“I know how someone starts a new life in a new country, because I have experienced it”

Lena is Albanian, she came to Greece in 1998 with her family. The unstable political and financial situation in Albania led her to leave the country in search of better opportunities. For the last 2 years she has been working at SolidarityNow’s Thessaloniki Solidarity Center as a cleaner.

Starting a new life in Greece was difficult both for her and her husband, as they did not speak the language. The obstacles were many: from great bureaucracy to the difficulty of finding a job, however nothing prevented them from sending their children to school. She talks to us very warmly about some Greeks who supported them; about an old lady who helped her to learn Greek, and her daughter’s school principal who believed in her child’s abilities and urged her to pursue an intensive program in which she excelled. Although, she initially experienced the uncertainty and suspicion of society, this attitude changed as people got to know her and her family as well.

Lena’s dream was to study medicine, but she didn’t make it. However, she worked for many years in a cleaning company at a hospital. “Medicine was my dream, but by working there, I felt that I was learning something,” she tells us and adds, “with my colleagues, I felt like we grew up together, that I had always known them.”

We are talking about the financial crisis in Greece and Lena seems frustrated. Two of her children, together with their families, already migrated to Sweden and Germany. “When you see your children becoming migrants again, this is something that parents find very difficult. I know how someone starts a new life in a new country, because I have experienced it,” she says.

*Thessaloniki Solidarity Center was established and is supported by Open Society Foundations.