Peace & Prosperity, In Uganda & Beyond.
Welcome to the fourth of our 50 Ugandan Asian Stories. This story is by an anonymous contributor who, like so many others, had to flee Uganda with his parents and siblings.
This contributor was just eleven years old when he had to leave his hometown of Jinja. Together with his parents, he left behind a slow-paced and carefree lifestyle that they all enjoyed.
However, they did, at least, manage to escape Uganda before chaos ensued, and they had enough money to rent a roof over their heads while rebuilding their lives in London.
Eventually, this contributor was able to build a prosperous career in retail, and achieve the same happiness in the UK that he once enjoyed in Uganda.
This is his uplifting story.
A stress-free lifestyle for all back home
“Back in Jinja, life was relaxed. I spent most of my leisure time at Amber Court with my siblings, playing sports and socialising with other kids. I remember that there was a pool table there which I wished I could play on, but at ten years old I was too short to reach the table or manage the cue. I did, however, love to eat roasted peanuts from a cart vendor—they were so fresh and tasty, and they had a distinctive smell which I remember even today.
In fact, one of my only bad memories from Jinja is of injuring my head badly and being admitted to hospital. I was in the hospital for some time, and it was boring because I had to stay in bed. But, even in this case, I remained in good spirits as visiting rules weren’t strict and I had lots of family and friends visit me, which helped pass the time.
Even my parent’s lives were relatively stress-free. Like most women in Jinja, and in many other parts of the world at that time, my mother was a housewife. Meanwhile, my father was a successful lawyer in Jinja. I remember that he would start work in the morning and be home at 1pm for lunch and a quick nap, before returning to work at 3pm for a couple more hours. And in his free time, my father would meet his friends at Jinja Recreation Club. Indeed, life was simple and peaceful.”
A quick escape
“One day, all of a sudden, my father told me we had to leave Uganda, but he never said why. There were so many emotions rising within me at the prospect of leaving home that I didn’t even think to ask him—and anyway, at eleven years of age, I couldn’t comprehend what was going on politically. My initial rush of panic turned into excitement, while my thoughts raced endlessly. Where would we go? What would we do next? I was ready for an adventure.
It must have been really tough for the older generations, though: Uganda had been their home for many decades, and they understood the gravity of the situation in terms of how much they were about to lose. My family was probably one of the first to leave the country, during the calm before the storm while people were still processing what was happening and how it was going to change their lives. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any soldiers or anything that made me fearful during our drive to the airport.
We boarded our flight and landed safely at Heathrow Airport. My uncle, who already lived in the UK, organised a taxi to take us to our new home in London.”
Settling in & growing up
“Luckily, we had enough money to rent a flat in Hendon during our first year in the UK. But life felt very different than it was in Jinja, I didn’t think it was as nice. We had domestic help in Jinja, but in the UK, we had to do everything ourselves; and because my father got a job in the legal field in London within a few months, my mother bore the brunt of that hardship.
After a year, my father was able to buy us a house in Kingsbury, so we moved out of our flat in Hendon and I moved schools. I enjoyed my new school, and I went on to college too. I wanted to become an accountant, because I wasn’t much of a reader but I did understand numbers—to me, numbers told a story. I was at a crossroads with what I should do after college, and I decided to take a year off to think about things.
It was during this time that I was offered a job as the manager of a retail store. The offer was too good to turn down, so I took the opportunity; after some time, I knew that this was the career for me, and accountancy went out the window.”
“Today, I still work in the retail industry, and I even ended up buying my own store. I absolutely love doing what I do, and I really love being my own boss. For me, my job feels like a hobby, and not like work.
I don’t think leaving Uganda had any major impact on me, since I was so young when we left. Although I do miss its weather and more relaxed pace of life, I haven’t revisited Uganda, and I’m very happy in the UK.”
We hope you enjoyed reading the fourth of our 50 Ugandan Asian Stories. This is a project by AFFCAD UK to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the exodus of Ugandan Asians, by collating and archiving the stories of those involved. If you would like to contribute a story, do get in touch here.