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Viktorija, Latvia/Northern Ireland

My name is Viktorija Korola, I’m thirty years old. I’m from Latvia, I was born there, but my parents are Ukranian.  In Latvia, I was working full-time, studying full-time, and looking after my two sisters.  I left the country in 2004. 

I came to Northern Ireland on my own, I’ve lived in Belfast on and off for eight and a half years – if I had a job I was here, if I didn’t I traveled down south and I was in Spain for three months. I didn’t really choose Belfast, but I’ve been trying to leave the country for a while.  I just didn’t have finances for the flights, and then I met this person who offered me a job in Belfast and to pay for the flights and accommodation (and then he would get the money from me from my wages) and I packed up and left.  The plan was to come for a year but I ended up staying.  In Belfast to begin with I worked in casino and did waitressing jobs, washing dishes, cleaning, whatever I could, but last three years I’ve been working as an interpreter and I love my job. 

I brought with me a pair of shoes.  When I lived in Latvia I used to window-shop, and I could never afford to buy something so impractical, and the first thing I did [after] coming here: when I first time went to visit home I went into that shop and I bought pair of shoes and the look on shop assistant’s face was priceless, she couldn’t believe I actually bought them!  And right now every time I feel a little down or sad I just remind myself how lucky I am; and these shoes remind me of that, that I managed to escape the country and build a new comfortable life for myself abroad.