THE UNBULGARIANS: EHLIBEJTE MEHMETAJ, ALBANIA

interview by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Since her family's arrival in Bulgaria in 2004, the 24-year-old Ehlibejte has graduated a Bulgarian school.

Ehlibejte Mehmetaj.jpg

She volunteered in the Bulgarian Red Cross Refugee-Migrants Service, and now works for the Council for Women Refugees in Bulgaria. There, she helps migrants to integrate, adapt and deal with the Bulgarian administration. She is fluent in Albanian, Turkish, Bulgarian, and also speaks Arabic and English.

How did you arrive in Bulgaria?

We left Albania in 1998 and initially went to Turkey. Then my father came to Bulgaria and was granted refugee status. We came here through the procedure for family reunion, in 2004. I was 14.

Have you experienced any special treatment in Bulgaria because you are a foreigner?

When I started school, it was very strange because I didn't speak Bulgarian. But here came something positive, my classmates helped me a lot to learn the language. I was in the 9th grade, in an ordinary high school, my younger brother was also there.

Have you experienced discrimination in Bulgaria because you are a woman?

No, never. I don't look like a Muslim woman from the Arab world. But we have had such cases in the Council for Women Refugees because some of the women refugees look different – they wear a veil. Harassment happens all the time. In one case a veil was forcefully taken from the head of a woman, and she was abused with obscenities shouted at her.

Is there something unique about the Bulgarians?

I haven't thought about that, I have been living here for such a long time that now I feel I am a part of everything which is Bulgarian. I cannot say there is something uniquely Bulgarian. But I like the calmness of the country, a pleasant contrast with Turkey, where there are so many people in the streets, so many eyes watching you.

What surprised you in Bulgaria when you arrived?

Oh, it was so cold! We came here in July and everything was normal, but we didn't get out much as we didn't speak the language yet. But when winter came, it was so cold that I was shocked and started to wonder if I'll ever be able to live here. Winters are mild in Albania and Turkey, and here I found myself in knee-deep snow. But I am getting used to it.

Do you have Bulgarian friends?

A lot. I met them at school, at work. I meet new people all the time.

Do you celebrate any Bulgarian holidays?

I am a Muslim, but in Albania different religions have always lived together and people of different religions have celebrated their feasts together. Our family continued this way in Turkey and in Bulgaria. I have so many Bulgarian friends. They visit us for our holidays, and we visit them for theirs.

Do you have a favourite Bulgarian feast?

Not really.

Do you plan to stay in Bulgaria?

I have been here for 11 years, and this, in a way, says that I want to stay here. But if someday an opportunity appears for something better somewhere else, well, I will leave. But for now I don't have any plans. I am here.

Do you feel Bulgarian?

I am already a Bulgarian citizen, and this makes me a Bulgarian. For me, nationality is not important, what matters is that we, different people, get together well. I have the chance to feel a part of Bulgaria, and this makes me Bulgarian.

 

EEA GrantsThe UnBulgarians project is conducted by the Free Speech International Foundation and supported by the NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009-2014

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

IS THE ENERGY CRISIS OVER FOR BULGARIA?
The planet is getting warmer and humanity is increasingly aware of the dangers, but the war in Ukraine and the crisis of energy supplies that ensued put to the test the efforts for adopting new green policies.

CHRISTINA LUCAS: EMPOWERING WOMEN PIONEERS IN TECH AND INNOVATION
Christina is now back on these pages owing to her participation in the Business Lady Excellence 2024 event in Sofia at the end of March.

ANELIYA PARICHKOVA'S FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
The clients of Parichkova Design Lab are different and so are the interiors that they have commissioned to the studio.

GERGANA ATANASOVA: BEING A PART OF THE CHANGE
Renewable energy has immense potential for helping humanity to put climate change under control. But it is more than that.

FRENCH AMBASSADOR JOËL MEYER
The stylish French residence in Central Sofia is indeed a very special place. For about 100 years, in addition to being the home of French ambassadors, it has been the meeting spot of senior dignitaries.

NATALIA PETROVA: LET'S TALK ABOUT MODERN INVESTMENT
Natalia Petrova has over 20 years of experience in asset management, capital markets, equity and fixed income trading, UCITS products and services, and is a licensed investment consultant, broker and trader with government securities.

KATYA MACHUGANOVA: THE GAMES AI PLAYS
Women are increasingly making their own way into iGaming: as players, creators and developers. Katya Machuganova is one of them.

KENNETH MERTEN
Three times an ambassador (in Haiti, Croatia and now in Bulgaria) Kenneth Merten has a wide-ranging career in various positions within the US State Department, including in the office of the director general of the foreign service.

DR VALENTINA IVANOVA: INSPIRING CHILDREN FOR A BETTER FUTURE
In times of rapidly changing social, technological and political climates, all parents worry about what is the most responsible way to prepare their children for the challenges of tomorrow.

KRASIMIRA HRISTOVA: FEMALE ENERGY IN THE CAR INDUSTRY
Antifreeze, AdBlue® diesel exhaust fluid, windshield wiping fluid, grease... When drivers and car mechanics in Bulgaria and the Balkans buy such crucial products, they often choose one brand in particular.

NANCY SCHILLER, AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION
It has funded over 1,000 projects in all corners of Bulgaria and has reached thousands of people. It provides support to local partners in many areas: from encouraging private enterprise to building democratic institutions and fostering tourism.

GENERATION DATA
Data science has the power to provide invaluable insight for the competitive advantage of businesses.