Musicians at the opening of a recent exhibition on Afghan history and culture at the Evelyn Oldfield Unit.
The Evelyn Oldfield Unit provides advice and support for refugee communities in London. They also run a refugee oral history project. Since 2004 they have gathered oral histories from over 150 people, whilst also running a series of small exhibitions.
You can learn more about the groups involved in the work here
They have also launched the Refugee Stories website which gives edited highlights from a range of interviews.
In 2005, the Unit interviewed 10 Afghan refugees in depth. Their stories appeared on a CD which is available from the Unit. However, you can also download Word documents of three of the interviews at the bottom of this page. Interviews are segmented into sections about people's lives before leaving Afghanistan, their achievements in the UK, community, culture, faith, the situation of their families, and how they now feel about their experiences.
The interviewees here are:
Wahed Abawe, born in 1962 in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. He came to the UK in May 2000 with his wife and four children. He works as a musical artist for the Afghan community in London.
Fawzia Anwari, born in 1961 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Fawzia came to London in 1991 with her husband, two sons and sister in law. Since 1997 she has been working as a professional hairdresser in London.
Akbar Kargar, born in 1953 in Kunar province in Afghanistan. He came to London in 1998 on his own, and his family joined him six months later. He works as an interpreter and he teaches Pashtoo grammar in a military college.
Listening to oral histories at the opening of the Afghan Exhibition. Courtesy of the Evelyn Oldfield Unit.
'Over here the neighbourhood is very cold.. Here neighbour from neighbour do not know much, they only become aware when some one make noise, sound and cause disturbance in a house then they complain, other than this no one is aware of others' happy and sad moments. But in Afghanistan neighbours knew each others' smallest problems and they would reach out to each other because over there it was a different culture and different values, where as over here the life is sort of mechanical life, technical life i.e. it is industrial revolution influences and technological influences here, in contrast over there the society is in a period where family is centre mapped, neighbourhood, "community" are all in way connected.'
Akbar Kargar compares the neighbourhood atmosphere in London and Afghanistan
'On the third day... my family did not know where I was, they I have gone to become the finance officer in one of the military bases, but did not know where, because on the first day they send me to the front line in Jalalibad. It was one of the most horrific fights and as far as some people might remember it was one of the most intense fights between government and mojahideen. Even though the Russians had left Afghanistan at the time, but they still their planes came through Tajikistan and some other boarders and bombarded the enemies or those against government. It was only after two months that I was succeeded to telegraph my family in Kabul from the city centre of Jalalibad. They did not know where I was. I spent 6 months in there.'
Wahed Abawe talks about his experiences in the Afghan army
While I was working in the factory I also studied, I used to go to Southall college as well, I had 15 minutes tea breaks twice, that added up to half an hour and I had half an hour lunch break as well, which added up to 1 hour. I had decided to take all breaks in one time and had told the person I worked with that I will not take the two tea breaks and lunch break, but please allow me only 1 hour so I can go to English courses. Then in 1 hour break, I think it was from 12pm or 1pm....there was an English course in Pathway in old Southhall. The distance between the Pathway and the factory was about ten minute, so I had to run all the way to the college while having a sandwich on the way there, studied for one hour and run all the way back to the factory to be back on time at work. During the period of three years I not only worked but studied for an hour a day as well.
Fawzia Anwari learns English