Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Refugee Festival Scotland ambassadors share stories of hope and joy

© Open AyeRefugee Festival Scotland ambassadors Fatma, Lizelda, Seyar, Ishmail, Elina, Comfort and Hanna.
Refugee Festival Scotland ambassadors Fatma, Lizelda, Seyar, Ishmail, Elina, Comfort and Hanna.

In a year of conflicts that has seen millions around the world forced from their homes, the Refugee Festival Scotland aims to bring together people in friendship and solidarity.

More than 130 events running across the country until June 23 will include everything from music and dance to wildlife, football tournaments and family picnics.

Refugee Festival Scotland Ambassadors. © Open Aye
Refugee Festival Scotland Ambassadors.

Sabir Zazai, chief executive of organisers the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “The last year has been incredibly tough for people in the refugee community.

“It’s important to make time for moments of joy, connect with one another and revel in not only what we have in common but also what makes us all unique.

“The festival is an opportunity to come together and share stories, celebrate each other’s culture and learn more about our new neighbours.

“Together, we can rise above the hostile environment and find strength in our communities.”

Here, we speak to three of the festival ambassadors about their stories of finding home in Scotland and their hopes for the future.

Comfort’s story

© Open Aye
Comfort, who is originally from Nigeria.

For Comfort Anjorin, from Nigeria, Glasgow has become home.

As a film-maker and storyteller, she hopes sharing her experiences through the festival can help others who find themselves in her position.

“It’s something to be celebrated, the journey, how you’ve got here, your success and where you’re at,” she said.

“The festival is celebrating our presence, that we are strong and can still rise.

“I’m an activist and I always like to speak for the rights of people, and I think being an ambassador means the same thing.”

Comfort has found a great sense of community since moving to Scotland.

“I feel like my heart is here because of the love and the people,” she said.

“The support I’ve gotten from this country I’ve never gotten from my home country and don’t think I ever will.

“Anyone can be a refugee. Anyone can flee their home to look for safety.

“I want to build a world where we all see ourselves as one and we all love each other. That’s kind of what I see in Glasgow.

“If everywhere could be like Glasgow, I think the world would be a better place.”

Comfort. © Open Aye

As well as being a festival ambassador, Comfort works with the Amma Birth Companions charity, which supports people from migrant backgrounds facing barriers like poverty, isolation, or language during pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenthood.

“I was one of their clients when I was pregnant. I was really traumatised and had no friends, no family there for me.

“They gave me great support and I decided to give back. I’m supporting women like me because I used to be in their shoes.

“It makes me so emotional seeing them go through things I’ve gone through, but I try as much as I can to support them.”

Comfort also hopes to get into the world of politics, and follow the lead of Glasgow SNP councillor Roza Salih, the first former refugee to be elected to political office in Scotland.

“It’s really important for people like us to be represented in decision making because most people don’t really understand what it is to become a refugee.

“I don’t only want to speak for refugees, but for vulnerable, poor people that don’t have a say. It’s really important to have a voice and that’s my goal.”

Elina’s story

Elina, who is originally from Ukraine. © Open Aye
Elina, who is originally from Ukraine.

The festival’s theme is ‘Rise’, which resonates with Elina Badovska’s story.

From Dnipro in eastern Ukraine, she evacuated after the Russian invasion in 2022.

“We had three rocket attacks in my district without any alerts or anything,” she recalled.

“It was hard to experience that, but people get used to war, unfortunately.”

She escaped to the UK and now lives in Greenock with her two cats, having faced many hurdles. She now hopes to get back into her career as a journalist, and has been volunteering with community organisations, as well as running a festival event in Inverclyde.

“When I arrived in the UK, I faced so many struggles on my way,” the 26-year-old said. “I was trying to rebuild my life from scratch.

“Scotland is absolutely a supportive place. I had no idea before when I had to manage on my own that there are communities like Scottish Refugee Council and other organisations that can help ease the way.

“We have to promote all these organisations to other people so they know exactly where they can reach out to in case they have any difficulties.”

Elina Badovska at a demonstration holding a sign that reads 'Glory to Ukraine' in Gaelic. © Supplied
Elina Badovska at a demonstration holding a sign that reads ‘Glory to Ukraine’ in Gaelic.

Elina wants to share her experiences to help highlight that refugees can be a great asset to their new communities.

“There are so many misconceptions in the UK,” she said. “We can show people that we can be beneficial for the country. We can contribute our skills and showcase what we want to do. Things like setting up companies, working in schools and hospitals, and everything that other people do in the UK.

“Being a refugee doesn’t make you a person who’s not valuable for the country.”

Elina says she’s fallen in love with Scotland – even taking classes to learn Gaelic.

“I’m just trying to be a part of the Scottish culture as much as I can,” she said.

“I’d like to thank everyone that helped us and other refugees along the way, and continue to.

“That’s why I want to contribute. I have so much gratitude to Scottish communities that are still welcoming other people, new Scots, and we do our best to do something back.”

Fatma’s story

Fatma, originally from Egypt. © Open Aye
Fatma, originally from Egypt.

As an activist and now working with the Maryhill Integration Network (MIN), Fatma Elaraby has seen first hand the resilience that many asylum seekers and refugees have had to show in their journeys to and settling in Scotland.

“I hear a lot of miserable stories,” she said. “Some people were going to die through the journey. A lot of them came here with their children struggling, they had bad nights and they thought they’d never be rescued.

“After they arrived here, they were in shock for a few months, they couldn’t accept that they were still here, struggling, but they’d done it finally. The resilience comes from being here, being saved and starting again. Life didn’t end.

“I know that all of us, refugee or not, have our own problems, upsides, downsides, but we have to take them as a step to continue.”

MIN host an event tomorrow called Still, We Rise featuring food, activities, music and poetry performances.

It celebrates collective strength, which exists thanks to support from volunteers in their organisation and at similar groups across Scotland.

Fatma. © Open Aye

“All these brilliant organisations have one goal and that’s to help asylum seekers and refugees,” Fatma said.

“We’re all trying to do our best. When you have an organisation like this they feel like they have a backbone, if you have a problem you can go and speak to someone.

Fatma was delighted to take up an ambassador role for the festival alongside people from Ukraine, Nigeria, Afghanistan and more.

“I had to do it because maybe I can motivate someone to continue with life,” she said. “Maybe someone sees me speaking or my message and can take some resilience from it.

“Scotland is very welcoming but maybe someone will hear me and change their mind about refugees.

“Some people think they’re just here fleeing from poverty and they don’t have any skills. But a lot are very skilled, highly-educated, they’re fleeing from persecution, war.

“They flee to save their life and just need opportunities to do something good for the community. They can help, participate, be an addition to the community. They just need a chance.”