Nashi – ‘I Suddenly Felt Lucky, I Felt English’ by Julia Hall 2024

(Nashi, Albania – 115 x 80cm)

Nashi arrived in the UK in 2001, with her husband and young son. She had been a lawyer in Albania, in charge of a case where the Interior Minister of the socialist party was involved. She and her husband were known supporters of the democracy party, and after threatening phone calls and a frightening incident, they had to leave. They travelled on the Eurostar and asked for asylum as soon as they arrived at the station in London. At first they were sent to Stoke on Trent, but moved to London the following year.

Initially she regretted coming to England because of the weather. Nashi had read some Jane Austen as a child (although it was a forbidden book in communist Albania), and her expectations had been centred around that world. She spoke no English and felt so isolated, especially because she had a small child. The periods of loneliness were unbelievable and unbearable at times, but she overcame the challenges of living in a new country by asking people for help and explanations.

When she arrived in London, Nashi refused to apply for a council house as she wanted to support herself. She started another law degree to have the experience of a western education, and then worked for the CPS and the Home Office. She has nothing but praise for this country, there is a compassion you find nowhere else and is the first thing you sense. In England she found a gentleness and safeguards in place which she trusted. Albanian traditions have historically been centred around food, music, hospitality and family, but the social structure of post-communist countries has been torn away, societal values have been removed, people have no trust in the government or institutions, and feel there is no hope for them now. The communists in Albania have the mentality that the State should provide everything for them, so if they come to England they expect the same. Nashi’s expectations were totally different, she came from a family that had been tormented by the communists for generations, and her family believed in hard work.

Once Nashi received her British passport in 2006, she was able to return to Albania to see her parents, as she was protected by her British citizenship. She is happy to call herself a refugee and an immigrant, there is no offence in the term. She realised she felt British when she started travelling to other countries, she suddenly felt lucky that she had been introduced to this country even in terrible circumstances. Her advice to other refugees arriving today would be: Believe in something – for example democracy, or religion or compassion. Aspire to something bigger and better. Educate yourself, learn how to integrate and interact with other people. Engage with your new community and learn your rights as a citizen of your new country.

SKU JU/HA011 Artist

Additional information

Dimensions 115 × 80 cm


1 in stock

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