Through Struggle, With Hope: Happy Kosovo’s Independence Day!

Through Struggle, With Hope

Reflecting on Kosovo's Independence Day Celebration

In the heart of London, the GLA (Greater London Authority) became a beacon of light and hope as we gathered to commemorate Kosovo’s Independence Day, an event that resonated with the themes of resilience, community, and future aspirations. The evening was meticulously scripted to weave together the rich tapestry of the Albanian community’s past, present, and hopeful future.

And so begins our event

The event commenced a heartfelt poem for Kosovo, it was a soul-stirring tribute that paved the way for the evening’s reflective and celebratory tone. Shpresa Programme’s volunteers and friends hosted the event, one of whom was the honourable Cllr Larisa Kilickaja. Starting with Naima C’’s (a young key volunteer at Shpresa Programme) moving speech on her work with Shpresa Programme and the Kosovan community, we were reminded of the collective journey and the enduring spirit of the Kosovan people. Larisa’s welcome extended a warm embrace to all, setting a tone of inclusivity and communal strength. Her words were a testament to the power of unity and the significance of remembering our shared history while looking forward to a future filled with promise.

Shpresa Programme is deeply honoured and filled with immense gratitude toward Unmesh Desai, a distinguished member and representative for City and East in the London Assembly, for graciously hosting our event at the GLA, for the second time now. His opening remarks not only celebrated our collaborative efforts but also underscored the significance of our work in fostering integration, particularly within the Kosovan community—a community whose achievements and aspirations were at the heart of our gathering. Desai’s words resonated with a profound understanding and appreciation of the challenges faced by migrants and refugees, highlighting his commitment to the well-being and seamless integration of his constituents.


It is clear that for Desai, the happiness and unity of the community are paramount, and his enthusiasm for the positive impact of the Shpresa Programme’s work is both inspiring and motivating. His support amplifies our mission and encourages us to continue our endeavours with even greater determination, knowing we have allies who are as committed to seeing a harmonious, integrated society as we are.

Echoes of Resilience

A significant highlight of the evening, was a story which at Shpresa Programme, has been held very dear. Fikrie’s narrative of survival and hope amidst the darkest times of Kosovo’s history was a powerful reminder of the indomitable human spirit. Her journey from despair to resilience underscored the evening’s theme: the transformative power of sharing and acknowledging our past:

"My name is Fikrie. My story is a testament to survival and hope in dark times. March 1999 will forever be etched in my memory as a period filled with fear, pain, but also courage and hope for a better future…At that time, when Serbia attacked Kosovo, it felt like my world was collapsing. Subsequently, the Serbian police ordered us to leave our home within five minutes, thrusting us into an uncertain and frightening journey."

Following the heartfelt and moving reading of Fikrie’s story, the transformative work of the Shpresa Programme, an organisation that has become synonymous with hope and positive change within the Albanian-speaking community in London was solidified from Xhemile’s story. Xhemile embarked on a journey with Shpresa Programme, from a participant to a change-maker, and illustrated the ripple effect of empowerment and community support. 

From Kosovo, Xhemile shared a personal story of bravery and perseverance. Xhemile continues her work at Shpresa Programme now as part of the team, and she is certainly a driving force for positive change and daily contributes to the integration of the Albanian-speaking community in the UK by helping them overcome challenges.

The Torchbearers of Tomorrow

The event seamlessly transitioned to a focus on the future:

Leonita Metaj, a young advocate passionate to amplify the voices of young people nationally, talking about how important it is to have youth voices in decision-making processes, currently focusing on her projects on VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) and the Policing sector and more. A symbol of the vibrant youth leading the way in peace-building. Leonita joined us virtually, expressing the current need for youth involvement in decision-making processes. Leonita advocated for a youth-led future that holds authorities accountable and collaborates with them for the integration and progress of the Albanian-speaking community.

"“If we are to be spoken about, then we are the ones that should be called upon"

Following this, Roni Dragusha, an Accountancy student at Queen Mary University of London, where he is an Audit intern at PwC in their Banking and Capital Markets division. Roni participated in our panel, as one of our guest speakers, representing a student initiative (soon to be organisation, we hear, stay tuned!) called ALSA (Albanian Student Association), where Roni is part of the Entrepreneurship Team. Roni spoke about ALSA’s impressive work and their impressive youth-led outreach work to now have more than 500 volunteers, involving a wide variety of students and professionals. Insightfully, Roni imparted on us a testimony of resilience about growing up as the youngest of four siblings, moving from council estate to council estate, making up a big portion of what motivates him to make a name for himself and his community.

Roni continued to impart on the audience that being a second generation can be challenging as there is a lack of representation of Albanians in established positions. Roni’s presence and message further amplified the critical role of the younger generation in shaping a more inclusive and empathetic world.


“The work I do serves to create that representation and be the person for others that I never had growing up.”

Enriching Interval

The evening was punctuated with a musical interlude by a talented Ukrainian singer, reminding us of the universal language of art in connecting hearts and transcending borders: Krystyna Tukilush a talented and award-winning singer and song-writer, who brought us at the edge of our seats and barely holding our applause back.

Following this moving performance, Alla’s narrative, brought to light the shared experiences of refugees and the incredible journey from seeking help to becoming a pillar of support for others. Alla now is part of the Shpresa family, an active volunteer who is always a breath of fresh air at Shpresa’s events.

Our Manifesto

At the heart of our event Shpresa Programme proudly unveiled its manifesto for 2024 as we approach the elections in May, marking a pivotal moment in our commitment to fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment, as well as presenting an invitation for contribution towards authorities and politicians, locally and nationally. As Ledi Pajaj, a great example of how dedicated and passionate members of the Albanian-speaking community can not only grow professionally, but contribute to their communities and home-organisations, change lives and bring forward great change, invited Rt Hon Stephen Timms to talk about our Manifesto. Spearheaded by the esteemed Rt Hon Stephen Timms, Member of Parliament for East Ham and a staunch advocate for the values of inclusivity, equality, and community responsibility, the manifesto lays out a visionary framework for creating a society where everyone, irrespective of their background or circumstances, is empowered to contribute positively to our collective future

The manifesto is a clarion call to action for politicians and organisations alike to join hands in making a significant difference in the lives of all of those who call the UK their home.

As we move forward, inspired by Stephen Timms’ dedication and leadership, Shpresa Programme is set to engage stakeholders at all levels to bring this transformative vision to life, truly embodying our belief that together, we can make a positive difference. It was a reminder of the collective strength and the need for continued advocacy and solidarity.

Cllr Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership & Engagement for Barking and Dagenham, and excitingly the newest Shpresa Programme team member. Saima presented esteemed awards that celebrated Shpresa Programme’s gratitude, on behalf of the Albanian-speaking community the organisation has supported for more than 20 years, towards the London Borough of Newham, London Borough Barking & Dagenham, London Borough of Croydon, London Borough of Enfield and The Mayor of London; celebrating the spirit of collaboration and mutual support.

As the event drew to a close, Larisa’s heartfelt thanks, joined by the other hosts encapsulated the essence of the evening – a celebration of Kosovo’s independence, a reflection on the journey thus far, and a hopeful gaze towards the future. The event was not just a commemoration but a reaffirmation of the community’s resilience, the importance of storytelling, and the power of collective action towards a more inclusive and dignified future.


As we left the embassy that evening, the air was not just filled with the echoes of the music and stories shared but with a renewed sense of purpose and unity. The event was a poignant reminder of where we have been, where we are, and the hopeful path we are paving together for future generations

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