Leicester migrants reflect on stories of how they came to the city

  • Published

Images portraying different aspects of migration in England have been on display in Leicester as part of a project being researched at the University of Leicester.

The 100 images from the Migration Museum Project, inspired visitors and listeners to BBC Radio Leicester to share their own stories of how they came to Leicester to work, study, escape conflict, or to live with family and friends.

Image source, Earle Robinson
Image caption,
Earle Robinson (second from left) worked at a publishing company in Kingston, Jamaica and was able to bring his skills to Leicester

Earle Robinson left Kingston, Jamaica, in 1958 after reading about riots happening in Notting Hill, London.

"Five of us were looking at a newspaper and thought 'let's go and have a look', so we just decided to leave," he said.

"Of course by the time we arrived three weeks later, the riot had finished."

Mr Robinson eventually came to stay with family in Leicester and began working in the printing presses at the Leicester Mercury newspaper.

Image source, Earle Robsinon
Image caption,
Mr Robinson travelled on the Irpinya ship with hundreds of other passengers and arrived in England three weeks later

He said: "There's quite a few people from different parts of the world who now live in Leicester.

"Most people still maintain their links with their country of origin and quite a few people have moved back or to other parts of the UK.

"In fact my son, who was born in Leicester and lived in Leicester, is now in Africa because people move around and can move anywhere they want now."

Image caption,
Dr Tara Mukherjee was born and educated in India and came to England, which he believed was the 'land of promise'

Dr Tara Mukherjee, 90, moved to Leicester from Kolkata, India, in September 1948.

"I came in search of fame and fortune but I didn't find fame and didn't find any fortune," he said.

"Nevertheless I began playing for Leicestershire County Cricket Club and scored a century in my first game.

"There were very few Asian people in Leicester at the time and people would stop and look at me because to them, non-white people were quite different.

"Since then it has changed beyond recognition."

Image source, Elizabeth Grimsley
Image caption,
Elizabeth Grimsley was born in Germany in 1938 to a British mother and German father and was repatriated with her two brothers when she was nine

Elizabeth Grimsley was born in Magdeburg, Germany, after her British-born mother moved there to teach English. World War Two broke out the year after she was born.

"In June 1947 my mother's family had her repatriated with three children," she said.

"I remember climbing into the back of a lorry very early that day and going as far as Berlin. From there we flew to Hamburg, where we changed into another aeroplane and landed in Northolt, which is now Heathrow.

"We were put into a children's home because my father was still in Germany and my mother needed to work.

"In 1951 my father was given permission to come out for a two week holiday but he never went back."

Mrs Grimsley had to gain British citizenship in order to apply for a teaching grant and moved to Leicester in 1964 for her first teaching job.

Image caption,
Elizabeth Radinski, who was disowned by her Romany family after marrying a Polish man, says she is proud of her heritage

Elizabeth Radinski, a Romany, left Dublin, Ireland, when she was 16 to work for her aunt. She moved to Leicester after marrying her husband.

"When I first came people couldn't understand my accent. They weren't very nice to us at all. We had to make the best of what we had," she said.

"My parents didn't like me marrying a Polish man. They went mad.

"We bought a house because my husband wasn't willing to live in a caravan.

"I have seven children and they're married to gypsies. I should have been too, but I didn't.

"I'm very happy to be who I am."

Image source, Douglas Beoku Betts
Image caption,
Douglas Beoku Betts said photos of his great-grandfather and his children helped him learn about his roots

Douglas Beoku Betts was born in London while his father was working there. The family moved back to Sierra Leone when he was five and he stayed until he returned to the UK in his late teens.

Mr Beoku Betts said photos of his ancestors help him remember his family history.

He said: "Like any journey in life, if you don't know where you have come from and you don't understand what was there, you don't have a journey or know where you are.

"It is very important we remember our roots."

Image caption,
Mr Beoku Betts said there were tensions between the different ethnic groups in Leicester when he first moved to the city

"Leicester has a high immigrant population and when I came there were tensions between different groups," said Mr Beoku Betts, who moved to Leicester in 1986.

"Eventually the groups did come together to support each other and that was done with a lot of government help.

"The benefits of that is we now have a relatively peaceful city and its multiculturalism is one of its selling points."

Image caption,
Fidaa Khaled Qasim says he has bad memories of his time in Lebanon and nothing connects him to the country anymore

Fidaa Khaled Qasim came to Leicester 10 years ago with a friend from Lebanon. He now runs a kebab shop, has two children and gained British citizenship.

"I miss my family but I don't feel like Lebanon is my home anymore," he said.

"It is a nice country but I don't have very good memories of it. I grew up with war, guns and bombs and moving here to there.

"Living here is different. It is safe and there are opportunities.

"I feel lucky because people are still stuck in Lebanon and there is no way to live there if people can't get on together."

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