Retracing my family's roots in Uganda

This newsletter, Women in Foreign Policy explores national identity while living in an increasingly globalized and at times, displaced, world. Tina Tailor, our UK TwitterCoordinator, shares her personal journey with us and reinforces why WiFP continues to advocate for more diverse voices in foreign policy.
I describe myself as a British-born Indian, although my mother was born in Jinja, Uganda, and my father in Nakuru, Kenya.  My great-grandfather and his family migrated from Gujarat to Uganda during a famine in the early 1900s in search of a better standard of living.

I have always been interested in where my family came from, their journey to the UK, and why they came here.

In 1972, my mother had to leave Uganda within 90 days because the president, Idi Amin, expelled all Asians from the country. My family had to leave their homes, businesses, and schools. Uganda was part of the British colony so they had British passports and came to England. They were one of the last families to leave because they hoped Amin would change his mind.

When my family first arrived in the UK, they lived in military barracks in Uckfield near Brighton and then spent a year living in another barracks in Lincolnshire. They were given £55 per family and wore the clothes they left in as they weren’t allowed to take their possessions with them.

Then they were given a council house in Brighton. While in Brighton, they heard through family and friends that some Ugandan-Asians had settled in Leicester and so went to visit. They decided to settle in Leicester as it had an established South Asian community.

Growing up, my mother talked about Uganda a lot -- I also heard so much about her struggles and heartache about leaving. I became curious about the country and wanted to visit to see for myself why she loved the country she had to leave behind.

In March 2018, eight members of my family, including my parents, went to Uganda. We visited important places my family wanted to see in Kampala and Jinja, such as my mum’s school and my family’s home and business. The stories my mother told me as a child came alive in Uganda. Some of the buildings remained the same such as the schools and hospital but their home was now a restaurant and their business was converted into small shops.

Going back to Uganda was both exciting and emotional at the same time for all of us that went. We made the journey for all our family members that never got to go back. My grandfather and his brothers all died shortly after arriving in the UK. Uganda was their home and they found the experience of leaving it traumatic.

Uganda is part of my identity, something that I am proud of. After visiting the country, I feel connected to it and I wish to return there with my own family, show my children the important places, and tell the same stories my mother told me.