About Refugees, By Refugees
Trigger Warning: Homophobia; sexual violence; depression;
Okay, cool. And the name that you wish to use is Florance. And no family name. The host country, UK. Birth country, Uganda. Current location, London and nationality, Uganda as well. Okay, date arrived in Europe?
Was 20.. one second, I came in September 2019.
September 2019, okay cool. And refugee status? Asylum seeker?
Reason you are a refugee: gender and sexuality. What’s your age? Twenty three?
Ah twenty eight, okay. And you identify as a female?
I’m not working,
Yeah, unemployed. Cool, do you do you want to add any information other than being like gay, Ugandan and female? You can say, I have a, like, if you have any disabilities or, you know, if you’re religious, if you are a mom or anything.
Yes I’m a mum.
Ah, you’re a mom. Aw, cute. Okay, amazing. So, this is.. let me just save, amazing. So, this is, let me just save that and we’ll crack on with the questions. You have a daughter or son?
I have a daughter.
Aw, what’s her name?
[name redacted] Amazing. Very cute. Did you choose the name?
Yeah, I chose the name.
Very nice. Okay. Let’s start with the questions. Can you tell me a bit about the housing situation that you’re living in?
I live in one bedroom flat, I’ve just a Home Office accommodation.
A shared accommodation and I’ve just moved in now, two two weeks now?
Yeah, I think it’s uh, I think it will be like three weeks now.
One bed flat with your partner?
Ah, cool, cool, cool. Amazing, okay. And is she also an asylum seeker or refugee?
She’s an asylum seeker as well.
As well, same boat, same boat. Okay, I’m just… would you describe the conditions of the one bed flat your living with? Is it good, is it does it need fixing? What how how would you describe living in that flat?
Ah it’s good, it’s very quiet, it’s a quiet place, very quiet, it’s a very nice area.
Yeah? Yeah, you like it?
Okay, that’s good. That’s good. It’s good. Let me just, I’m taking this… Okay, and what do you do, how do you spend your time in your flat in general? What do you two like to fit in your… I don’t know, time?
When I’m at home, I do some cooking. I have walks. And I do some crocheting as well.
Crochet? Okay, cool. And what brings you joy? What bring Florance joy?
Brings me joy… Talking like when I hear from my daughter and my siblings, I have three siblings and one daughter, so I’m a big sister.
Yeah, and I hear from them. It brings me joy and talking to my friends as well. Yeah.
Did they know you’re gay? You don’t you don’t have to. I’m just curious.
Uh, not really, because my, uh like, they’re the oldest one, she’s like 13. So she doesn’t, like
Ah okay, it’s still she’s, like, still too young to understand this type of thing.
Yes. And hopefully I have to sit her down and explain to her.
Yeah. Um, and how has it been being in the UK since you arrived here in twenty nineteen. What’s been good? What’s been difficult?
I will start with the difficult ones. It wasn’t easy for me to be here and leaving them there. One heart was here and another one was there thinking about them, because when I came here, I left my daughter. She was only one month. So it was very, very difficult for me. It was totally like. Yeah, like a change of things, like every day we used to wake up every morning like my siblings are there, I was a mom. So, and just one day things changed.
Yeah, I know what you mean.
Yeah. So it was very difficult for me to like to embrace those changes. But the good things I’ve made, I’ve made friends. I’ve made a family here. I got a partner who understands me and I understand hers role, and I have a crazy friend and she understands me, (laughing) sometimes she yells at me, but she puts me in place. Yeah, so.
That’s good, that’s good.
And like, how how does it make you feel being away from your daughter and from your siblings? And like, did you imagine yourself being able to handle that situation when you were there?
No, not like no, it was very, like it was very difficult. Uh… Like it was, I didn’t understand the question, can you repeat it please?
Yeah, how how did you feel? Like how, I know you’re saying it’s difficult, but how it made you feel?
Like when I was here or?
Yeah, yeah when when you were you were here like, yeah.
It was difficult, it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy, and until now, it’s not something that you say that it’s easy to be away from them.
Yeah, even if we talk on the phone, but it’s not something like even them, when you talk to them, they’ll be like, oh, you abandoned. You don’t want us anymore. Like, if uh especially the last ones, the boys. For them, it wasn’t easy for them to understand why I left.
So I know you’re, but what I’m trying to ask is, how it makes you feel or how it makes Florance feel, you’re still describing the situation that is difficult, but how does it make you feel from the inside?
It makes me feel really bad. Oh, my. It makes me feel I’m depressed. It’s like it gives me an anxiety all the time.
It makes you anxious and makes you feel depressed
Okay, and and you said that they don’t know that you’re gay, but if it’s anyone back home knows you’re gay, do they discriminate against you?
They have, like, made bad comments about you and tried to hurt you?
Yeah, it’s one of the reasons why I left.
Okay, and how how what’s your coping mechanism, how you’re able now to survive and live?
It’s… if it wasn’t for like for the friends I have, especially Sumayya and my partner. Oh, I don’t even know how I would handle myself because all the time I would be, like, crying, thinking about it. Sorry, it’s so so, so difficult, even all the time to be have those recaps in your head all the time. Yeah. So they give me, like every day, like everything will be OK. Like, don’t give up.
Don’t give up, I tell you the same.
Yeah, thank you.
You’re so much stronger than you think you are.
Do you want to take a break or you’re good to go?
I’m good to for now, no worries. Thank you.
Ahh, okay. And what was like, what did you feel when you were in Uganda? What was your strength like? What was the point? The strength points that you had that kept you going throughout all of these.. bad times?
Before my daughter came, they were my siblings, because I started being with my, like, raising my siblings since 2015, when we lost our mum. I was like, I was the mom. So I had to grow and step into my mom’s shoes to grow up and start being a mother. So they used to give me strength all the time. And I didn’t, I didn’t want them to see that, I I was struggling like I didn’t want to show them that I’m I’m weak.
Mm, I know. So your strength point was being the mother, was being the protector of of your siblings. And then your daughter came and you took that part as well, okay. And how did that make you feel, being responsible for a whole family in very young age?
On this, honestly, sometimes, it trains you, but you have that love. Yes, things happen, you get like you get tired, but I’m not giving up.
So the love the love and the positive things that you got from raising them, overweigh the tiredness and the responsibility? Okay, you must miss them a lot.
I do, very very much.
And how did Covid affect you? Like in your daily life and stuff that you used to do before in your mood, in your mental well-being?
My goodness. That was like. It brought to me like I went into depressive, like, I had a mental breakdown very much.
You had the mental breakdown in Covid, during Covid?
Yes. Because you couldn’t go anywhere, you talk to people, but there is a difference, talking to someone on the phone and meeting people know.
Yeah. So it’s like what brought the mental breakdown is the fact that you couldn’t keep yourself busy with other stuff?
So it was like, yeah, it was like all the bad thoughts going in your head.
Yes, true. And you start thinking about other things you want to forget. They also call up.
Like, what do you mean? Like what?
Like in that moment. Before covid, you could, like, go out, talk to people you don’t really think about things that happened back home, but when when the lockdown came, I even lost weight, I couldn’t sleep in the night, instead thinking, start having those thoughts in your mind, wasn’t good at all?
You didn’t, you didn’t tell me. Like the story. Why did you, like the story? How why did you leave your home? Um and how did you leave your home? And how did you come here? Tell me the story. I know you told me you’re gay, but like. Did anyone know how… How did you deal with it? How did you kept surviving, how did you end up in the UK?
I was running from persecution when I came, I came as a volunteer. But I was running from persecution. Oh dear, I don’t know how to be like…
Okay, okay, it’s fine, we can we can take it step by step, so. You were you said your mom, may she rest in peace, she died in 2015. Yeah?
She was a single mom, you didn’t have a dad?
Okay, and you are the eldest like sibling, and you have three more siblings?
Okay, so you’re taking care of them. Were you married when she died?
No, I didn’t, I didn’t get married.
Ah okay. Okay and then you were raising your siblings. When did you know you’re gay? How old were you?
I was, I was, I was very young.
You were very young.
Oh okay. And you were just like, oh, I like girls, okay. How did you, like, know that this is called being gay or did you meet other LGBTI people in Uganda?
Like I had like when I had the feeling like I was 15, when I made like uk when I started developing feelings for, for a friend. I didn’t know what what it was at that time, like you just finding yourself, liking someone, starting getting jealous.
Oh, yeah, yeah.
And, and then you you said that you fled Uganda in twenty nineteen, so you were twenty six?
Yes, I was twenty six.
And what happened then that make you made you leave Uganda and come here?
I got a letter that it was summoning me to the, to the police like they was suspecting me to be gay, so they give me someone later to go to the police. I didn’t go there, because I really got afraid to go there.
Oh God. They, somebody reported you to the police that you were gay. Oh my god.
It is true.
And it is a death sentence in Uganda or prison for life or what do they do?
Uh they used to say its life imprisonment. Yes.
But I have never seen anyone being like. I’ve never heard of they have imprisoned someone for life imprisonment, but that’s what we used to hear.
Okay, so you don’t know anyone who got a life sentence because they’re gay. But this is what you know.
Okay, and how did you feel when you received that letter from the police?
I got, I got scared. I even got labor pains.
You got what?
Labor pains because at that time I was pregnant.
Oh, labor pains. You were pregnant when you got the police. Ohh, okay. And so, okay. And your daughter now is with your siblings?
Yes, my siblings and a lady I call Auntie. She was a friend to my mom. Yeah.
So she takes care of them. Okay, so you were running away from the police who were running away from people who reported you, all of these things. And how how was your journey here? Did you came by boat? By plane? By the lorry?]
By my plane.
By plane, okay.
Because I came here as a volunteer.
Yeah, volunteer for a charity or something?
Yeah, it was a charity.
Okay, and do you think about these feelings that you had there often? Like, do you have PTSD, like from all of these things that you’ve been through?
And is there something in particular that keeps on popping in your head?
And how do you feel when you have all of these things that happened in your past coming back to you, attacking you at the minute, how do you feel?
Very, very bad, not not good at all like. And even right now, I’m on medication for depression because of those things that happened to me. Like, they’re like three things that keeps on, in my head or like I think about them all the time, they’re my life’s worst nightmares, like they’re with me all the time. Me losing my mom, it was a hard thing for me. It was a blow for me because she was, she she could protect me. Also leaving my siblings to to someone I don’t like, she’s not blood-related to me. I I, interesting how with my siblings and my daughter, it eats me up. It’s not an easy thing for me. And the fact that, I was, I was raped to conceive my daughter? It’s like…
Yeah, it’s very hard, it’s very traumatizing. Was it by someone you know?
Oh, God. I’m sorry. But to be honest, Florance, you’re like one of the strongest people I’ve met, your energy, the way that you keep or keep that smile on your face, the way that you’re surviving right now, okay? Like nothing, nothing will, can destroy this energy. Nothing can destroy this smile, okay?
It it must be very, very hard, but look at you now you’re surviving, okay?
And you handled the situation, you’re able to handle the situation, did you report him, did you say anything to anyone?
I couldn’t report him because it would be my word against him.
Okay, so they believe him over you?
Because, uh me and uh… Um, like me dating him, I was like covering up for me. People want to judge me that I was gay.
I never had feelings for him, but for him, he did take like he did it by force because I never wanted him, like, close to me or touch me.
Okay, so nobody will will believe you because he was your cover up boyfriend.
Okay, makes sense. And how were you able back then, what kept you going like you told me, your siblings and then your daughter, but even with that, being the protector, being the mother, what keeps you going now? What your, what’s your strength now?
It’s still them.
So you’re fighting, you’re surviving. You’re doing all of this for them?
Yes, because if I give up. Who will raise them? No one.
Yeah. And before all of these things happened, when you were in Uganda, what was your dream then? What did you dream of?
I had big dreams. I had dreams, but. Some of the dreams were just dreams.
Everything is possible,.
I think like being like open, not in hiding.
About your who you are? About your sexuality. Okay, um, can you that’s that was your dream, did you have any other dreams, like becoming like um in a career or like getting your siblings or?
I had yes, because I studied counseling and guidance. So I had a dream to be a counselor, helping other people like to help them. But I couldn’t even do that. Yes.
Okay, so. Can you just repeat, my dream was to be open about my sexuality and to be a counselor to help people because I don’t want to write anything without your own words. I want you to say it because I’m going to put the quote as it is. So just say my dream was. To be a counselor and help other people and to be open about my sexuality.
Okay. Okay, my dream was to be open and become a counselor to help other people.
Amazing, what’s your dream now? Florance?
My dreams now, is the same thing, it’s the same thing when I’m here, it’s the same thing. I want to help LGBT people. Like to help them to to come out, to talk about their experience, about this situations and to show them that they are not alone. We are like, like to give them a hand to show that we are family.
Amazing. Can you please repeat, say, my dream now is to be a counselor for LGBTI people and to give them a hand and show them they’re not alone?
My dream is to be a counselor and help LGBT people and to give them a hand to show them that they are not alone.
Amazing. Thank you so much. And, yeah, I really appreciate you answering all of these questions, is there anything you want to add that might help people in Europe or in the U.K. understand the life of refugees?
And one thing I can like tell like the refugees, like they’re not alone. Like they are, they’re not alone.
And what do you like to say to the people who are British and the U.K. who don’t know what it means to be a refugee?
One thing I can tell them is to just give us, like, to understand us, because it’s not easy.
It’s not a choice,
Yeah, it’s not easy and it’s not a choice. Someone to, to flee their country and to come here.
Yeah, you’re right. Well, Florance, thank you so, so, so much for taking the time to do this and for inspiring a lot of people. And thank you also for being so beautiful and for me to taking all of these pictures. We had so much fun and I hope to see you soon. Stay healthy and well and good luck and everything.
Ah thank you, we will still wait for that outing when lockdown is lifted.
Yes, we will. We will. I promise you. Take care, my friend. Thank you for everything.