Rita's Albanian family fled the persecution of brutal dictator Slobodan Milosevic and came to London where she dreamed of a career as a singer

Rita’s Albanian family fled the persecution of brutal Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic and came to London where she dreamed of a career as a singer

Sitting in Kylie Minogue’s old chair, Rita Ora brings glamour to The Voice. But her early life was anything but glamorous.

Rita, 24, was born in Pristina, Kosovo at a time when Albanians like her family were being oppressed by dictator Slobodan Milosevic. War crimes tribunals at the Hague heard that the brutal leader planned to “solve the problem” of the Albanians in Kosovo by “getting them together and shooting them.”

Born Rita Sahatçiu in 1990, her first name was in tribute to classic film star Rita Hayworth and her surname was the hereditary profession of her family – Sahatçiu means watchmaker in Albanian. In a nod to the profession, her father gave her the name Ora meaning ‘hour’ because it rolled off the tongue easier.

Rita’s mother, Vera Sahatçiu, is a psychiatrist, and her father, Besnik Sahatçiu, is a pub owner. Her grandfather, Besim Sahatçiu was one of Yugoslavia’s most prolific film directors and according to Rita – had a badass “gangsta” attitude.

Alluding to her childhood nickname Rita Pita she posted an Instagram tribute to him saying: “I miss you grandad….Besim Sahatciu. I love you. You made me believe this was possible. Your stories your movies we had so much fun dressing up. You believed in me before I even did. Dam you were such a Gangsta. Don’t get into any trouble up there. Love Rita Pita.”

After spending the first few months of her life in a Balkan apartment block in Pristina, Rita’s family fled what is now Yugoslavia when she was a year old and she grew up near Portobello Road, London.

Her grandmother Besa who still lives there, told the Sun: “There were riots, uprisings and suppression by the Government of the former Yugoslavia. Kosovars wanted rights like other Yugoslav republics.”

Rita began singing in open mic sessions in London and performed in her dad’s pub. She had her first taste of fame in 2007 when she appeared on Craig David’s Awkward.

In 2009 she auditioned to represent England in the Eurovision song contest but reportedly withdrew because she didn’t feel ready.

She caught the attention of DJ Fresh who was looking for a female singer for his song Hot Right Now and the rest, as they say is history.

The article was originally published here: