For our Words Matter x National Storytelling Week campaign, we hear from our team about which words matter to them, and why.
Trigger warning: The Holocaust
I have a sheaf of letters written by my grandparents, Hedwig and Arthur Sigler, from wartime Nazi Germany to my father who had escaped to England on the Kindertransport. As I read those letters the words that keep coming to mind are ‘illegal’ and ‘safe passage’. To the Nazis my grandparents – together with their siblings, relatives and friends – were ‘illegal’ – Jews with no rights. For them there was no ‘safe passage’. They applied for visas to the United States, Colombia, Cuba, Uruguay, Argentina and Britain. But every door was closed. And had they tried to escape across borders, refugees fleeing the onslaught of the Holocaust, then they would have been deemed illegal in the countries they reached. The designation of ‘illegal’ and the lack of safe passage were my grandparents’ death warrants, transported to Auschwitz in July 1942. And murdered. And the plight of refugees continues till today.Nick Sigler, MRN Chair
Ana’s story is split into three parts:
“The burden of explaining where you are from” can be read here.
“Migration discourse is founded on colonial lies” can be read here.
“A story about Akrotiri and Dhekelia” can be read here.
We also hear from our wider community about the importance of language.
There are layers to our struggles, and they are all interconnected.Japanese migrant to the UK
The full story can be read here.
The first week I came here, every member of my family on video call just asked me about the weather and how cold London is at that particular time. After speaking for a few minutes, I would run out of things to talk about. When I moved here, I came with just three bags of my prized possessions and barely knew two people from back home. The first few months are hard, when you are trying to figure out how to use the transport, how to walk wearing three layers, and how to eat food that tastes every bit different from how it tastes back at home. But slowly, you find your footing. You meet people that invite you to your house, offer you tea and after talking for some time you realise you might have more in common with this stranger in a different continent than your best friend back at home. You slowly begin to understand that despite all the differences, we are all the same beneath. We just have to be patient. I work a part time job with mostly students from all parts of the world and we spend most of our time trying to find common threads on the most random subjects. And it makes me realise it’s the people, people from all over the world that live in London, who are trying to make this a home, they are the ones looking out for each other. Now I talk to my parents about my day and something new I learned instead of just talking about the weather.Indian International Student
When I first came to the UK as an asylum seeker, people made quick assumptions about the way I looked or my accent. They asked me questions like “You don’t belong here” or “can I see your passport?” They didn’t accept me because they saw me as different.
The emphasis on ‘integrating’ means we are expected to be part of the wider majority and forces us to lose our individual identities if they’re seen to be different. ‘Inclusion’ means your culture, identity and experience are accepted and valued.
When I was supported by social services, there was a big picture of Albert Einstein in the office. Underneath were the words “Einstein was a refugee”. That stayed with me because it made me feel that it is possible to be both a refugee and successful.Member of MRN community