Gulzar Waljee

© Gulzar Waljee

I arrived in the UK in 1959 from a small village in Tanzania, then Tanganyika, as part of a British Council-funded training opportunity. 

After three months of training, we were allowed to work in the wards. As my English was not all that good, I suffered a lot of ‘telling-off’. My off-duty rota was unkind; they gave me Monday off, so that I had to work long shifts from Tuesday to Sunday.

I often stood in the sluice crying but there was no question of going back home. My elder brother, Abdul, had warned me not to come back as other members of our family’s future lay on my hands.

© Gulzar Waljee

Three years passed. I had learned to speak well. Just before our final exam as I was coming out of the dining room, Assistant Matron said to me that Matron wants to see you. We all knew what that meant.  TROUBLE.

Our Matron was from South Africa. South Africa was not liberated by then, in 1961. I went to Matron’s office. She said: ‘I had two girls from Tanzania before you and they both failed their final exam. If you fail, I will stop taking girls from Tanzania.’ So I worked hard for my exams, as I knew that if I failed, I would jeopardise the future for Tanzanian girls.

© Gulzar Waljee

"Well, I passed. I went straight to London to North Middlesex Hospital to do midwifery. By the time I was 23 years old, I was a State Registered Nurse and State Registered Midwife."

© Gulzar Waljee

Gulzar Waljee

Listen to Gulzar Waljee's memories of her arrival and training in the UK.

In 1964, I flew back to Tanzania. When I saw my mother, I burst into tears as she looked so frail. But she was so proud of me.

I met my husband in Kenya where I worked in the Aga Khan Hospital. I returned to the UK with him in 1967. We kept looking for a flat but there was a lot of colour prejudice in Cambridge at the time. There were signs saying ‘No Asian’. We would turn up and the landlords would tell us the flat was gone. Eventually I begged Mr and Mrs Lee who had a flat to offer if we could stay. He liked the look of us and after that they became our foster parents or, say, guardians. They helped us in so many ways. We shall be grateful to them for the rest of our life.

I worked in the National Health Service for 18 years before I retired.