Christmas feast of memories

17 January 2020
Zrinka Bralo

Loraine Masiya Mponela, originally from Malawi is a migrants rights organiser at CARAG (Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group) and Migrants Organise. This is how she spent the past 12 Christmases, surfing the hostile environment, while trying to resolve her status. .

Every year on the 25th of December the memories of Christmas at home come back.

At home, on this day I would meet friends I have not seen for a while, even the long lost ones. We would get together with my grandparents, my parents, my brothers and sisters, children, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces. Everyone.

The smell of Kilombero rice would dominate my grandmother’s kitchen. The special rice she stored for Christmas. We grew organic foods: rice, vegetables, goats and pigs. Everyone would be welcoming you to the food they’ve prepared.

I would feel complete on that day back at home. But that is all gone now. Here, I feel alone.

For 12 years in the UK I spent many Christmases alone in my room. If friends invited me to join them, there is no public transport on Christmas day so I end up not going. If I sometimes accept and do go for dinners, it’s still never the same. It just triggers the memories of Christmas before.

Back at home, we would discuss and plan together: about who will pay school fees for whom, which school they are going. Which dress I am buying or who is buying school uniforms for next year.

It was a time when all my hopes became meaningful, because I felt the support, felt in the driving seat of my life. Felt that I belong.

But now I am stuck in limbo. I am seeking asylum and have no rights.

I don’t even have a Christmas.

I come down to the kitchen. I warm up my microwave dinner. I sit down and eat it alone before going back in my cubicle. I am unable to sleep as memories of Christmases past are coming back.

While many people were relaxing and celebrating , I was troubled by thoughts about Brexit, impending solicitors appointments and my uncertain future in this country. My destination is unknown.

My Christmas as a migrant is a great feast of memories.

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