A BEAUTY queen competing to be Miss England has revealed she is a former refugee who fled Afghanistan aged three with her family – and fought for ten years to find safety.
And she recalled the moment that she, her mum and four-year-old sister Surya piled into the boat.
Lida, who was just five at the time, said: “It was one of those plastic ones that you pump up. It wasn’t safe.
“But there was no time to talk things through — it was now or never.
“It was, ‘Quickly, jump on this boat, because we don’t know if someone else will.’
“The hardest part was knowing that my life could end at any moment, that I could lose my mum. I was holding her hand at all times, not knowing what would happen. But we thought that if we went back to Afghanistan, we would die.
“We were fighting for everything we wanted, chasing safety and peace.
“Europe for us represented peace and life, instead of death. And my mum was determined we would make it.”
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And she says that entering the Miss England contest is “not about being beautiful. It’s about all I’ve endured over those years — that struggle, and all I lost.”
She recalled how her family’s nightmare began in 1995 when the extremist Taliban rose to power.
Fearing for their safety, her mum Brishna decided to flee to Iran with her daughters.
Soon after, they travelled to Turkmenistan and then Russia by train.
The journey that followed saw them travel with a large group of refugees from Russia to Poland, often on foot, carrying their few belongings.
Occasionally they would be told to pack into large lorries that the smugglers had taken control of, crammed together so tightly that there was barely room to breathe.
Lida said: “When we finally arrived in Poland, we were put in a massive gym hall and everyone was assembled, waiting for the next step.
“That was one of the hardest times, because everyone was scared.
“We all thought that if we were forced to go back, we would die.”
After escaping deportation from Poland, the family travelled to the coast, then by sea to neighbouring Germany by dinghy.
They then claimed asylum in the Netherlands in 2001.
Lida said: “It was nearly six years later when they told us we could stay and gave us Dutch citizenship. Finally, after all we’d been through, we were safe.”
Now working in public relations, Lida entered Miss England after winning a competition celebrating natural beauty — and will now compete for one of 15 places in the grand final on August 22.