Arijeta Hadzi-Hamza Ismaili

Executive Assistant to Her Majesty’s Ambassador and Deputy Head of Mission

Guest blogger for UK in North Macedonia

Part of UK in North Macedonia

16th December 2020 Skopje, North Macedonia

20 GREAT years working for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Two decades! I cannot believe it, but the photos I am looking at now prove that I ran a marathon at the British Embassy and I am celebrating with a cup of English tea my 20th anniversary. I opened my box of memories and I found so many things that brought me back into the past, my first entry pass, photos of my colleagues weddings, different jubilee parties, protocol events, Queen Birthday Parties and receptions.

I realised that for all these years I have experienced so many things, lived so many moments and witnessed so many changes.

Superstition says that if a black cat blocks your way, misfortune will follow you that day; the opposite happened to me and exactly on Friday the 13th, twenty years ago, I entered the door of diplomacy.

When I first stepped inside I was a scared young girl, but after the first handshake with the Ambassador at that time who welcomed me so warmly and cordially, I continued to walk persistently, confidently, diligently and here I am today.

My first week started in a cubicle, a small office in a huge room, and I said to myself many cubes, but great company. People from the cubicles became my family, with some of them I still drink coffee every morning. The rest are my friends on Facebook. You know I do not have to go to a tourist agency and pay for a tourist tour; I have so many friends around the world who constantly invite me with my family to be their guest. This is the most valuable and precious jewel I got in these 20 years. Friends all over the world, counterparts that say a warm hello when I call and the following sentence: what can I do for you Ari? This is the fortune I inherited.

Year 2000, my first Reception, the Christmas party.  I went to a fancy shop and bought a dress and as per our tradition, all dressed up, went the British Residence. People were gathered round the Christmas tree, dressed in a very casual outfits, drinking mulled wine and eating shortbread. Then I realized that there are so many things I need to learn about the Brits and their culture.

2001 was a tough year for my Country. The armed conflict started in February 2001 and ended with the Ohrid Framework Agreement in August the same year. During that period, we were all expected to work longer hours and we were expected to deliver quickly and efficiently. I realised then that I have to take matters into my own hands and learn. I had the best teachers and supporters; I learned a lot, I fell and I got up and it was not as easy as nowadays when you have access to information in your pocket. We did not have smart phones.

That same year, the British Embassy established the visa section.  It all started from scratch. I still remember the first visa applicant. Years were passing and things were changing, I was moving from one department to another and getting more and more confident.  In 2005 we moved into the new building where we still work. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, who paid a visit to North Macedonia last year as well, officially opened it in 2005. These type of visits also added a flavour to my job; so many ministers, high officials such as PM Theresa May, were keeping my adrenalin high and making me love my job more and more. Workwise things changed tremendously, we were rebranded so many times, BREXIT happened and this year Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) became Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

We live in a very difficult time, the pandemic is not a war to sign an agreement and end it, it’s something that we need to fight differently.

I am proud that I work for the country who has enormously engaged to fight the virus and help the whole world.

I feel GREAT that I work for the country that continuously tries to establish GREAT Education, Great Technology, which has GREAT Creativity and GREAT shopping.

We all got older and wiser, we extended our families, some of us even become grandparents, some of us retired, some of us work in different organizations but our smiles remained the same. We all have that on our face when we see each other out of the office.

I will keep that smile on my face as I carry on working for the British Embassy Skopje.