"World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution". [UNHCR]
To honour World Refugee Day we have created a short film, ‘Seeking Refuge’. Many of our interviewees left their home countries as refugees. They describe leaving their homes, their friends and their families behind, and landing in a new country where they were greeted by unfamiliar sounds, smells and sights. Children and adults alike struggled to adapt in countries where they could not speak the language, trying to fit in at school or build a new career from scratch.
For many, feelings of rejection, displacement and vulnerability carried on years after forced migration. ‘I carried on being refugee in a different condition, but I carried on, and it marked me. It made me feel unsafe’, Nicolette Mawas, who fled Egypt for Italy in 1956, told us, ‘Then coming here [to the UK], and in a way, not being accepted […] Because of my accent, they realize I don't belong here, so I don't belong anywhere. That's the worst kind of refugee’.
"The theme of Refugee Week 2021, ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’, is an invitation to extend your hand to someone new. Someone who is outside your current circle, has had an experience you haven’t, or is fighting for a cause you aren’t yet involved in". [Refugee Week]
Doris Hugh was a child when her family were forced out of Egypt following the Suez Crisis. Arriving in London and speaking ‘very little’ English, the family – like many others - were put on buses and housed in Eastwood on an old military base which had been converted into a refugee camp. Entering the communal dining room for the first time, the family were hit with an ‘awful’ smell. ‘For my mother that was the end. She just broke down in tears’. Also in the camp were many Hungarian refugees, who had fled the Hungarian revolution. Doris remembers ‘one very nice Hungarian lady who came, put her arms around my mother, tried to comfort her. She spoke very little English, my mother spoke very little English – how they understood each other I don’t know, but they did, and they became very good friends while we were in the camp’.
In our film, Raymond Dwek remembers the kindness extended to his family by the Jewish communities of both Manchester and Liverpool. Our interviewees often talk about the kindness extended to them by established Ashkenazi communities in the UK who recognised their vulnerability and extended a welcoming hand. ‘There were Jewish families in Nottingham who used to invite us for Friday night dinners’, Doris told us, ‘it gave you a kind of very warm feeling’.