The tale of the genius sisters from the small city of Patos, Albania who are reaching the highest peaks of science

Detina and Argita’s parents believed in the better life away from Albania in 1999 and immigrated together to England, the country that welcomed the massive immigration of Albanians.

The Zalli twins from Patos today have reached the peaks of world science.

Both, eager to know how the microcosm works have studied molecular medicine at the University of Sussex in England to reach doctorates at the University of Leicester.

The Zalli twins in 1997, when they were only 11 years old, dreamed of emigrating to the West for a better future. But, when this was finally realized, the journey had not been at all easy. They had been promised to go to England by plane but they ended up in a van for 8 days.

“My flesh trembles when I remember those days,” claims Detina, adding that this, however, was the most comfortable way they had at that time, because many others had lost their lives on their way to Italy.

Detina emphasizes the hospitality that the English people had shown them. They told that they helped them with everything especially older people. However, some of them were quite indifferent.

The twins were initially impressed by the garden and greenery of their hotel. Many people were sitting there happily playing and talking.

What the Zalli sisters wanted most was school. They were told that they could not attend school for one year because they had to learn the language first and that the registrations for the school year had already been finished. Their concern was also noticed by the hotel owner, a Spanish who spoke Italian to the girls. He was very interested to find them a solution and finally found them a public school where they would start learning. The sisters had to be tested in English, physics, math and biology. They successfully passed the test and started school in October.

Detina tells about the difficulties they had in the beginning in England. They found language as the main barrier, not leaving aside the racism of their English peers. They often left the girls the last in queue to get lunch or tossed them with papers or light things. “They got into groups and called us ‘Slovak’ or other things,” Detina told for KosovaLive360.

The Zalli sisters had set themselves a goal, to work as hard as possible and achieve high results. Only in this way would they oppose these behaviors.

The school principal had always exemplified the twins as the most distinguished students. When they finished school, Detina and Argita continued their education at Grammar School, one of the best schools in England. “This school was different as day and night, because here teaching, order and discipline were at a higher level,” says Argita.

When time to apply to university came, the English government granted an amnesty to those family immigrants who had children under the age of 18, giving them a permanent residence permit in England. This was a lucky moment for the Zalli sisters. They applied to the university and received positive responses. After two weeks, the girls were asked for a document proving that they had acquired the right to reside or would have to pay 10,500£ a year each. Thanks to a social work assistant who struggled to get confirmation at the Home Office, they continued their studies at the University of Sussex without obstacles.

“Ever since we were little 4-5 years old, we dreamed of becoming a doctor. “Our parents bought us a toy stethoscope, and we also ‘visited’ our friends in the neighborhood,” says Detina.

“At the University of Sussex we were two of the best students. From there, we continued to apply for a doctorate. “I had doctoral interviews at the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester, as well as Detina” Argita said.

What impressed Argita after the interview was when the dean of the University of Birmingham prof. Carroll went into the room and shook hands with the two girls, for the ingenuity and wisdom they had shown in the interview.

They took a place for a doctorate; Detina because of the department she was interested in, chose the University of Leicester while Argita took her place in that of Birmingham University.

Detina, asked about cancer research at the University of Leicester, begins to tell about the serious disease of cancer, which affects almost every family.

“Given that cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, it is clear that it will be an important research center for any medical research institute. At the age of 13 I translated for many Albanian immigrants suffering from various diseases, which made me more sensitive to ‘killer’ diseases, one of which, ‘cancer’. “The desire to help people as much as possible made me enter this difficult but not impossible field” says Detina.

“I continued to work on a protein called Nek8, whose mutations have been shown to cause breast cancer as well as ‘polycystic kidney disease’, a kidney disease characterized by enlarged kidneys that lead to kidney failure. My project consisted of finding out how this protein functioned in relation to other proteins; to find the molecular pathways and ways to stop the bad communication of this protein with other proteins ” claims the scientist Detina.

Detina managed to complete her doctorate a year ahead of her colleagues and published an important finding in a scientific journal to continue working at the world’s most known Harvard University.

“My application at Harvard University started out as a game, a challenge in itself. I wanted to know my limits in science and decided to try Harvard. My CV caught the attention of Professor Roland Baron, one of the best scientists in the world, who did an hour-long skype interview with me. I was the first person (out of ten others) to be interviewed and the interview went great. Later, Professor Baron invited me to Boston where I would present my scientific work that I had done in the first laboratory and I would be interviewed by eight other scientists”, Detina continues.

Everything had gone well for Detina. She remembers how after the interview everyone smiled and liked her work.

“After a tiring day of interviews, the professor invites me to the office where he tells me: ‘The job is yours. “I want you to work in my lab.” I was a little surprised because I did not expect such a quick response. “Usually, they return the answer after a week”, says Detina.

She was overjoyed because she had obtained the challenge she had set for herself. She did not want to accept this job because her whole family lived in England and was very close to her twin Argita. They gave her a week to think and after she consulted with the family she accepted the Harvard offer.

Now Detina lives and works in America.

The main goal of her life is family happiness and career success.

“I feel happy when I help others and I hope to continue on this path. In my opinion the greatest pleasure is to share my knowledge with other people. I also want to do such a thing “, adds Detina with joy.

Argita continues to live in England where she is doing a PhD at University College London. She is the youngest of the group. She works in the field of epidemiology and public health and collaborates with the best scientists in the world. She is married to Redin Dokaj, from whom she receives the greatest support.

She still remembers her childhood in Albania. She remembers very well the days at school when she and her sister did not want to get grades lower than 10 and how they have always been close to each other. Argita emphasizes the role of the family in their achievements, and wants to thank the parents who gave them the first steps towards knowledge, work and ambitions.

Argita in collaboration with the Nobel Prize-winning woman in Physiology or Medicine will publish their work in a scientific journal.

Apart from science, Argita also likes the art of writing, piano and cinema. “I like to reflect my thoughts on a white sheet and feel good when I read them. I like to play the piano, and I really want to master this hobby even though my time is very limited. I like the cinema, while watching movies with my best friend Redin “, says Argita.

She enjoys a lot of coffee with her mother, conversations, jokes of grandparents. She says that warm love can only be given by the people of your country.

She shows how often they talk to Detina on Skype and how much fun they have together. “We see each other three times a year, I miss her very much”, continues Argita.

She also shows how few Albanians she meets in London and all those she meets are successful in the field of economy and business.

“The Albanian people are a very intelligent people, very committed to reaching the top. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to move forward. If our parents had not taken the road to England, Detin and I would have continued the medical school in Tirana, but we would not have had the opportunity to collaborate with the best scientists in the world, and make our name known in the field of science “, emphasizes Argita.

Argita says it is important to find the right balance between family life and career. “You will never be satisfied with your work, until you are satisfied with your life. I would never feel complete without having the love and warmth of my husband, as well as my parents and sister and for this I thank them with all my heart “

A message for young people from the Zalli sisters is to move on, believe in your dreams and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

“Like me and Detina, we are connected with your history, because like you, we have also studied in Albanian schools and we know the importance and the effort you make to become someone in life”, says Argita.

The Zalli sisters also emphasize the importance of people in our lives. We need to have people close to us, who support us and love us. You need to do the same for them in order to succeed in your career.

“Success lasts only for a moment and is later forgotten. The world of science is very wild. Also, you need to understand that the higher you are in your career, the more responsibilities and jobs you will have. “Deti and I are just two of you and we have full confidence that you will succeed, just like us, in the future we hope to reach where we want”, conclude the Albanian scientists in the world.

This article was written by Aridon Haxhiu