Posts Tagged ‘Lithuania’

London Strategic Housing - Student block.

Decked in a delightful navy blue pinafore and armed with the most colourful assortment of washing utensils Aldoha Savickiene, has just finished her cleaning shift at London Strategic Housing’s student block.

Outside a group of trumpet wielding students attempt to play Jingle Bells, and after five minutes of flat notes, we move inside.

You get the feeling that sitting down is a rarity to Aldoha. But, given the opportunity its one she cherishes. Sipping on her coffee she begins to tell me why moving from Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania to Harrow, North West London has, what she calls its “hidden advantages.”

“Oh wait… I almost forgot.” She hands me an envelope of pictures, from her hometown of Vilnius, saying shyly “just to give you an insight of Lithuania.”

Out of the twenty something pictures she shows me, it’s evident that family life, for Aldoha is ultimately her top priority. I’m introduced to each and every member, even the in-laws. Knowing that she has highlighted the most important part of her existence Aldoha relaxes, and begins, what seems to be the unfamiliar task of speaking about herself.

“I saw it coming you know? This fall of economy, I knew it would happen.” Aldoha was a specialist in consumer banking in Nord Bank, Vilnius before a high cost of living coupled with low wages finally took its toll, forcing her and her family to make hard decisions about the prospect of life in the UK.  

“The price of food in Lithuania is the same as here” she says “but wages are very low.”

It was her job to predict market trends, recommend mortgages, chair meetings and devise the best insurance policies to those that came her way. A world apart from the 55 kitchen sinks she greets every morning in Kodac Court. Her decision to leave Lithuania wasn’t easy resulting in the painful separation of a mother from her husband and three children.

“I came to London to improve the lives of five people.” “This responsibility was enough to keep me working” she says. “They need a future. My husband looked after the children and I came to get us a job.”

A new start

Aldoha arrived in London in 2007 with no English. She says “I couldn’t even ask anyone for the time and if it wasn’t for my sister-in-law I don’t know what I would have done.”

She started off by working three jobs on minimal pay in Central London hotels. She begins mapping out her journey to me. It’s incredible.

Every morning at 6am, Aldoha would travel from her sister-in-law’s East London home to begin work in three separate hotels, starting in Southwark, moving onto Westminster and finishing up at 10pm in Farringdon.

Humour never fails Aldoha, as ever the optimist she smiles through these tales of language barriers, relocation and says:

“It’s funny, I’m fluent in Russian and Polish but I never thought I’d need English.”

After six months of hard work and sending money back home, her family arrived in London. Her husband works six nights a week as a handy-man and Aldoha now works a more relaxed schedule at London Strategic Housing.

When asked does she ever feel saddened that she had to work so hard, having enjoyed a life as a top end banker she says:

“cleaning is the wrong job for my brain, but I’m not scared of change, everyone needs it I’m grateful to get what I’m given – even if it’s not what I’m used to.”

Her choices of career sacrifice over family security are as inspiring as they are humbling. I ask her does the prospect of ever returning to Lithuania enter her mind?

She takes a second, glances downwards at the neat pile of photographs on the table and replies:

“I love my Country. But life as a family doesn’t work. I need to think about my family. A month’s wages in Lithuanian is equal to a week’s pay in London. My children get proper education and healthcare here, so financially, my answer would be no.”

Its Aldoha’s birthday next week, I ask her will she be celebrating. “Nah…work, Christmas all these things, if anything it will be a quiet affair.”

Christmas day will be spent in London with her family, a well deserved break for a mother in every essence of the word.

I tell her she’s more than welcome to view the interview before it’s published, to which she hastily replies:

“Thank you, but do you think I have time to be reading, (before bursting into laughter,) and what would I be doing reading something about myself?

At that, she takes out a battered notebook, scrawls down the Monday to-do list and cursing the very existence of the Great British weather, she walks away, with a smile that could conquer the world.


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