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A HIDDEN HISTORY:
African Women and the
British Health Service

1930–2000

Lucia Msika

Lucia Msika arrived in the UK in 1972, moving from Zimbabwe. 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.

MIGRATION FROM ZIMBABWE (RHODESIA)

"There was a lot of hostility to us; the children and my mother. [It was] a very, very unstable situation, constant harassment, where every Friday night out house will be raided by white policemen. Being children, having white people come to turn your house upside down was very frightening. I was brought here by Amnesty International. When we came to this country, we felt like having been rescued."


COMMUNITY

"When I got to Bexley Hospital, I was very lucky – there were about twenty Rhodeisans. All of them 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 came to Bexley, which is a psychiatric hospital, I just went to work."


CAREER

"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."


RACISM &  DISCRIMINATION

"We were supposed to be exposed to different aspects of [work] after the baby is born – helping the mother and baby to bond, helping mother and baby to bathe and feed, how to fix the baby on the breast and all that. I hardly did those things because I’d be allocated to the sluice room where the bedpans and the commodes were and that was really very painful for me."


"In a way, you also learn that if somebody is 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. I passed my midwifery. [Before] that wasa bit of a tougher time for me."

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