Ellen Frank-Lajçi is the founder and leader of the NGO “Era Group” (Environmentally Responsible Action group). She’s an american citizen who left everything behind to begin a new life here in Kosovo.
Ellen is from Boston – USA and when she first arrived in Kosovo on June 2003 as a student, she had no idea that it would change her life forever. “When I saw some pictures of Rugova’s mountain for the first time, I said to myself why not. I got the whole summer ahead of me and I have nothing else to do so I decided to come.”
The original idea came from her professor where she was studying. She and her friend Lindsay Mackenzie were asked to come with a mission to build “the peace park” in the Balkans. They both arrived in Peja to work for an NGO called “Aquila”.
“When I arrived here for the first time, the war has ended for almost three years, it was challenging because the city was quite destroyed, and yet for me it was the best summer of my life.”
She was very impressed with this place, because she saw a country full of teenagers, with a lot of hope, optimism and enthusiasm. According to her this was “crazy” in a way, considering the fact that the war just ended few years back, but there she finds herself talking with young people about nature, parents walking their children through the woods, hiking on high peaks of the mountains. It was too early, but she felt those people’s enthusiasm despite the fact that there were a lot of challenges, disappointments when things didn’t went the way they were supposed to.
After the summer of 2003 she visited Kosovo every year. When she graduated she began to work in New York as an environment educator. “Every time I had enough money, I would buy a plane ticket and come back here. I love Kosovo very much because it was an interesting place and so different from USA.” The real reason why she loves Kosovo so much is because of its beautiful nature, its friendly people and the hospitality.
“We had a big conference in Prishtina, and after we finished we went to Rugova’s mountain. That’s where I met my husband for the first time.” At first Ellen couldn’t speak a word in Albanian language, but neither could her husband speak English so it was very difficult for them to communicate. Despite the lack of communication, they fell in love. And after a year they got married, that was on August 2007.
“In the city where I lived we didn’t have mountains. I would always dream that one day when I wake up, I’d see the great view of mountains through my window. And now, this dream has become true, because from my home I have a magnificent view over Rugova’s mountain.”
At first it was hard for here, because being a wife is not the same as being just a visitor. “When I am in Kosovo, I miss my family in America. But every time I go there I feel the absence of Kosovo. So it is mutual.”
Ellen found the love of her life in Kosovo, she runs her own organisation and she started a new life here.