The New Faces of Westchester: Altin Batska

We endeavored to meet and hear the life stories of Westchesterites who immigrated to New York in search of a better life. Here is what they told us:

Altin Batska, Albania

“I came to New York in 1997 with hopes and expectations of a fair and just society, where hard work is rewarded and success is based on merit. I came to New York to soak up freedom,” says Altin Batska, who emigrated from formerly communist Albania at age 26. Although he was an engineer in Albania, he had to work as a dishwasher, busboy, and bartender in New York City, before he attained his biggest professional accomplishment: passing the exam to become a New York State licensed professional engineer, “which empowered me to open and run my own business for the last eight years.”

My story: “During my second month here, the advice I received from one of my countrymen was: ‘Forget what your education or your past experience has been. Capitalism is very tough and no one will honor or respect what your credentials are. I’ve got the best job for you. You can start as a Helper Pizza Man, and hopefully work your way up.’ That landed me my first job. I dreamt at length about my future here—I was always convinced that each day would be better than the last. Conditioned by my humble upbringing, however, my dreams and plans 16 years ago were relatively modest, and never did I dare to dream that one day I would be where I am now. Truly. There is a special pleasure in realizing that you have exceeded the limits you applied to yourself. My beautiful wife, Olsa, and I have fallen in love with this country, and our two boys are a constant reminder of how genuine that feeling is.”  

My preconceived notions about Westchester: “One of the as sumptions that turned out to be true was that the schools are indeed great. False was that our neighbors and residents at large would not be very friendly.” 

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