I am a 26 years old Albanian-Italian girl living in London and founder of I follow happiness. I truly believe in the power of sharing experiences. I am convinced that listening to someone’s positive life experience can inspire other people and give them the strength to keep going and make a positive change in their life. I follow happiness is the channel where we share stories of people moving from country to country to follow their own happiness.
I was born in Albania, in a very small town. We had a house with a garden, full of trees. We were growing fruits and vegetables. We also had cows, dogs, cats and sheep. I have such great memories about living there. I was waking up every morning with fresh milk, cheese and eggs. I remember once when our little calf was born. I was so excited that I could’t sleep all night so I asked my mum to go and see him and I was amazed, looking everything from the curious eyes of a little girl.
But not everything was so perfect. In Albania at that time there was the civil war. Every night we were hearing guns. My mum used to say to me that it was a game some people were playing and the game consists of us being under a table and not close to windows if we were hearing those kind of noises. I believed it and I was excited to play this game. When I now think at this, I do not remember having fear, and this was a blessing from my mum. This was the best story she could tell to her little 5 years old. At that time, my mum was a teacher and my dad had a shoes shop. We were lucky. After I was born my dad had to leave Albania with the hope of finding a better place for us for our future. He left illegally, in a small boat. He was caught many times from the police and took back to Albania. But he kept trying and he made it. Just before the boat was reaching the Italian coast, he decided to leave the boat and swim until the coast. He made it to the land. He slept for a year outside, under bridges, in abandoned hospitals, in trains. He was knocking to doors every day to find little jobs and send the money to us in Albania, making sure we were alright, while he was fighting for us. He was lucky enough to find a job and people that helped him.
What I love about my dad is his strength to never compromise. He never stole anything, he made it with courage and resilience.
After finding a job, he was able to get a house and to have his legal permit to stay in Italy. He was coming to visit us from time to time. My sister was born and he saw her for the first time only when she was one year old. In 1997, we had a call from my dad saying that he finally had the permit to legally take us to Italy. That day is impressed in my head. Everyone was so happy. On the 15th of December we were all together in Italy, finally reunited and ready to start our life as a family. I spent in Italy 17 years. I was 5 years old when I arrived and I grew up there, happy and free to be myself.
I have been lucky enough to never have heard words of racism, lucky enough to go to school and meet friends, lucky enough to go to University and lucky enough to have had the opportunity to study in Italy and in UK, lucky enough to have lived in The Netherlands for few months, lucky enough to now work in London for one of the biggest companies in the world and lucky enough to share my journey with a big smile and pride.
I wouldn’t be here without the courage of my dad to leave Albania illegally, the strength of my mum to live many years miles away from my dad and the resilience of our family to overcome obstacles.