Arnisa Morina: Future Lawyer, Advocate and Kosovan Refugee

I immigrated to Canada as a refugee in 1999 when I was three, from war-torn Kosovo. Ever since then, Canada has been a safe haven for my family and I. Just like any other victim of the Kosovo war, we were deprived of our rights, freedom, safety, and happiness. Above all else, I lost my Father during the war, in the Gullobovc massacre. He will always be my greatest loss in life.

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While it has been and will always be difficult for me growing up without any memories of my Father, I know that it has been much more difficult for my Mother. She was left alone to raise six children on her own. To this day, I have no idea how she kept us all safe during the war. I will forever be indebted to Canada and the individuals who welcomed us to this wonderful country as if we were all family. Canada has given me the opportunity to make my Father proud by doing something with my life to show that he did not sacrifice his life and die for nothing. 

The most difficult thing about growing up as a refugee was working hard to not let my past life experiences imprison me and limit my potential. The harder I worked and the higher the level of education I sought to achieve, I realized that I had to combat the societal misconceptions and stereotypes that refugees are not destined to become great successes in a country other than their own. Often times my dreams and aspirations were questioned and doubted by certain members of both the Canadian and Albanian community. I think their doubt was attributed to the fact that when I first arrived in Canada as a refugee, I did not know how to speak any word of English and very little of Albanian, coupled with the fact that I was raised in a low-income family since my Mother was a single and unemployed parent who had to support six children on her own. Thankfully, at an early age I understood the magnitude of what it meant for me to have survived the Kosovo war and been given another chance at life and freedom. I decided early on that I would not take my life for granted because countless of Albanians sacrificed and lost their lives during the war. As an honor to them, especially my Father, I have always wanted to do something good and make a positive change even in just one person’s life, that is enough for me.

My lifestyle is a consequence of my wounds. Experiencing war has made me strong and determined to pursue my dreams, as a way of showing the Serbians responsible for the Kosovo war that despite the countless number of people they killed and dreams they shattered nineteen years ago, Albanians continue to stand strong. Looking back on the past 19 years I have been in Canada, I am happy because although I did not have a peaceful a childhood, I am strong because I survived a war that was composed of mass killings, genocide, and hate crimes. I fought through life’s adversities and have achieved many of my goals. I am going to be a Lawyer soon. I am a second-year law student at one of the top law schools in Canada, Osgoode Hall Law School. I look forward to graduating in 2019. I am eager to begin my career as a lawyer to advocate for innocent victims of war crimes and help make Kosovo become recognized as its own independent state on the international world stage. 

 It is important for society and its members to empower immigrants and refugees by understanding their life story, their plights, and goals because they already have enough struggles, suffering and negativity to overcome. Everyone should be given the opportunity to dream and set goals for themselves.

This is my message to fellow immigrants and refugees: do not ever let your past experiences or anyone, especially yourself, limit your dreams and potential. There were countless times during my life where it felt like the whole world was conspiring to make me give up on my dreams and fail. It gets better. The greatest motivation and support you can have is believing in yourself. Even if your family, friends and the entire world believes in you, none of it will matter if you do not honestly believe and have faith in yourself and your potential to succeed.

I am not naïve to the fact that I would not be where I am today without the never-ending support of my family and the opportunities Canada has given me. However, I am convinced that if I did not dedicate myself to believing that I had great potential to set big goals for myself and achieve them, I would have given up a very long time ago, perhaps, I never would have even given my dreams and goals a chance. Whenever I was faced with an obstacle in achieving my goals, I always said to myself, “you do not want to make the graveyard a richer place”. There are so many people that die who take their dreams, goals, and ideas with them that if taken together, could have had the potential to change the world. My fellow immigrants and refugees, pursue your goals and aspirations because the world needs them now more than ever. Remember that the obstacles and burdens in your way, you were only meant to overcome them, not carry them with you.

Felicia Philibert