“At a certain point in my life, I found myself at a crossroads: to let myself die in an abusive relationship or be reborn, moving away from home.”
In her new bakery, Elsa welcomes dozens of students every day who buy her byrek when they leave school. In our recent meeting, we sat down to talk for a while. Elsa was for a long time the victim of the first psychological and economic then physical violence of her now ex-husband. At thirty, after yet another episode of violence, she decided to contact the Tjeter Vizion association of Elbasan. She asked to be accepted at their Center, for the period necessary to carry out all the legal procedures for the divorce and custody of her two children who are now twenty-one and seventeen years old.
“Being able to have my children with me was essential to find the energy necessary to start my new life.”
Like the future of so many other women who survived violence, Elsa’s was also very uncertain. She had no home to stay, no job. In Tjeter Vizion’s shelter, Elsa began a complex and long journey that in the beginning allowed her to regain confidence in herself and in her abilities.
“My ex-husband used to denigrate me all the time. He didn’t let me free to express my abilities. He closed every space to my needs and desires. I couldn’t work and he controlled everything. During the time I spent with Tjeter Vizion, however, I realized that I could really do many things and make many dreams come true. With my strength.” Elsa says this and smiles.
After the first period, her path towards reintegration began. She attended a cooking class which gave her the opportunity to work in some restaurants in the city and earn enough to pay the rent of a small apartment.
“I still remember the day we entered that apartment with my children. It was only two rooms, but for me it was the real sign that a new beginning was finally possible.” This was only the first step.
Shortly after, in fact, with the savings she had obtained, Elsa was able to buy some simple used equipment. She started her own business. In 2018 she entered the support program for women’s businesses provided for in the framework of the project “GEMAL – Gender Mainstreaming in Albania: with women against violence and exploitation” – AID 010580 – co-financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and implemented by the Ngo CIES of Rome. The project supported her in the renovation of a shop and in the purchase of new and more modern machinery.
“I could not believe it. All my sacrifices found meaning. Create my own business with which to support my children’s studies and also fulfill some of my wishes.” Says Elsa proudly. “I bought a car, I go out with my friends, I go on vacation to visit my son who works in Greece.”
“Today I feel stronger and I am proud of what I have built. I’m glad I chose the right direction at that crossroads fifteen years ago. And now I’m ready to help other women take that same direction.” Says Elsa pointing to Suela, who has been attending a training course in her bakery for a few months.
Suela found in Elsa an important reference with which to share and overcome her painful experience. The message is clear: asking for help is the necessary step to break the circle of violence. Never losing self-confidence is the fundamental tool to take back your life and make it something better for yourself and for others.
Two girls enter the shop and stop at the counter: “Two byreks with spinach, Elsa. Thanks.”