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Salon owner goes back to work week after Belfast race hate attack

By Adrian Rutherford and Rebecca Black

Published 20/04/2015

Asta Samaliute and her partner Ben Grigisas join residents in a community protest outside Asta’s Glam Factory in east Belfast last week
Asta Samaliute and her partner Ben Grigisas join residents in a community protest outside Asta’s Glam Factory in east Belfast last week

A young woman whose nail salon was destroyed in a racist attack says she is looking forward to returning to work today.

Asta Samaliute is back in business barely a week after her premises in east Belfast were set on fire.

The 24-year-old Lithuanian says she is renting space in another salon until her own place is ready for use again.

She said she is determined to put the events of the last week behind her.

"I'm back to work," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I can't wait to get back and it will keep my mind off things. There is no point sitting at home and crying about it.

"I have to move on and do what I can to get back on my feet as soon as I can."

Police have said the attack on Asta's Glam Factory on Castlereagh Street last Monday night was racially motivated.

Four men forced open the shutters of the property before pouring accelerant and setting it on fire.

The salon was extensively damaged by fire and smoke.

The attack caused outrage in the east Belfast community, and the following night more than 100 people turned out in a show of support for the young woman.

A fundraising page has also gathered more than £8,500 in donations.

Asta, who plans to use the money to buy new furniture for her salon, said she has been overwhelmed by the public reaction.

"People have been amazing and so generous," she added.

"I don't know if I would be able to do it without people's support, and without that funding I would not be able to have my salon again.

"Everyone has been supportive and I'm excited to be going back to work."

Asta moved to Northern Ireland six years ago.

She had spent more than two years building up her business, and had only moved into her Castlereagh Street premises earlier this month.

She said it was likely to be three months before she will be able to reopen her premises.

Meanwhile, a Polish-born campaigner says that she has felt tempted to leave Northern Ireland because of racism.

Eva Grosman (left), who co-founded the award-winning Unite against Hate campaign, said that she knew several migrant families who have left Northern Ireland.

Asked in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph if she too had considered going, Eva replied: "Absolutely, because I feel it is such a relentless task here.

"Through the Centre for Democracy and Peacebuilding we run the Unite Against Hate campaign, so I deal with issues around prejudice and hate on a daily basis.

"It is so draining; at the end of the day, life is about having fun."

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