Elina Liepina came to Ireland from Latvia in 2005 and she has been here in Newry for over 15 years now and works at Newry Leisure Centre where she is truly passionate about her job.

Elina says “I choose Ireland because my mummy was here at first. After I had finished my secondary school I emigrated and joined my mum.  I didn’t have any plans to move abroad but I missed my mummy so much. I was and am very patriotic about my country and could not understand why people move abroad. I came to Newry because my mummy was working here already”

Elina Liepina at the Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Elina Liepina at the Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

Coming from Latvia, Elina felt quite strange at the beginning, even going to the shops she felt like no one really acknowledged her. Because of how she felt, Elina had a conversation with her mother that resulted in them deciding that Elina needed to go further with her studies and that’s when she chose to study in Newry Tech in the arts. Between studies Elina managed to get a few jobs without speaking good English. Because of the lack of English Elina felt really afraid of speaking up. But this did not stop Elina. Elina explains “Irish people were so nice that they have never ever corrected me”

Coming from a small village of 49 people in Latvia she had a strong opinion that her community was everything and making the decision to leave was not a decision she made lightly. Elina stresses. "I really loved the place I was growing up in back in Latvia. I was into everything back then. All kind of sports and swimming and all. To be honest I have not been travelling much in Latvia really so I can openly say that I know and have seen more in Ireland than in my own home country. I have definitely explored more of myself in Ireland over the past 15 years that I am here. Unfortunately, I do not have much family back in Latvia now. Just my auntie and uncle so I have not left many behind really. When I do go back to Latvia, I just go to visit them and sight see” 

Elina Liepina. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Elina Liepina. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

Elina feels so lucky that moving to Ireland was never planned, that it just happened because of her mother. She always reminds herself how good it was that it all turned out so good and that she is still here after all these years. For Elina Newry is a very big deal for her, she loves the shops here and the night clubs and the people.  Elina recalls “I remember when I started going out with friends from Newry and they were very open and very supportive in my company and I can openly say that I am very well integrated with the majority of my friends local people. I have lost loads of friends back in Latvia but I have adapted very quickly to the Newry environment which I call the new culture and I can now say that, because I have been living here for over 15 years now”

For Elina fitness is a true passion and she is so fortunate that she gets to do what she loves for a job working in Newry Leisure centre. There Elina works as the fitness instructor and feels so blessed that she gets to do what she loves everyday. Throughout her whole life Elina has always been an active person. Obtaining her degree in fitness which allows her to be a gym instructor, as well as a personal trainer.  As the result of the current situation with the lockdown herself and her friend Dominika have started Zoom exercise classes called Me Time Studio. They decided to keep going and to keep the classes alive despite the lockdown to keep fitness in the community alive more than ever. She strongly feels that it was the best thing that ever happened as it brought more people together and got the best of them in the difficult times we are living in now.

Elina really enjoys reading in her quiet time and to learn new things, even with fitting it around her new-born baby. Elina says  “I do read books from fiction books to the anatomy books. I love to study a lot and learn new things. Even though I have a new-born baby and it takes a lot of my time lately. I have managed during the lockdown to pass a few fitness related courses, I done this because fitness is not just my job but my passion. I think everyone should know that movement and fitness is very good for you and as someone once said our health is our wealth. In my eyes a balanced body is the core and road to physical and mental health” 

Deep down Elina feels that Newry is her home now. It feels for her that it has been an amazing starting point and hope it will be for a long, long time.  She has met amazing long-term friends and also her second half here. Newry gave Elina opportunities to grow and study and do what she really loves and for that she will be forever thankful.  As a Newry native Elina really has a love for this place and feels fortunate to say that she has never come across a nasty person in her life. She does consider herself as living in a happy bubble. Elina does follow the news and shares her worries that she hopes her two girls can grow up in a safe environment in Newry,

Elina shares with me that she thinks there is a good community here in Newry and she has strong hope that Newry won’t be dragged down into an unsafe place as she knows the people would not let it happen.  Elina says  “I am pretty optimistic that we are in a good place. I think that at the minute we are going in a good direction. There are loads of changes happening right now. I would like to think as a young mummy I can go safely with my kids outdoor somewhere. On that topic Newry definitely is in need of a park. "I am aware there is talk about Albert Basin park at the minute. I do hope we will get lovely park in the heart of our city. I have to say even though the weather in this country is very unpredictable I believe outdoor places will make a huge difference for everybody. It matters even more now than ever especially from what happened last year”

Elina is a proud Latvian but she believes Newry is now her home and if you were to ask her the question would she move back to Latvia her answer would be no. She started her life in Latvia but spent the best time of her life in Newry.  On that note Elina finalised by saying “My family and friends are here and I do not plan to leave anytime soon!

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