The family of the 24-year-old Albanian Ehlibejte Mehmetaj arrived in Bulgaria in 2004 and was granted refugee status. She graduated a Bulgarian school, volunteered in the Bulgarian Red Cross and now works for the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria.

Have you experienced any special treatment in Bulgaria because you are a foreigner?

When I started school, it was very strange because I didn’t speak Bulgarian. But my classmates helped me a lot to learn the language.

Have you been discriminated against because you are a woman?

No, never. I don’t look like a Muslim woman from the Arab world. But I have heard about offences against Muslim women wearing the veil.

Is there something unique about the Bulgarians?

I have been living here for such a long time that now I feel I am a part of everything which is Bulgarian. I cannot say there is anything uniquely for Bulgaria alone. But I like the calmness of the country.

Did Bulgaria surprise you when you arrived?

It was so cold! When winter came, it was so cold that I was shocked. Winters are mild in Albania and here I found myself in knee-deep snow. But I am getting used to it.

Do you have Bulgarian friends?

A lot. I met them at school, at work. I meet new people all the time.

Do you celebrate any Bulgarian holidays?

I am a Muslim, but in Albania different religions have always lived together and people of different faiths celebrate their feasts together. Our family has continued this way in Bulgaria. My Bulgarian friends visit us for our holidays, and we visit them for theirs.

Do you plan to stay in Bulgaria?

I have been here for 11 years, and this, in a way, indicates that I want to stay. But if an opportunity for something better arises somewhere else, I will leave. For now I am here.

Do you feel Bulgarian?

I am already a Bulgarian citizen, and this makes me a Bulgarian. For me, nationality is not that important. What matters is that we, the "different" people, get together well. I have the chance to feel a part of Bulgaria, and this makes me Bulgarian.