Ella Antony celebrates her 33th birthday at the supermarket where she works | Photo: ANSA
Ella Antony celebrates her 33th birthday at the supermarket where she works | Photo: ANSA

Ella Antony, a 33-year-old Nigerian migrant who came to Italy five years ago now works at a Carrefour supermarket in Rome, going from strength to strength. After a grueling trip across Africa and the Mediterranean five years ago, she has successfully integrated into her new life in Italy, and is loving every moment of it.

Ella Antony, a 33-year-old Nigerian woman, is a thriving refugees in Italy, who is truly living her best life. But it was only five years ago that Ella found herself having to cross the desert in Niger to reach Libya. From there, she boarded a ship to cross the Mediterranean, ultimately landing in Taranto.

It took her several years to get used to her new life in Italy, but since July 19, she has been working for the delicatessen department of a Carrefour supermarket in Rome.

"This is my job for the moment and I want to learn all of my job's tasks to face the future in the best way possible," she told the Italian ANSA news agency. 

So far, she has been extremely successful at her job at the supermarket located near Rome's Piazza Bologna.

"Ella has learned quickly," Aniello Bove, human resources manager at Carrefour, said. "Thanks to her contagious willpower ... the deli's sales have gone up" to a point where it became one of the best-selling departments in Italy, he added.

The youngest of eight children

Ella left her mother and seven siblings, one brother and six sisters, behind when she left Nigeria. Her father had died when she was five. "When I left Nigeria, I worked as an assistant director of photography in the movie sector," she remembers. Previously, she had worked for a catering business "because I have always loved to cook."

When she arrived in Italy, Ella lived for a month and a half at a holding center in Taranto before moving to the Abruzzo region. She then moved to Monterotondo, a town near Rome, where she lived for two years at a center for women in difficulty.

"I followed a course there to learn Italian, then did a computer course and an internship in the film industry," Ella says. Subsequently, she completed a course to get an Italian middle school diploma, and then obtained the necessary documents to remain in Italy. She later moved to the town of Passo Corese, near Rieti, where she is currently renting an apartment with a friend.

Thanks to a social worker, Ella started attending a training course in March 2018 organized by the human resources agency, Adecco. The training was held together with a group of 10 women as part of the project Domus.

This project is dedicated to refugee women who are finding themselves in a vulnerable situation. It is part of the MEP (Modelling Employability Process for Refugees) initiative, which is a wider project organized by the Adecco Foundation for equal opportunities in tandem with the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Support from colleagues

"The day of my interview at the supermarket I thought to myself: 'Let's hope they hire me and that I will like my job.' And I did," Ella gushes. She started at Carrefour by taking part in a paid internship in the deli department first, where she cooked and served food. Since Ella loves to cook and delights in seeing customers pleased with the food she prepares, it was a perfect match for her.

On July 19, she signed a contract with Carrefour, and has been working for the gastronomy department ever since. Not only does she enjoy the work, but she also feels that she has found '"a family" among colleagues at the supermarket.

"They treat me like one of them, a worker. In Italy, it's not very easy for us black foreigners, I was scared at the beginning. When I got to work on November 25, my birthday, they surprised me with a cake and presents," Ella said, adding that up to that day, she had never celebrated her birthday before.

"I want to give strength to others when they think they can't survive - the strength to build a new life."