In 1989, tensions and political unrest began to snowball in modern-day Kosovo, former Yugoslavia. The dismissal of popular ethnic Albanian politician, Azem Vlasi, marked the growing hostility that was emerging among nationalist-aligned Serbians towards ethnic Albanians, who were perceived to be plotting for ‘Greater Albania’. Increasing nationalist Serbian influence resulted in Albanian demonstrations, strikes and protests, in which many Albanians were killed, injured and arrested. By September 1990, the new Serbian constitution became effective. As a result: Albanians could not run for office; Albanian teachers were threatened with dismissal if they refused to comply with the Serbian curriculum and other ethnic Albanians were forced from jobs controlled by state-owned enterprises; Albanian publications were censored and controlled.
Many ethnic Albanians fled the country before this situation developed into further persecution and the later Kosovo War. One such family was that of Rita Ora, who fled Pristina for London in 1991. Ora became a refugee at just one year old. Now an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter, whose singles have claimed a place in the UK Top 10 thirteen times, she recalls how her parents had to give up everything to start a new life for their family in the U.K. Both her parents had to start from scratch. Her mother had to re-train as a doctor and learn English, while her father, previously an economist, started working in restaurants. Throughout her childhood, the family slept together in one room. The refugee experience “made us determined to survive”, Ora told the Evening Standard in 2013 — and she did more than survive. She built up her musical career by gigging at pubs and performing at open mic nights, and by 2012, she had established herself as the superstar soundtracking the early 2010s with three consecutive singles reaching the top of the charts.