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Thursday Connectors: The Unspoken Truth – Migrant And Refugee Stories

By Farzana Hakim

Hi, all. Welcome to a deeply thought-provoking Thursday Connectors with me, your host, Farzana.

After much internal debate, and honestly having wanting to do this for ages, I finally decided to dedicate my page this month (without any fear and repercussions) to stories about or from migrants, emigrants or refugees, or exiled people, who are living in the UK. However, after I made the call last month for such stories and experiences, I was a bit disheartened, because I didn’t get the overwhelming inbox of replies and submissions I had anticipated. But then the piece I’m opening my page with came in, and I felt much better.

I shouldn’t be at all surprised, though, should I? The way the media demonises migrants in our society is terrible. It’s understandable, therefore, that getting these grassroots stories hasn’t been easy. It’s about trust and, though I hope over the years I’ve shown I do work with the pieces I get in a sensitive way, this still might not be enough for people to send me their more difficult tales to publish.

In my opinion, stories from migrants and stories about emigration, refugee or asylum seeker experiences must and need to be voiced loud and clear; especially in today’s climate. But many media stories seem to inflame the tensions brewing in our society, focussing on the divisions between the ‘them’ and the ‘us.’ I find this maddening and believe this contributes to the growing distrust and bigotry we are seeing.

I’m not one trying to be woke here, or express my own political views – far from it, actually. This page has been created in reponse to a comment directed at me, which affected me and got me thinking and feeling this is something I should be addressing on Thursday Connectors.

I’ve recently been working on finding South Asian diaspora stories in relation to the music culture. In relation to this project, I met somebody from Afghanistan. Though I was, of course, fascinated to find out about their connection to the Arts, I was equally interested to discover the story of how they had ended up here, in east London. For obvious reasons, I can’t go into details but, suffice it to say, I was truly horrified by what I heard: the descriptions of the atrocities committed against them from all players in this war game were terrible and caused me to respond from the heart with:  “I’m sorry, I can totally understand what you have been through.”

Immediately, I was interrupted and told: ‘No, Farzana, you can never understand what I’ve been through! In fact, you will never imagine or feel even a teeny bit of my experiences.”

That was me told. It was true, though.

Being born and bought up here in the UK, and belonging to an established south Asian British family, whose first member arrived in the UK in the late 50s, I have no idea about the turmoil war can cause; neither do I have any idea about the issues migrants and refugees and those claiming asylum in Britain have to face here on a daily basis.

I can show both sympathy and empathy, but the blood running inside my veins and through my heart and inside me, will never be able to feel the reality and the raw pain these people fleeing their homelands in desperate circumstances feel, see and hear.

Therefore, I apologise to my readers for not being able to connect with stories from migrants as widely as I’d hoped.

But not to worry , I’ve not been completely unsuccessful in bringing you something to read and ponder over.


Our first submission is a poem. Drawn from our main submissions folder in direct response to my call out, I’m delighted to open this page with a piece by Sandeep. His words truly touched me and deserve to be showcased here:

Hi, Sandeep. Let’s connect:


As I lay my impregnable longing against room’s wall,
I hear my helplessness like weeping at dawn,
As my soul wrinkles with the motherland,
I parted with my soul in the country of skin.

No one leaves home unless your home
is a floating nest on the river Nile of industrial waste,
You find yourself among the mining crocs or drought alligators,
When you swim across the seven seas of population
You have a shadow of blood in your veins but an empty
belly and the anthem under your breath.

I carry black scars from wars of white greed,
dust of my family carbonized in dry mushroom clouds,
I carry parental house along the vertebra, pink dreams in my eyes
the miles travelled means something more than a journey.

When the night liquidates the day as a sinful cloud
plasters its sun, everything seems shiny for me-
The shine of stones in my kidneys, two shiny pearls on the cheeks
The word “motherland” over the galaxy of stars
and the Moon behind the clouds called “migration.”

I don’t know if I am an Australian or not?
For my country, I was a weed of seasonal crop
for this nation, a rudiment by a migratory trade river and thus
left open in the “unwaged sun” and the “taxed rain”.

Australia welcomes hundreds of hirsute refugees who can’t think
free of faith’s manacles, but not those who believe without
the obligation of forming belief and possess souls of wisdom and skills
with closed eyes to what is happening in Germany and UK.

l am in Australia but I live in the Sahara or floating on the Dead Sea
I’ve transcribed all my dreams into poems, not into realities that
reconcile my exile from home with streets punctuated with electric poles.

I have imagined myself surviving by transforming
flowers into the bread I have never eaten,
I am a brown floret spring out of your mind
from the womb of a black history birthed from white memory
This is how it feels to live and move in two worlds. At once.

I came here to outlive the ghosts of martyrs
But I am marginalized to the point of disappearance
Barred as a shade of skin, a tone of speech,
Now I know humanity is Janus faced- White faced black truth
I will not recommend it even to political foes or religious friends.

© Sandeep Kumar Mishra, 2024


The following excerpts come from Mirabel Lavelle’s unpublished narrative non-fiction novel about Malta during WW2 and are brilliant. Being a historian myself, I had to include these. Mirabel is Maltese, but has lived in Sunderland for many years.

Hi, Mirabel. Let’s connect:

Here are two excerpts from the unedited first draft of my WIP novel, Adelina. Please let readers know it’s not had any professional editing!

I’m writing this novel for many reasons, but mostly to pay tribute to the Maltese women who, during and immediately after WW2, suffered a horrific double-edged trauma that should and could have been avoided. Though they themselves were victims, they were blamed as perpetrators. (Malta was under Colonial Rule at that time.) I also portray Maltese daily life and the social characteristics that make us who we are.

The protagonist sets off on a quest but it turns on its head, as do mother/daughter and sister/sister relationships.”

Excerpts From WIP Adelina

“Of course I’m sure,” Nina replied.

The pavements were becoming busier, with commuters skipping about in order to avoid puddles from the melting ice. The girls were not used to black ice crunching under their cheap shoes.

They linked their arms and hung on to each other. Adelina paused to knot her veil tighter around her neck.

“You look like an old peasant in that veil. Why can’t you get a hat?”

Adelina ignored her sister’s remark and started whispering their morning prayers. Nina joined in. They passed a small tea shop and could smell the strong waft of bacon frying and bread toasting. Their stomachs growled in want.

“Look inside Adelina. This is the life I’m talking about. Making so much money that someone else will cook your meals and wash up after you!’” Nina nudged her younger sister who had picked up pace, in an attempt to get away from the tempting aroma of a hot breakfast on a freezing day.


Nina’s red woollen skirt was still damp, as was her corset. She didn’t fancy wearing the slacks again. The London sky was grey, and the day looked bleak. In Malta, laundry dried in under half an hour. Even when hung on the lines in the yard. Last night, she almost singed her blouse, having left it too close to the small electric heater that caretaker Jim had given Adelina.

Nina wore the skirt anyway. She’d spray perfume on it the first chance she got to laying her hands on a tester. Smelling of wet dog was not something she aspired to.

Walking early to work, when the heavy fog seemed to engulf every last bit of coal smoke from domestic chimneys, slowed Adelina down.

That evening, as Nina prepared supper, Adelina could not help remarking, “I feel like a little girl transported into a land of giants! Double-deckers, and pavements wide enough for cars to drive over, and still leaving space for pushing a pram!”

“Pass me the marg,” replied her sister, as she waved a knife with her left hand and held on to the loaf with the other. They were waiting for the next pay packet and luncheon meat and margarine sandwiches filled them up.

“What’s for pudding, Nina?” Adelina teased.

“I’ve got an apple we can share. Now put that kettle on, I could murder a brew.”

© Mirabel Lavelle, 2024


Next, we connect with Rahima Islam, who kindly sent a poem for me to share, which I felt was also an apt piece to include on the theme because, when all else fails, many, if not all, refugees and orphans of war may be seen holding their heads in despair and searching for God.

Hi, Rahima. Let’s connect:

The Lost Chamber

Just as a heart is composed of four chambers, I was blessed with four.
And just as a chamber can cease to function, a part of my heart returned to God.
Incomplete, empty, hollow and broken, I pleaded to God for help.
God gave me the strength to carry on, He blessed me with patience.
The remaining chambers were my reason to fight, but the yearning for the loss never went away.

God had filled my heart, only to return it to incompleteness.
He had left this space for Himself, of His remembrance and of His love.
He said with every hardship would come ease.
The ease of patience, guidance, the love for the hereafter, but most importantly for the yearning of Him.

God knew I was lacking in what I needed, he filled my heart with Himself and that leaves me in contentment and in complete submission to Him.

(c) Rahima Islam, 2024

Connect with Rahima on Facebook: @Author Rahima Islam and via their website:


Finally, we connect with Madeleine, whose poem had me holding onto my heart. She moved across from Germany aged just ten. I especially loved the bit about yearning and memories of the past. The poem comes from her debut collection, The Horse And The Girl. The second edition will be out in January, published by Sea Crow Press .

Hi, Madeleine. Let’s connect:

The Gift Horse

“I remember the red scarf tied round my head
and the words of the farmer’s daughter
‘Sei still. Be still.’ And I was, the Girl said.

“In her strong arms on that broad-backed mare
I felt safe and free –even at three,
I knew what mattered, you see.”

Said the Horse,
“I remember my first field.
The mare shadowing wobbly steps
and the Boy watching in wonder
as our worlds enmeshed.”

The Girl closed her eyes.
“I remember the forest loam,
the sandstone rocks, pink and red,
the German home I adored.
And Fauni, the sturdy Icelandic pony
helping me to explore.”

“I remember the harness, the pulling”
Horse’s brown eyes shot through with pain
“My smart trot, the Boy older now –nearly man
driving me along lanes
then the smashing and crashing.
Eye bleeding, leg hurting.”

“I remember the hurting.”
Still-burnished memories speak through green eyes.
“When I came to English shores
though I spoke the language
words baffled and confounded
I was no longer grounded.
‘Here’ didn’t feel like home anymore.”

Said the Horse, “I remember different places.
Fast people, fast lorries, the aloneness –
despite all the faces.
Though I still spoke the same language
nobody heard like before
I wasn’t anyone’s Boy anymore.”

“I remember,” said the Girl.
“When even wings imaginary no longer carried me.
More-fool rides as little asides.”

Horse shifted his weight.
“I remember the waiting.
Though I had grass and water most of the time
for years, nobody was there to call mine
I was fleet of foot and hard of mouth.

Then you came.

Said Girl,
“I was the same.
I was frightened and quietened
travelling constantly,
no time to be
I’d become ill,

Then you came.

“A January day, just like today
bleak and grey
but there you stood.
Unshod, held in the sod.”

“A January day, just like today
you brushed and fussed
though you couldn’t hear me yet,
I felt the catalogue of years through
the wetness of your tears.”

“Then,” breathed the Girl
“As I let go of the life I’d once known
I started hearing you –
exchanging minds-eye memories of dark-forest loam
for the Kent Coast’s spirit song,
made home.”

They were still for a while
he leant on her, she on him
thoughts journeying on as the winter sky dimmed.

Then he turned with a nudge
his breath warm on her face
“and it certainly helps that you know your place…”

Tone now brimming with cheeky delight,
he decided to add one final aside.
“If I’m as precious as you say
then what about a treat today?”

And his Gift horse’s mouth opened wide!

(c) Madeleine F White, 2022

Connect with Madeleine on Instagram +X: @madeleinefwhite


And there we are, what a great selection of Connectors. I hope at least one of these pieces has managed to touch you somehow. Stories about migration, no matter the circumstances or the history, have been happening since mankind began. It’s therefore important to preserve these and it’s a bonus for future generations when doing so creatively, as my Connectors have. These stories educate society. Trust me, whatever you read in history books and see in the media, is not necessarily the truth!

Next month, I’ll be sharing some wonderful writing to mark South Asian History Month. So don’t forget to log on. It’ll be a real treat.

See you soon.


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In my opinion, stories from migrants and stories about emigration, refugee or asylum seeker experiences must and need to be voiced loud and clear!