Dear Albania: Eliza Dushku discusses Immigration, Bernie Sanders, and Homelessness

Photo Credit: Zengzheng Wang

Watertown native and Buffy The Vampire Slayer actress Eliza Dushku didn’t have dreams of being an actress. She didn’t really have much interest in it at all, until she followed her brother to a casting call in Boston when they were kids. But even with her serendipitous trip to that casting call, which led to a career in Hollywood, Dushku hasn’t forgotten what is most important to her: Helping others, activism, and most of all, her Family.

“My mother was a teacher for 47 years at Suffolk, and my Dad grew up in the South End,” said Dushku. “And although I grew up in the suburbs in Watertown, I still feel Boston was a big part of my life growing up,” she continued. “When I was nine years old, I followed my Brother to an audition he had at Collinge Pickman casting in Harvard Square and that led to being cast in my first role, and from that point on, I began growing up all over the world, wherever I was shooting.

“My Brother, Nate, was the one with the interest in film, and I was just the kid sister who followed her Brothers everywhere,” said Dushku. “I had a little bit of random luck, and was cast in a little Warner Bros. independent movie, and they flew my Mom and I out the Hollywood.”

Recently, Dushku and her brother teamed up to create Dear Albania, a documentary about her Albanian heritage. She’s has also found time to hit the campaign trail for Senator Bernie Sanders, and even introduced him at a rally in Keene, New Hampshire back on February 2, a few days before his victory in the state’s primary. For her, it’s not just one issue that has helped her decide who she is supporting for the upcoming election, either. Politics have always been a part of Dushku’s life, given that her Mother was a Political Science Professor at Suffolk University, and political awareness was instilled in her at a very early age.

“My Mother and my Step-Father considered themselves Democratic Socialists, and that was something that made me different from my friends,” says Dushku. “But with Bernie, his ideas were something that were talked about at my home by my parents most of my life, and so it’s really exciting to see a candidate that follows those ideas now,” she continues. “I agree with Bernie’s ideas and policies on immigration, and I think most people in this country had parents or grandparents that immigrated from somewhere. I think most of these policies that are being stressed by other candidates go against the fiber of the American story.”

“We all come from an immigrant story,” Dushku said. “And I really feel that it’s time to remember where we all came from.”

Dushku said she finds some of Sanders’ other policies to be of high importance as well, such as the fight for a livable wage, and healthcare for all, as well.

“50 million Americans suffer from hunger. I don’t think that’s the America that the other candidates speak to,” she said. “We’re sort of playing a game right now, acting like something we are not, and the reality is that there are more people suffering in America than doing well,” she continues. “I think Bernie is the only one brave enough to say it, and the only one trying to make changes.”

“People say to me, ‘how can you not support a woman becoming President?’, but it has nothing to do with me not wanting a woman to become President,” Dushku said. “It has to do with, as a woman, supporting the candidate that has the best policies for women.”

And while she talks highly of Sanders’ activism over the years, Dushku has done her fair share of activism as well. To be more specific, she and the men in her family were very influential in making sure Camp Hale, once an all-boys camp that she was jealous of her Brothers attending as children, began to allow girls to attend, as well.

“My Father and his three brother, and my three Brothers all went to this camp, and it’s really a wonderful camp for mostly inner-city kids,” said Dushku. “This was a boy’s camp for 112 years, and my Dad and my brothers, and the alumni all got behind the idea of making it a girls camp as well, and now hundreds of inner-city girls are able to go.”

Dushku lived in Los Angeles for a number of years before recently coming back to Massachusetts to attend Suffolk University, to obtain her degree in Sociology. With that, Dushku fully acknowledges the burden of student loan debt that her classmates carry.

“I just moved back to Boston, and after 15 years of saying I was going to move back to go to school, I am finally a student again,” says Dushku. “Right in front of me is the problem of student debt. It used to be the best thing you could teach your kids was to go to college and get an education, and find a great job,” she continues. “Unfortunately, we’ve gotten to a place where I’ve had classmates that have had to drop out after one or two semesters because when they go to college, they wind up signing a deal with the devil, facing a lifetime of debt that they will likely never get out from under.”

To go along with her Sociology major, she has been working in the employment offices at Pine Street Inn helping Boston’s homeless to get them back on their feet and into a job. She also said she’s planning on becoming more involved with addiction recovery services once she begins her sophomore year.

“I’ve been involved with Pine Street Inn since I was very young, having served meals there on holidays over the years, and this last semester at Suffolk, I actually took a class called ‘homelessness’, and was able to intern at Pine Street,” said Dushku. “It was really remarkable to participate in, and contribute to the system there, and Boston HandyWorks in Jamaica Plain, and I really learned a lot at these places, about what it means to be an advocate for Pine Street and the homeless around Boston.”


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