In my country it’s unusual to do things for yourself, always it’s your parents helping you. I didn’t wash my clothes all the time, my mum always put them in the washing machine. But one day I was meeting my friends, I was getting ready to go and I looked at my wardrobe. All the clothes were dirty. What could I do? I went to my mum and said, ‘Why are my clothes all dirty?’ She said, ‘I will wash them if you tell me where they are. One of them is under the sofa, one of them is under somewhere else. When you come back you just throw them, you mischievous boy.’
But then she said, ‘I have bought a jumper for you, a new one. Do you want to wear it today?’ She gave it to me, but it was too big. I wear a small or medium sometimes, but she bought a large one. But I had no choice. I wore it and I went to meet my friends. I felt so embarrassed. All my friends asked, ‘What are you wearing?’
But now I look after myself very well. You know it’s hard when you go to a different country. You have no skills, you have nothing. It’s so hard to start from scratch. You have to learn how to cook. I know it’s easy to wash clothes, but you aren’t used to it. Also how to take responsibility, how to control your life, so many things. Because you don’t care about these things when you are a child, when you are younger.
In Sudan, I used to wear a jalabiya and a scarf. I just came here last year and haven’t seen them here. Still now. Now I wear just trousers and a t-shirt or shirt. I like wearing jalabiya, but here I didn’t find them. Because I’m new here I don’t know if they are here or not. A jalabiya is very long, with a scarf. It can be any colour. I liked to wear it in white or black.
Abdullah Muhammed, Sudan
My mum told me when I was three, or below five years because I didn’t know anything when I was three, she told me a story about my dad. After Ramadan, he used to buy us Ramadan clothes. We used to wear the same kind, all of us. He was a rich man. He wanted people to know that we could all wear the same clothes. If we are going to wear blue, everyone will wear blue. But after the Eid prayer, he would tell us to take off the clothes because they were expensive, and keep it again for next Ramadan. That’s what my mum told me when I was three.
Mohamed-Alie, Sierra Leone
When we told stories about our favourite sweet treats with Phosphoros Theatre during lockdown, mangoes emerged as a definite favourite. Listen to some of of our stories here.
The Purple Shoes
I remember the days when I used to buy a lot of shoes that weren’t comfortable. I liked all types: sandals, boots, flat shoes. I even had one pair of sports shoes, but when I moved to London, those shoes were broken. I think they were tired of being used all the time.
Then my boyfriend bought me some purple sports shoes. I loved the colour. They were beautiful and so comfy. I started wearing them all the time. I wore them in the summer. And in the winter, even though I had to put on two pairs of socks because my feet were too cold.
I think they started feeling a little bit tired, so I saved them in the box for a while. But I think they missed me. I’ve started wearing them again since I’ve been spending more time at home, working in my flat. They are so warm and so comfortable. They make me feel like home.
Laura – Venezuela
This story is about a brooch, a little cameo. A cameo is a brooch which has a cutout of a white female on a dark background and this one, my great-grandmother used to wear. In fact, I have a photograph. So this brooch belonged to my great-grandmother and was a big passed-down family treasure.
This grandmother actually brought up my mum, because my mum couldn’t be brought up by her own mother. So this grandmother was a very important person in my mother’s life.
In 1939, the Second World War started and my mother who was then 16 had to leave Czechoslovakia, because she was Jewish. And she was lucky that she got the chance to escape. My great-grandmother gave her this brooch and the photograph to take with her, together with a little album with other family photos and a small case of her clothes. That was all she was allowed to take.
My great-grandmother, as well as my grandmother and others, died in the Holocaust. So when my mum came back home in 1945, there was no family left. My mum had that brooch throughout the war and throughout my childhood and I used to play with it.
Then in 1978 I came to England and my mum kept that treasure. Until, before she died, she came to England for my 50th birthday and she brought this brooch and she gave it to me for my daughters.
Anyway it was the last time I saw my Mum and I kept this brooch in a safe place in our house. And then one day the thieves came and took the brooch and that was the end of it. But I do have the photograph of my great-grandmother wearing the brooch.
Eva – Czechoslovakia
Thanks to William Morris Big Local for supporting our work during Refugee Week