The stories of five migrant women by: Lira Sejdini
When I immigrated to the UK, less than 8 years ago, I was drawn to London to start my new life. I liked the capital’s multiculturalism and the many opportunities that it offered. I still remember the challenges of moving to a new country and living in a big city like London. For one, there were the long commuting hours to and from work, the homesickness, the frustration f not being able to transfer my qualification and getting used to the British weather! However, now, I look back with a sense of achievement. I have created my family and pursued my career of choice and most importantly I have found a second home here in London.
I have always been curious to know how other women like me, migrant women, live their lives. What are their stories? What is the key to their successes? What do they have in common? We have interviewed five women from five different European countries about their immigration experiences and their new lives in London.
Francesca is an Italian psychotherapist, who is in love with London. Iris left Romania when she was 21 years old to do an internship here and is now a social worker in charge of a community project. Ozden works in an organisation that provides psychological services and does voluntary work with Turkish Immigrants. Silvi is a celebrity stylist of Albanian origin who runs her own beauty salon. Anna arrived from Poland ten years ago and since 2011 runs Polish Saturday School in Newham.
These women represent different cultures and have different stories but they share the same goal-personal growth in a modern and stimulant city such as London. They are young, full of dreams and willing to invest and work hard for their futures. Some of them are more focused on their careers while also aspiring to create their families; for the others it’s a juggling act between fulfilling their ambitions and managing their family responsibilities in a new country. Not an easy journey, they tell us.
We asked these women what their dreams were when they decided to come to London and what their biggest achievements have been so far. What challenges did they face Do they feel connected to their respective communities here in London and what is it about their cultural origins that makes them feel special. The stories that unfolded were fascinating and inspiring.
Dreams and Achievements
“My dream was to hit big” says Iris, who now successfully runs an organisation that focuses on empowering Romanian community in London. “My story is the story of a dreamer”, says Francesca, “but also that of a brave woman who has a lot of faith in creating her destiny”. For Ozden, the dream was to study her masters in psychology at a great university such as UCL. She currently gives seminars, workshops and talks , writes columns in two different newspapers and takes part in TV programmes that informs the viewers about different mental health issues. Anna set up her own organisation MYPOLACY which offers advocacy, befriending and signposting.
They reveal that it has not always been easy. “Every day brings a new challenge” says Silvi who then adds. “You need to be very strong to get through the challenges”. Francesca admits that the biggest challenge for her was transferring her qualifications. Nevertheless, she has obtained a qualification in Occupational psychology and lives happily with the man she loves. Iris felt terribly lonely in the beginning and surprised that people did not know about Romania.
This had a strong impact on her and inspired her to work towards improving her country’s image and offer support and help to people who needed it such as the new arrivals to the UK: “We believe that without this it is hard to succeed, talents are wasted and the image of our community is jeopardised”. Anna said that her knowledge of English was almost inexistent when she arrived in the UK because she had studied German and Russian in Poland. However she was determined to succeed. Therefore she started a job in health and social care while studying and improving her English. Her own experience of settling in a new country inspired her to help other Polish people.
The challenges of settling in a new country helped them to develop new qualities and discover what helps to overcome obstacles. Iris said that she developed patience and is grateful for all the guidance and support that she has been given. Ozden revealed that she has learned more about herself and how to be tolerant and non-judgemental. She also feels more confident and more competent in her profession. Francesca said that she surrounds herself with positive people, likes a good laugh and has determination and faith in fulfilling her dreams.
They come from four different countries, but have lots of things in common such as love for travelling, interest in psychology and desire to help other people. However, as Ozden, who has studied psychology, pointed out, cultural background has an important effect in shaping our lives.
Being a Woman
“Albanian women are very intelligent, talented, hard-working and very loyal friends.”said Silvi proudly. Iris emphasised the positive qualities and the ones she identifies with:“Romanian women are passionate, extremely energetic, beautiful and positive. We have strong characters and fiery tempers and put effort and soul in every action we take”. Ozden said reflectively:
“Turkish women are very sensitive, caring, protective (sometimes overprotective). They are hard working and don’t hesitate to make sacrifices for their families. They are very strong women”. Francesca talked about what makes her feel special: “Italian women are able to pursue their ambitions and achieve, but also have strong family values. And never forget to be alluring and stylish of course”.
Their comments made me think that acceptance and pride about where you come from and what makes you special is also perhaps a key ingredient in leading a successful and fulfilling life.
Their stories don’t end here. Silvi says that despite being independent and a successful entrepreneur she has lots of other dreams and is working hard to achieve them. She is also trying her best to help everyone in her community. Iris tells us that the project she runs is expanding and is bringing more people together. Francesca has faith that she will obtain a qualification in Clinical Psychology and do the work that she loves to do. Ozden is currently working towards completing her PHD in mindfulness.
These stories speak for themselves. Francesca, Iris, Silvi, Ozden and Anna are great role models for every immigrant woman. I wonder what other stories are there, waiting to be told.
Francesca Moresi – Italy
My story is the story of a dreamer. It’s the story of someone very determined to achieve what dreamed about. It’s the story of a woman in love: a lucky woman who has found a wonderful man. At the end of the day, it’s also the story of a brave woman who has a lot of faith in creating her own destiny.
Iris Radulian – Romania
Few years ago I felt thirsty for learning even more and I volunteered for organizations that are responsible for the wellbeing and welfare of migrants and refugees. I discovered I was powerful as I could bring a positive asset on people’s lives.
Ozden Bayraktar – Turkey
London gave me the chance to discover myself and I love working on myself. I learned to connect people from the heart and learned to have great empathy for others. I learned to be non judgemental, accepting and tolerant to myself and also others.
Silvi Daci – Albania
It has been a very long and beautiful journey with highs and lows which has made me the woman that I am today. I’m very grateful to my family that has been my support in every step of my life.
I came to the UK in 2003 and my children joined me in 2004. Since then, I had to manage being a mother and a woman with ambitions. I would lie if I say it has been easy. I have been through hard times but today I can say it was worth it. I’m fulfilled as mother, woman and wife.