For Tribeca Doorman, Path to Citizenship Began on a Whim

Albanian-native Limmy Lala recently became an American citizen, years after he submitted a visa lottery application just to humor his friend. (Photo by Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib)

Tribeca Trib‘s April Koral interviewed a Manhattan doorman, Limmy Lala, an Albanian native who became an American citizen on Aug. 23, four years after coming to the United States through the diversity visa lottery. The 39-year-old has been working at a luxury apartment complex in Tribeca since August 2008. When Lala left Peshkipo, in northern Albania, it wasn’t his intention to become a doorman, “but everybody has a beginning,” he says.

Lala works as a doorman at an apartment building in Tribeca. It wasn't an occupation he planned when he thought about moving to the United States, "but everybody has a beginning." (Photo by Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib)

Lala never had planned to leave to leave Albania. He had a university degree in finance and could get a good job. But in 2004, Lala applied to the visa lottery to humor his friend Sam who helped send lottery applications over the Internet. It might have started as a joke, but it wasn’t so funny when Lala’s application was selected. He decided to take the next steps in the application process. “I had invested all those years to study and be something over there,” he said. “But I thought, well, I am successful here, let me see if I could be successful there.”

His mother, with whom he lived, “was very upset” that her son was leaving the country, Lala said.

All my life I had problems with a mislocated hip. For 10 years she took me back and forth from the hospital. I didn’t walk until I was six. We were very connected and she didn’t want me to leave. But she realized that I had to take this opportunity.

Like many immigrants, Lala had to start over when he arrived in the United States.

For my first job, I worked night shift as a maintenance man, 11 to 7, and then at 8 went to school to learn English. Then I went home, had lunch and went to sleep.

The first two years were the hardest. I missed my family, my friends. Then I got this job as a doorman and I started to get to know people. Now, if I have the day off, people ask, “Where were you last weekend?” It’s a good feeling that someone is missing you.

I did not come here to be a doorman, but everybody has a beginning. Maybe one day I will try to open a business, a car wash. I don’t say, I will be a big man here, but I want to be comfortable.

Now a citizen, with a wife from his home town, Lala may be one step closer to finding that comfort.

“I was very excited to become a citizen,” he said. “If you become a citizen, people respect you. ‘This guy,’ they say, ‘he’s an American!'”

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