, but it’s a pain to assemble and carry around in the car, Corak says.

“My mom drives three kids to school, and the kids step on it and break it and stuff,” says Corak, who came in third place last year with a TV burglar alarm.

Corak has lived in Lake Highlands with her parents, who are doctors, and her 13-year-old brother for the past two years. Two cousins from Bosnia also live in the family’s apartment complex.

When the war first began, the Coraks stuck it out for the first two months, then escaped to Croatia to live with relatives, bringing only summer clothes because they thought the war would only last several more months, Corak says.

“We weren’t planning on it lasting for four years,” Corak says.

Already sounding like a native Dallasite, Corak says her favorite food is Dallas’ own Chili’s Grill and Bar hamburger. As a hamburger fan, Corak watched two McDonald’s being built in Croatia just before she left.

“If you saw a McDonald’s there, you’d stare at it,” Corak says. “But here, they’re everywhere.”