Colours of Resilience: Young Refugees in Albania Paint Hopes and Memories
26 September 2023
A story by UNHCR in Albania.
In a collection of bright colours and bold strokes, 10 young refugees living in Albania share their visions of hope and dreams through UNIQLO x UNHCR's 2023 Youth with Refugees Art Contest, “Hope Away from Home”. Young refugees and supporters globally were invited to submit a drawing that illustrates the power of including refugees. The best designs will be turned into t-shirts by our partner UNIQLO and sold to support displaced people globally.
These children, aged 6 to 15 and from diverse backgrounds, have created drawings that reflect their hopes and experiences during sessions led by “Refugee and Migrant Services in Albania (RMSA), a UNHCR partner. The drawings, each unique and heartfelt, are reflections of their lives, experiences, and the comforting embrace of hope they hold onto.
Join us as we step into the world of some of them, exploring their drawings and listening to the stories and meanings that the young artists have woven into their creations, unveiling what “hope” means to them in their journey away from home.
I sketched my mom and me in a cozy house – it’s a place I imagine where my family and I will live in the future, a place where we gather around food. In the drawing, there’s a table filled with ingredients, depicting my love for baking a cake for my mom. I truly love baking cakes, and what’s even more delightful is baking together with my loved ones. I indeed have a passion for cooking, and since my mom works full time, my sister and I join hands to prepare meals for everyone at home Regarding the colours, my mom is depicted wearing a striped shirt, inspired by one she owns in real life. As for me, I’m portrayed wearing green, my favourite colour, on my top.
I drew just a house, a rainbow, some birds, and a tree. And right here it says “home sweet home,” inside a heart-shaped circle.
This isn’t actually my real house. It’s my best friend’s house in Tirana, she’s also my neighbour. It’s on the street where we live. And actually, this isn’t the house I wish for us; I just somehow wanted to draw this one.
I really like nature. In her yard, we play games and tell each other stories—sometimes things that really happened. We play football; she’s teaching me how, and basketball too.
We’ve got a turtle now, named Bingo. I had another turtle before, but I lost it in my friend’s yard. I’m really happy we have Bingo now; he’s been with us for a week. We keep him in my house, so he doesn’t get lost, but sometimes he goes outside. Bingo even had a shower today.’
I drew a one-story house where I picture us living in the future, in Albania. Above the house, there’s a family tree representing my parents, my siblings, and me. I wanted some of the colours to be real, so that’s why the roof is orange, like bricks.
You can see all of us, my whole family, holding hands happily right next to the house.
Right there next to the house, I drew a big garden. I really don’t see us in a tall building but in a house with a garden, where our neighbours have their gardens too. I just love nature so much.
In the garden, there’s a table and a bench where I see my family gathering for meals outside. And maybe the neighbours could join us too when they visit.
I also dreamt up a little park in our garden with a swing and a slide, not just for my little brother but for anyone who wants to enjoy it.
(The following narrative is recounted by the sister of the young refugee, sharing the emotions, meanings, and aspirations conveyed through the drawing in her sibling's stead.)
I divided my drawing into two parts. On the right, I sketched what used to be my home. You’ll see a sun, but it has a sad face on it. Even though it was sunny and bright outside, I was feeling pretty down, so that’s how I saw the sun. There are mostly kids with unhappy faces and some even crying; that’s how I imagine them, missing my friends and feeling kind of sorrowful about it. On the left, there are kids, looking like they’re about to hold hands, in a playground with a bit of green in the middle—those are the friends I’m hoping to find in Albania. And the mountains you see, those mean we’re in Tirana, it’s surrounded by them.
I drew three birds and a fish—I'm really into Nemo, the animation. We’re at the beach, and my mom is there, with me diving into the sea. In my drawing, I imagined my whole family being with me, including my aunt and uncle. For now, it’s just me and my mom, but I dream about a day when my dad can join, and maybe bring my aunt and uncle, and we can all go to the beach together.
I end up watching Nemo nearly every day, maybe seven, eight times a day. It starts with Nemo and his parents. Then a shark comes and takes his mom, but Nemo manages to save her. Nemo then finds himself lost, pulled from the ocean and stuck in an aquarium with a bunch of other fish. They all try to break out of the aquarium, but it's a no-go. They end up making a huge mess, forcing the owners to clean it, and then, back in the aquarium they go. Then there’s this day when he meets a black fish, and this fish tells Nemo he’s got to get back to the ocean, back to his family, and he helps Nemo reunite with them.
(The following narrative is recounted by the UNCHR’s partner staff).
A young refugee drew his experience from when he was just 3 years old, still in Syria, where his home was bombarded. He still remembers the tremors; it’s a feeling he can’t forget, which is why he drew him and his family outside their house. In his memory, a house is associated with pain. Back in Syria, it was just him, his parents, and his sister. Now, he has two more siblings, born in Albania, but he chose not to include them in his drawing as they didn’t experience the bombings in Syria. His mom was pregnant at the time, and she gave birth in Albania. The parts of the house he coloured in black are the parts that were destroyed, the colourful parts are what remained. And now, living in Albania, he has found his sun.