Inspirational Hackney woman dies aged 76
- Credit: Emmanuel Ohajah
For older generation Nigerians the Windrush Scandal is not just a Caribbean scandal. The late Patricia Ohajah arrived in Hackney from southeast Nigeria in the early 60’s - a teenager full of hope. Her son tells her story and remembers his mother as a woman of great faith, courage and determination.
Patricia Theresa Ohajah (née Nwala) died, after prolonged illness on March 12. She was 76 years old.
She travelled to Britain from Nigeria in 1962 as a teenager and settled in Hackney on Truman’s Road in Stoke Newington where she had four children. Patricia studied theology and became a counsellor.
Her son Emmanuel Ohajah told the Gazette: “My mother was representative of a lot of people who came here from newly independent countries full of hope and aspiration with the desire return home and build a nation but they ended up staying - they were ambitious individuals and very ambitious collectively for the future of their nations.”
Emmanuel said his mother inspired him and his siblings to do their best and people like her paved the way for later immigrants transforming and contributing to life in Britain despite coming up against racism.
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“She came from Nigeria and they had just achieved independence and they were just absolutely enthusiastic and optimistic and there wasn’t anything which could dent that really – so even when they turned up here and there was no dogs,no blacks and no Irish signs that didn’t stop them.
They just thought those were hurdles they’d have to overcome – as far as they were concerned, they were the equal of anybody and everybody,”he said.
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But Emmanuel is mindful of the “absolute nightmare”of the Windrush Scandal caused by the Conservatives’ hostile environment policy. He remembered how his mother went to Croydon 30 years ago to pin down her status anxious about the threat of deportation.
He said: “It’s been going on for quite a long time. People have raised it quite frequently as its always been an issue.
I’ve known people who’ve told me they’ve lost their status even though they’ve been here since they were two and they’re just in limbo. It’s a terrible psychological burden and sometimes people get sent to places which they just don’t know from Adam - they’ve got no support networks or anything.”
The Windrush generation is generally understood to mean people who came to the UK from the Caribbean during the years 1948 to 1971 but Emmanuel says the many migrants who came from Africa, Asia and “from all over really” should be celebrated too and not forgotten.