UPF National Refugee Week Event: 'Footsteps'

June 25th 2021

Around 130 people joined the online Zoom Meeting, and were able to hear the very moving, real-life stories of 6 people who came to the United Kingdom as refugees.

They gave us a brief glimpse into the difficulties they had faced, in their home country, on their journey to these shores, and after arrival here, but it was enough to deeply move our hearts, and to realise the greatness of these, and countless other people, who have had this kind of experience.

 All had arrived in the UK with next to nothing, had overcome so many difficulties  -  cultural, language, legal and financial -  and gradually rebuilt their lives to the point where they could begin to help others, with both practical and moral support.

Eugene described the fear and terror of the Rwandan genocide in the early 1990’s, fleeing with his family, then finding himself alone. He managed to re-unite with his family, relocated to several African countries, and finally arrived in the UK in 2005. Having established himself here, he has been able to help and encourage others, particularly young people from the Rwandan community, to find a sense of value and purpose in their lives.

Reza left war-torn Afghanistan, like many other young men, and made a long journey to the UK, via numerous countries and surviving several dangerous border crossings. He is now married, with 3 lovely children,  is self-employed, has established several businesses, and has been able to help a number of people in this way, from both within and outside the Afghan community, as well as being a source of much wisdom and practical advice.

Liri described the difficulties in coming from a very chaotic situation in Albania, and then the personal and legal difficulties she faced in Britain, having to attend countless hearings in order to be able to finally stay and have stability in her life. She has done a tremendous amount of good work, particularly in fostering children, and on a return trip to Albania with WFWP was able to talk with Members of Parliament there who expressed an interest in introducing foster care into their country!

Next, Shenaz described in some detail the incredible pain and trauma of being forced to leave Uganda by former President, Idi Amin in 1972. All Asians without Ugandan passports were told to leave within 90 days, take one suitcase of clothes with them, and just £50 per family! Shenaz is now Chair of Interfaith at the Clifton Road Mosque in Birmingham and will soon become the next Chair of the Birmingham Council of Faiths. How wonderful!

Margaret, having fled from a terrible civil war in what is now South Sudan, shared that one of the biggest challenges in the UK has been raising her 5 children in such an unfamiliar culture, allied to the fact that she herself was not so familiar with the English language. She has managed to help them receive a good education, and is so proud of them all!

Finally, Mohsen described the trauma of being a teenage child-soldier, on the front line with his schoolmates in the Iran/Iraq War, having to leave Iran in search of true freedom and a new life, and arriving in Birmingham with nothing other than his dreams and aspirations. Gradually bringing his family to the UK, he rebuilt his career in art, has taught and inspired numerous children over the years, and been able to showcase his beautiful paintings at more than 70 national and international exhibitions.

We concluded a remarkable evening by hearing a few words from Ruth, an elderly Jewish lady and dear friend who arrived in Britain, after escaping Nazi persecution at the beginning of World War II. She reached the remarkable milestone of 100 years old in May, and we were able to finish on a high note by everyone offering her their most heartfelt congratulations!

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