“A refugee is… my grandmother who is the life of the party; always first on the dancefloor and last one to leave!

Shazia’s definition of “A refugee is…” honours her grandmother, Roshan, who came to the UK as a refugee from Tanzania in the early 1970s.  

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Shazia says she found it difficult to choose which of her grandmother’s hobbies to focus on as, even though she’s now 90 years old, she remains an avid singer and cook! In the end, her definition had to be about dancing because at family weddings and parties, Roshan keeps dancing long after the children have gone to bed. 

Roshan was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Indian parents who had migrated to Tanzania for job opportunities. Her parents had a mattress and mogo (cassava) business and Roshan’s job was to stand by the roadside and sell mogo, where she earned the nickname ‘Roshan mogo 606’ – a reference to her car’s number plate.  

Roshan went on to marry Mohamedali and they had three children. But during the troubles in Tanzania in the early 1970s, as conflict and nationalisation of businesses increased, Roshan and Mohamedali fled to the UK as refugees.  

Shazia says her grandmother often talks about their home which overlooked the sea, and their business which they were forced to leave behind. At that time, many South Asians in the country left with only a suitcase of belongings. 

Life was not always easy in the UK, with numerous family members living under one roof.  However, Roshan’s positive and entrepreneurial spirit was just as strong in London as in Tanzania. Together with her husband she worked hard to first buy a supermarket, followed by a hotel, and then a travel agency that is still run by the family today.  

Shazia says she is inspired by her, “super-confident and happy go lucky” Grandmother, which is why she wanted her to be included in the Refugee Dictionary.  


You can be a part of The Refugee Dictionary – Submit your definition here!

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