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Munzala Abdullah


Coming to Burngreave from Yemen (1969)

Colour photograph of Munzala Abdullah holding her passport.
Munzala with her passport, 2005 © Nikky Wilson

I came to England in 1969. My husband had been working in the steel industry in Sheffield for many years before I arrived - he came when he was very young. But all he could tell me about was his work, so I knew very little about Sheffield or Burngreave before I came.

At first it was a real shock being so far away from all my family in Yemen and stuck in the house, unable to go out. I didn't like it at all! The winter days were so dark and short, it was really cold and we had to live on £5 a week so that we could send money home to our families in Yemen. The houses were very poor - we had an outside toilet and no bathroom, only steel buckets. I had to do all the washing by hand as we didn't have a washing machine. Worst of all, I was really lonely. My husband was out working during the day and I couldn't speak much English to begin with. So I couldn't even do the shopping on my own. There weren't many other Yemeni women here at that time - most arrived later during the 1980's - so I didn't have much of a social life.

But life got better gradually and now Burngreave is home. I have a lot more freedom here. I can go out when I want, get on a bus, go for a walk, visit friends, and my children have had a good education. Now, for the first time in my life, I have a chance to learn English. I wish I could have started a long time ago but I'm so happy to be learning now. It has given me a lot of confidence!

Extract of an interview with Munzala Abdullah for an article for the Burngreave Messenger, October 2005.