At the Roma Community Center Tirana “Mother Theresa”, I had the opportunity to speak with a young woman who made it! She got out of the vicious circle of absolute poverty.

As a child of the Roma Community in Albania, one grows up in poor conditions, goes to school for only a few years, gets married as a child, then has many children and takes care of the well-being of the family throughout the live. The woman is responsible for the household. As the head of the family, the man is working and providing money.

The 18-year-old woman A. told me about her life, and I was very moved by what I heard. The following story contains many gaps in the content, as she spoke only in broken and simple German. Nonetheless, one gets a good impression of what she has already experienced:

I was born in the Roma Community, but everything is bad there. I have three brothers. The youngest is seven, the middle one 14 and the oldest 15 years old. But I’m a woman – I am the most mature!

My mother never attended school, so she was never working. My father has been in school for a few years. Now he is working in Italy for three months, then he will come back.

From 1st to 6th grade, I went to school in Albania. In 2015, I moved to Germany – Berlin – where I did my 7th and 8th grade. There, I learned a bit of German. Germany is good, Albania is bad!

Then I went to Italy to my aunt and got to know my present fiancé there. For two years we are already engaged. He is my one and only!

My fiancé works in Romania. In two to three days, he is coming to Albania and we will go to Italy together. There, we own a house, where we want to live together. I would like to work as a hairdresser, but I don’t know what happens in the future.

Now, I need to get an Italian passport to be able to stay there with my fiancé. Soon, we will marry and now I’m just looking for a beautiful, white dress – because I’m a girl! It’s uncertain whether my family will be able to come to my wedding.

Here in Albania, I am visiting my family. But I am only here for a short time. After that, I will go back to Italy. Today, I went together with my mother to the Community Center in Tirana. She never walks alone. But it is important that she comes here regularly because here she can learn how to read, write, count …

Most people in my age [in the Roma Community] are married and have many children. But I haven’t. No, not here! Albania is bad! In Italy, it is better – also a better country to get children.

Look there! Do you see the little boy without shoes? I always look back, because I can’t see this suffering and poverty [when she was a child, she had passed through it as well]! The children have no shoes because there is no money for it…

In the Roma community, there are a lot of children, but this is not good. They have no future, no perspective, barely education! No shoes! …

It is almost impossible to leave a Roma Community. You are entangled in the threads of poverty and structures of patriarchy. The year 2017 changed my life. Not only was I able to get to know the Italian way of life but also, I got to know my fiancé!

For the time being, I am still struggling getting an Italian passport, to move to our house in Italy, to marry and to settle down. And then I can get a lot of children.

Once I made it, I will finally be completely out – out of Albania, out of the Roma Community!”

The story of A. has made me reflect on my own life. I am well of. Compared to A. and her community, we are very privileged. Our children have a roof over the head, learn how to read, write, count and do not have to run barefooted through the streets. Let us be thankful for it!

Photo and Author: Rebekka Schiller