Q&A with Kathryn Bolkovac, inspiration for the film ‘The Whistleblower’

Click to learn more about the film

Kathryn Bolkovac, a Lincoln, Nebraska police officer who took a job as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia, and whose book, The Whistleblower, was the inspiration for the film of the same name, will be appearing at a 7 p.m. screening of the film at The Ross on Thursday, October 20 for a Q&A with the audience. A police officer and divorced mother of three, Kathryn Bolkovac was looking for a fresh start when she signed up as a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia. But when she began to investigate the local trafficking of young girls into prostitution, all the evidence pointed to those she worked alongside. A book signing is planned as well as the Q&A . (-The Ross)

DLA had the opportunity to speak with Kathryn to find out more about her story, the film and her time in Lincoln.

• How did working on the Lincoln police force prepare you for your time as a peacekeeper abroad?

Kathryn: The education and training I received at LPD was invaluable to me as an International Police Task Force monitor. Our mandate was to train Bosnian local police forces in how to effectively provide democratic police services to a diverse and ethnically divided population. The progressive and community based police model that exists in Lincoln was the perfect model.

• Living in Nebraska and a mother of three, what made you decide to go work in Bosnia?

Kathryn: Several things contributed to my decision to become involved in the Mission to Bosnia with the UN. Firstly, I was ready for a change in my life and wanted to expand my career options and horizons learning more about international law. My family heritage is East European and I always wanted to visit Croatia and the surrounding Balkan countries. Finally it was definitely a great opportunity for me to make some extra money to help put my three children through college.

• What was it like working with Rachel Weisz, the woman who portrayed you in the film?

Kathryn: Rachel is an extremely intelligent and talented actress. But more importantly a very caring and kind human being. She was genuine in wanting to portray my character with as much compassion and empathy to the situation as possible. Rachel was a perfect pick for the part, and I am proud that she wanted to tell this story and work on the project. We were able to meet for about a week in Bucharest, Romania during the filming. I learned so much about film making and how hard everyone involved must work to bring a film to the theater.

• What were some of the most difficult things about rebuilding a nation as you worked with other peacekeepers?

Kathryn: The most difficult thing about nation building after a war involving ethnic strife and genocide is being able to get the local populations to trust you. Rapport building is always important. It was also a challenge to understand the various methods used in police forces from around the world. We all came together and had to try to find a way to manage one common goal that the Bosnian would understand and accept as their own police model.

• Did you find it difficult to persuade other peacekeepers to risk their lives and help you investigate the problem?

Kathryn: This was not really the problem. The problem was convincing most peacekeepers and United Nations officials that a human trafficking problem actually existed, and that most of the girls were being held against their will and forced into prostitution and sexual service of the international community. This was the secret that was meant to be kept under raps.

• What was life like for you immediately after leaving the country; did you ever have any reservations about speaking out against the corruption going on there?

Kathryn: Life was difficult and very hectic for long time. I spent many months preparing my files for the tribunal that would take place in England. I never had any reservations about speaking out and I continue to speak out in an attempt to make changes in U.S. law and policy. I am also involved in European initiatives with organizations such as OSCE to better ensure that codes of conduct and ethics policies are being updated, implemented and enforced. 

• How big of a problem is sex trafficking for the United States; what can Americans learn from a film like this?

Kathryn: One just has to watch the news or read the paper to continually see references to sex trafficking and all forms of human trafficking into the United States. This is not a secret, and is growing every day. There are many strong non-profit and NGO groups who are working hard to educate and train police and local communities on the reality of the situation. The most important thing to learn is that this is not an isolated problem and that we must all be vigilant in recognizing the problem, it takes many forms and could involve someone living right next door.

• How has your personal life changed since your time there?

Kathryn: To be honest I do not have much of a personal life anymore. I work a 40-50 hour work week as a manager for a large international company and spend my weekends and evenings doing interviews much like this one, and traveling for public speaking and educational events. It keeps me busy, but I know it is part of my social responsibility and will do as much as I can for long as I can. 

• What do you miss most about living in Lincoln?

Kathryn: Of course it is not being able to spend more time with my family and old friends from LPD. I miss being a cop, but hope by moving on from Lincoln that I have made a difference for others who came into my life. I still get to live through my husband who is a police investigator in the Netherlands, so I am not completely out of the loop internationally. We hope to retire back in Lincoln someday…..

• On October 20th, you will be appearing at The Ross for a screening of The Whistleblower followed by a Q&A segment.  What does it mean to be able to speak about this issue with people in the community where you once lived?

Kathryn: When I am home in Lincoln it is great and very emotional for me. I know Nebraskans know how to make a difference.


Showtimes of The Whistleblower at The Ross:
10/19 Wed 5:00 p.m.
10/20 Thu 4:30, 7:00 p.m.

Click here to visit the website for the movie.
Click here for more info on Kathryn’s book, The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice.

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