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We are all a product of our life’s journey; but we do not have to allow our past to define our future.

This is my story; a story I want to share to empower others to overcome adversity and oppression.  

To inspire people to be brave,

to challenge themselves to become the person they want to be,

to have the life they want to lead.

When people see me now they see a happily married, successful business woman with the most beautiful baby boy; lucky me eh?  But it hasn’t always been like this…

Deep inside me is still the frightened child who grew up in Turkey.  

The young girl who suffered the frustration and oppression of growing up in a strict Muslim family.

The terror of the abuse I was subjected to still lingers…

its icy fingers can still reach out and touch me, even now I can still feel the fear…

the frustration…

and yes…

the anger, from that part of my life.

I realised 12 years ago that waiting for luck to come along and take care of me was futile. Luck was not going to help me escape, nor help me realise my hopes and dreams for a safe, happy, successful future.  

I knew I had to make my own luck,

create my own escape route

and do whatever it took to realise my dreams and make them come true.

It seems a lifetime ago now, but my new life started in the arrival hall at Heathrow.  I had decided to escape Turkey and all that went with that life by coming to England to be an au pair.  I arrived with just a single suitcase in which to carry my whole world, and just £265 in my pocket with which to make a life.

Looking back, I find it hard to believe I survived the loneliness and fear of that time.  I spoke no English and the isolation I felt in those first few months could so easily have forced me to give in and go back.

But I made myself look forward, I visualised my dreams and I set myself goals.

Tiny goals to start with; learn a new word, make a new friend, get through a day without crying or being afraid.

I gave myself permission to be proud of myself,

permission to feel worthy of happiness,

permission to feel I deserved more from life.

And slowly and with sheer determination, I overcame obstacles and challenges, I made friends, started a small business with a tiny amount of capital and saw it grow and flourish, I re-built my relationship with my family and, particularly, my Dad.

Met the love of my life then came the birth of my beautiful boy and the sheer and utter joy of motherhood.

Life was good, everything thing I’d worked so hard for was in place and I felt truly and deeply happy.  

How little did I know that it could all be ripped apart again so quickly and easily.

Less than six weeks after the birth of my son, my Dad suddenly died; my husband was working long hours, I was an exhausted new Mum and once again felt so alone, scared and full of self-doubt.

I felt I was being punished all over again for wanting and achieving my dreams.  I was devastated and for a while, not sure how to go on.

So many tears, so much heartache… then, one day, I looked through my tears into the eyes of my tiny baby.  I saw my love, my hopes and my dreams reflected there and in that moment I knew I could survive the test, rise to the challenge and achieve even more, for me, for him and for all those other young girls and women out there that want and need to escape lives of fear and oppression in all its’ forms.

So, this is my story; the story of one frightened little girl who had faith in herself, set her goals and achieved them, one by one.

But this is not the end of the story; just the beginning of a new chapter with new goals and an overwhelming desire to inspire and empower others to believe in themselves and their ability to overcome their past, challenge adversity, create their own future and fulfil the potential that they know is inside them.  

Most of all, I want to remind everyone that their past does not define their future.

Elif Köse, April 2019


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