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Local authors tell inspirational life stories

By Mary Simpson of Our Lives Press

Three authors, who have published their life stories, shared their experiences on Friday 5 October at a well-attended meeting organised jointly by Sutton for Peace and Justice and Our Lives Press.   Our Lives Press, which is run entirely by volunteers, publishes personal accounts written by refugees and migrants to Britain, all now settled in and around Croydon and Sutton.

Clockwise from top: (l to r) Marion Molteno, Shabibi Shah, Rashida Abedi, Mary Simpson, Babush Tesfay; Babush tells his story, assisted by Mary (right) and having been introduced by Marion (left); Babush signing his book; groups gather round to talk with the authors; Rashida Abedi signing her book.

The event marked the launch of the eighth title in the Our Lives series, Finding the Unexpected by Babush Tesfay.  Babush spoke movingly about his happy childhood in Ethiopia, which was shattered by the sudden death of his sister, his mother and then his father.  He travelled to Eritrea and there he met Katy, the British girl he was to marry, only to be separated from her by the bitter civil war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.  He escaped across the border to Sudan where he lived in desperate poverty until finally he was able to join Katy in neighbouring Kenya, where they got married.  Babush describes how they then came to live in South London: ‘Sometimes when I look back on life’s journey it is hard to believe that here I am, happily married with two lovely children, a mortgage, a car and a washing machine.  I know it is a miracle I am part of a happy family again.’

Shabibi Shah, author of Where do I Belong?, described her comfortable life in Afghanistan where she was a teacher and her husband a journalist.  After he had been imprisoned several times for his opposition to the Russian-dominated regime, the whole family fled across the border to Pakistan.  Her husband went first and then Shabibi followed, walking across the mountains with her three children, one still a baby.  After suffering great hardship in Pakistan, they were helped by a friend to seek refuge in England.   Shabibi now recognizes that ‘Britain is my second home and the home of my children’, although she feels she does not quite belong either here or in present-day Afghanistan, which she found when she visited had changed so much for the worse.

Rashida Abedi, author of From Sound to Silence, told how she became deaf as a result of meningitis in Pakistan and came to England in search of a cure, sadly without success.  She joined English classes and despite being totally deaf, she learnt to speak and write fluent English.  Threatened with deportation, she was granted leave to remain on compassionate grounds because of the limited facilities for the deaf in Pakistan.

Nadeya Zaman spoke about how proud she was that her mother, who has sadly passed away, had written about her life in Bangladesh and in England.  Standing on my Own Two Feet by Faizia Zaman describes how she came to England from Bangladesh and after the death of her husband was left to bring up her five young children alone.  ‘We (all five children) hope others who have come to settle in England will be inspired by our mother’s book to write about their lives,’ said Nadeya.

The Our Lives books range from 32–68 pages in length and cost between £2 and £4.  For further information about the series or to order copies download the Our Lives Leaflet or contact ourlivespress@yahoo.co.uk.

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