By Alexandra Paucescu
At first look, you see a beautiful and sophisticated woman, with gorgeous eyes and impeccable etiquette skills. The Serbian born Laura Ferko holds a Master in geochemistry, but life had different plans for her and her career, which changed more than ones. First, when she landed her first job in public relations, which eventually rounded up with an MBA degree. Fate wanted her to meet her husband through this job. She kept working until it was impossible to keep up with the dynamics of his diplomatic career.
‘My second career turn is happening right now and I’m excited about what the future holds for me. However, stepping into the world of interior design is more like turning my life-long hobby into a running business’ she says candidly. ‘Your Home on Earth’ is the virtual space her various interests are put together, from her interior design journey and what drives her inspiration to diplomatic lifestyle and travels. It is also a collection of memories from which she draws her design narrative.
With “Change begins at the end of our comfort zone” being one of her preferred mottos, it’s no wonder that she embraced every new opportunity and situation with confidence and courage to learn something new and try new approaches.
‘There is a common opinion that diplomatic spouses live in the shadow of their partners. Maybe it was so in the past, however nowadays it all comes down to what the partners agree and if that works for both of them in time.’ She then adds ‘Being a diplomatic spouse often involves a steep learning curve and an incredible set of skills. Most of the times, all these outweigh the disadvantages of the nomadic lifestyle’ which can be quite stressful, I’d add…
She tells me that she moved 7 times in the last 14 years, so she must have mastered the art of perfect integration and adapting to each new environment. She took the opportunity to explore her creativity and passion for interior design with every new location. ‘Basically I’ve been involved in refurbishment, redecoration or full renovation quite often, including renovation or redesigning our own properties, as well as giving a hand to our friends.
Obtaining formal education in interior design is just the natural follow up, to be able to create dream homes for others, too. I always ask myself “what can I do with this space?” to improve its energy flow, to make it even more beautiful or functional. There are so many features that I immediately notice in a space from colours, fabrics, textures, natural light and furniture styles. You only can imagine how marrying a diplomat has accelerated this passion. But I’ve been passionate about interiors for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a child, I was surrounded with art and loved moving furniture as well as changing the paint colour in my bedroom. I remember driving my parents crazy with decoration choices and unexpected changes of the furniture layout.’
With so many diplomatic relocations, she learned step by step to adapt. She says that ‘the concept of “home” has been a complex idea I’ve needed to sort out very early in my diplomatic journey. Navigating the role of “foreign born diplomatic spouse” wasn’t easy at the beginning, taking me far out of any known comfort zone. There were a lot of adjustments to make, including where I feel at home. Suddenly home became closer to my heart rather than a place on the map.
Now home is where my family is, where we build our lives and grow memories. And then, there’s the physical definition of “home”, equally important to me. All those temporary apartments and houses must have certain energy of a “home”. Three or four years at a posting can be a long time, especially in the life of our children, and I want them to have this feeling of home, wherever we are. Our home should also meet our own expectations of aesthetics and functionality. I’m mastering doing that every single time, when making a home away from home.’
She takes the nomadic life that she lives as a great opportunity, which has shaped her into the person she is today. As a naturally curious person, she learned from each new and unknown thing coming her way, from people she met and connected with. It helped her in the process of learning and accepting changes much faster.
She tells me that diplomatic circles might seem distant to public eye and from the outside, it is easy to assume that we live privileged lives, where someone else does the hard work instead of us. ‘Following the saying that “the grass is greener elsewhere..” people only see the shiny part, where futile ‘house-wives’ change elegant outfits and organise fancy dinner parties. Behind the scenes, however, there’s a lot of effort, work and sacrifice. Prejudices on male diplomatic spouses are even harsher, with society often downplaying their role as a family backbone and caretaker. Finding purpose in life besides fulfilling family or diplomatic expectations is equally important to us as finding an adequate support system. It is a golden rule that we understand and relate easiest to other diplomatic spouses. We maybe have different backgrounds or culture but the challenges in our lives are quite the same.’
Her current new position, as spouse of the Slovak ambassador to Australia, is a great privilege. She is still discovering all the given opportunities to support her husband, while building a strong relationship between them, with understanding and encouragement going both ways. ‘This is the foundation of our success. Making our family the key driving force for everything we do and the most important support system is something we value greatly’ she confesses. I strongly believe so too, and I’ve always advised everyone to take an honest look at their relationship and its potential to grow and get stronger, before embarking on a lifetime of diplomatic postings. Otherwise, I’ve seen plenty of ruined marriages and failed relationships.
Diplomatic life teaches us valuable lessons on resilience, self-discipline, confidence and professional reinvention. And so it did to Laura. She has some important tips for other spouses, at the beginning of this road. ‘Never compare yourself to anyone, especially during down times when it is quite easy to lose focus on the positives. Don’t justify yourself to anyone, it’s your life to live. Never stop educating yourself, it builds your confidence. There is no need to have it all, just make the best of what you have!’
Wise words, smart woman…
About the author d
She speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian, gives lectures on intercultural communication and is an active NGO volunteer.