Lucia Mskika arrived in the UK in 1972, moving from Zimbabwe, which was then Rhodesia. She was brought to the UK by Amnesty International to complete her midwifery training. In her interview, Lucia discussed the political unrest in Zimbabwe - having a father as a political activist, training in Bexley Hospital, and working within Psychiatry.
Early Life and Childhood
My name is Lucia Msika. I came to this country in 1972… I was brought up in Zimbabwe, which was then Rhodesia. My father was a political activist. So he was equivalent to Mandela in South Africa… whose name is Joseph Mskika.
I found the experience, again the experience of being a student in an academic kind of circle was ok, because there were also so many Rhodesians there.
There was a lot of hostility to us, the children and my mother and a very, very unstable situation, constant harassment, where every Friday night out house will be raided by white policemen. And being.. being children, having white people come to turn your house upside down, was very frightening. I was brought here by Amnesty International… when we, when we came to this country, really, it was like, we felt like having been rescued. When I was coming to England, I, at the airport in Rhodesia, I was interrogated by young white men. [One of whom] didn't even have a piece of paper in front of him but knew everything about my family, my grandparents, everything.
I was told I'm not coming overseas… Amnesty International got to hear about it. They contacted the matron oF Bexley hospital, where I was going to, and the matron luckily sent three telegrams (consecutively) saying, “I want you to know that your place is reserved indefinitely.” So, that put pressure on, on the system then, the Rhodesian people, to justify why I was arrested, my father was in prison, what is it my mother and us has done? So, it is behind this background that I came to England.
I came to England very traumatised, I'd also been sexually abused by someone who was actually helping us, for me to come. A doctor who was actually the one helping my mother to get the documents for me to come. So here was a situation where you had a person who we trusted, and he was sexually molesting me, I couldn’t tell my mother. My sister said you cannot talk about it because you won't be able to go, to get out of the country. So it is behind that background that I came, so my, my story really, of being in England. When I first came to England I didn’t have a vision. I really, I really was very wounded, you know? I was emotionally wounded.
It was a blessing in disguise that I - when I came to this country - I went into psychiatry. Because in psychiatry, at the time, we went into group therapies a lot with our patients. And that was, those group therapies were actually healing me. In an indirect kind of way.
When I went to the private, private nursing, I had such a wonderful time with the patients, I think because as soon as they were, they would ask me where I was coming from, they were very interested in my experiences and I bonded with a lot of them - even after they’d discharged some of them stayed in touch.
I then noticed the man, again it was a white man, so the, my colleague say to the man “Why do you keep looking at Lucia like that?” so he said “I’m looking at her badge” and she say “Why?” he said “Well which Msika is this?” so, me - I wasn’t talking. And my colleague said “Well which Msika do you know?” and it turned out that this man was in [inaudible] law and order, they were the people who were putting my father into prison. And here we are years later, he is on the same ward - I’m in charge of him - and he’s an alcoholic.
When I got to Bexley hospital I was very lucky, there were about twenty Rhodeisans. All of them, really, they were older than me, so I was welcomed, I was babied. I had missed out on the group I was supposed to be in training with, because I was delayed by the system, I then, when I came to Bexley, which is a psychiatric hospital, I just went to work.
One remarkable thing happened, my, my team, the girls that worked with me, the white girls, they really were so...more affected I think than me, so they told the school, they told the tutors of the school that I was being given a hard time and all that, and when now we qualified, this nurse, this sister, asked for me- they had an option to choose, who they wanted on their ward, so she chose me.
Farnborough was a bit challenging because there were not many blacks in that area and I remember I was in a...there was one time I went, I was working on this ward and this New Zealand charge nurse did not- I can't say she didn't like me but I... what she did, you would have times where you are allocated to go and be with the mother and baby, you are taught how to fix the mother on the breast and you are supervised, helping her to do that. I never did all those things, I was always allocated to go to the sluice room. The sluice room is where you are doing the bed pans, the poo-poo pans.
The school call me, and say to me, “you know what you don't know is that we knew that you were going through a hard time, because your colleagues were telling us, and we just saw that you were coping with it so we didn't say anything to you.
We were supposed to be exposed to different aspects of having, after the baby is born, helping the mother and baby to bond, helping mother and baby to bath and all that. And being supervised - how to do that. And bottle you know, how to help the baby, feed the baby, and how to fix the baby on the breast and all that. So I, I hardly did those things because she would just sort of say to me, give me the task for, I’d be allocated to this loose room and this loose room was really where the bedpans were, and the commodes and that was really very painful for me.
You can’t actually be defeated by this attitude of this woman because we’ve gone through tougher things than this in Rhodesia where the white people were just overtly racist. So they were saying “this is like bread for you” you know? “Just make sure you’re not dirtying yourself, put your gloves on, clean those bedpans and commodes, make them shine so you can eat your lunch there” and we’d be laughing, but I wasn’t laughing. I was really saying to my sister “No I’m out” - but I stuck it out.
I had a bad experience in my exams where there were three people interviewing and one of them was an old man who was an obstetrician. So this man, he leans forward, he says to me - he paints a scenario… what I heard was a racist thing of saying “You are in the bush, alone in the bush” and I’m thinking, well what am I doing in the bush? So I failed… I failed.
In a way, you also learn you see, that if somebodys being racist, are you able to be above that? To determine your ends, where you’re going because you’re just passing through all sorts of people. Will this one ruin your life, or would you go through? So I came back and really I had a wonderful time with another batch, and I passed my midwifery so that was sort of, a bit of a tougher time for me.