Immigrants to Lithuania happy to stay for long term

Eskedar from Ethiopia
DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

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A 26-year-old Iraqi, Kanaris, arrived in Lithuania five months ago where he was granted asylum. Kanaris along with three Christian families had come to Lithuania following an invitation from the Catholic Church.

He said his family arrived to find a calmer life and remembers life in his homeland as a very hard one. Kanaris said: “It was very difficult. Once, when I was at work at the end of working hours, I heard sounds of explosions and people screaming – a car exploded about 200 meters away from my job.”

“Christians must either change religion and become Muslims, or leave to avoid being caught by jihadists and be decapitated,” said Davud, Kanaris’ uncle.

Eskedar Maštavičienė, a woman from Ethiopia, represents herself as a Lithuanian living in Vilnius. She arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, eight years ago and started a family and is now working as an English teacher. She decided to leave Ethiopia in 2005 after student protests, which the authorities quelled and forced activists to flee.

Lithuanian-speaking Eskedar is convinced that she still cannot speak fluently and that Lithuanian language is the hardest that she has ever learned. Eskedar said that “If you want to understand the culture, people, habits, you need to overcome the language barrier. When you understand the language and understand metaphors, you start to understand all kinds of expressions. Culture becomes closer. Now I am very proud that I can understand [Lithuanian].”

Another immigrant, Nadjib from Afganistan is now living in Lithuania for 15 years. Nadjib said that “Our country was at war, so I left it to live in peace.”

One of the problems faced by newcomers is the relatively short period of integration, said Nadjib. “The integration period in Lithuania for all immigrants is very short. When I arrived, the integration took only a year. In addition, there was very little money – I was given 210 Litas a month – I had to rent an apartment and live from that money.”

Eskedar is thinking of herself as a Vilnius citizen and does not intend to leave Lithuania, she said “I always think – why am I here and what do I have here, why did I stay? Here I have everything: a full life, a family which I love, a job that gives me a lot of joy, friends that mean everything to me. People might say I am a refugee from Ethiopia. I am more than a refugee. Now I am a local.”

Nadjib is not thinking about going back to Afghanistan either: “No, now I am not thinking about Afghanistan. It is a long time since I have left the country. I am sad to hear things such as that a man was killed there, a bomb exploded,” he said.

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