Irena Drezi is one of the top models in Ireland, and on World Refugee Day her story needs to be heard.
She moved here without a word of English and now speaks six languages!
Now an extremely successful model, and looking to take on the music industry too, she told Goss.ie about her journey through Ireland’s refugee system, including her time spent in direct provision:
My parents and I emigrated from Czech Republic to Ireland in the year 2000, I was four years old.
I was young and didn’t quite understand what was going on but now I’m grateful for everything.
We were held at Dublin airport for hours of questioning, I slept for most of it but remember my parents worrying that we’re gonna be sent back straight away.
Back when I was a 98kg hunny with @markwill ✨ I’ve lost two stone since this shoot, not purposely. I went through months of depression and had several break downs which lead me down the wrong path. To anyone going through a tough time, whether it be family issues, body image issues or whatever it may be, know you’re not alone. There’s help and support out there. Don’t sit in silence. Don’t dwell on the past, you have your whole life ahead of you so don’t waste it away ???? #staystrong #bodypositive
Luckily my Dad had perfect English and the Emigration officers heard our story and tried to help us.
There were many other families and nationalities in this waiting room.
Some got deported.
We were sent to a refugee centre somewhere in Dublin for a few days while we waited for their approval.
We got sent to the camp based in Athlone. Driving in it looked like a concentration camp.
There were several caravans and fences. You were assigned to a specific caravan based on how many family members there were. It looked scary to be honest.
The caravan had a bathroom, one bedroom, a kitchen and a pull-out sofa. It was clean and actually quite nice.
I’ve had Keratosis Polaris on my arms since I was a child, my hips, legs and bum grew too fast leading to stretch marks, I have uneven skin tone all over, cellulite and scars. I had body dysmorphia disorder for four years and tried to starve myself. I could’ve easily wiped all of this away with an app but I didn’t. This is real. Find the strength to accept all your flaws and say it’s ok not to be perfect, because perfect doesn’t exist ???? #bodypositive #edrecovery #positivethinking
I could lie to you and say it was the worst experience of my life but it wasn’t.
We were given free food, hot water, heat and shelter.
My parents weren’t allowed to work and the curfew was 8 or 9 I think.
My parents enrolled me in a primary school nearby and there was a bus that collected us and brought us back. I had not one word of English.
We spent two years there until we were finally granted permission to stay by the President herself.
By this time my English was good, I made a lot of friends there that were from various countries and I think this is why I do well with languages considering I speak six.
There was a park with swings and slides for the kids at the top of the camp. Luckily we were only there for two years but I know some families were there for nearly ten.
At school, I’d always feel embarrassed when teachers and kids asked me where I lived.
Years later I studied business and law but left to become a model. I now work with top brands and well-known people.
I will always love Ireland, I might be from Prague but Ireland is my home.
The people and the country itself have a great place in my heart and forever will.
Thank you to your country and the people who helped us stay and start a new life ????