At first she lived in gritty Brixton and worked as a cleaner and salesclerk, paying her way through a computer science program at City University. Four years later, at the gym, she met Roger Jenkins, then a rising star at Barclays. They married in 1999, and she gave birth to their son, Innis, named to honor her late brother. Her parents, who’d joined her in London after the war, moved in to help raise him. A daughter, Eneya, followed, and it was then, in 2002, that Jenkins began reclaiming her ties to Bosnia, by establishing the Irnis Catic Foundation, which funds hospitals, schools and rebuilding efforts. In the beginning she kept her work quiet. “I was busy being Diana, and this was Sanela’s secret world,” she says. “It should have been the thing I was most proud of.”
While her transformation from refugee to global networker may have been facilitated by her husband’s earning power, Diana, her friends point out, is a gale force in her own right. “If someone steps out of line, she has no problem telling them,” says Mellon, “and she doesn’t care who.” In March, hours before she was to host a dinner for the Clinton Foundation, Jenkins was on the phone with Bosnian President Haris Silajdži´c, to whom she acts as honorary adviser, arranging to post bail for former Bosnian vice president Ejup Ganic, who had just been arrested in London for alleged war crimes. (Jenkins sees the charges as trumped up, part of a Serbian campaign to “whitewash” atrocities.) A competitive athlete in her teens, she likes to move quickly: Two years ago she committed $4 million to set up the Sanela Diana Jenkins Human Rights Project at UCLA, just 48 hours after first e-mailing the law professor who would become its director. Focused on international war crimes and justice policy, the program is exploring ways to use technology to map abuse and allow witnesses greater ease in uploading documentation of human rights violations.
That she played a role in her husband’s success is widely known. When asked for details, however, Jenkins turns evasive, pausing to smile at her 11-year-old son, who’s making goofy faces at her through the window. “Roger’s world is numbers,” she says. “Diana’s world is she knows everybody. I love to put the puzzles together and have everybody benefit.” And benefit they do: In 2008, when Barclays appeared on the verge of a government bailout, a multibillion-dollar investment by a Qatari prince whom Diana had introduced to her husband helped save the bank.
Though by all accounts close, the couple lead independent lives and come together for visits and family trips. “The worst thing you can do is try to control her,” says Mellon, “and Roger understands that.” He also knows what she can accomplish when left to her own devices, as he himself acknowledges. “Once she decides to do something, she just does it,” Roger says. “And she’s always successful. She’s been a great mentor to me over the last decade and made me achieve things I never thought were possible.”