My name is Rossana Leal, I am originally from Chile, I grew up in Scotland and now I live in Hastings. So yes, originally from Chile, I was born in Chile, I grew up in Scotland and then lived in London before coming to Hastings. My parents were refugees from Chile, they were escaping the Pinochet regime and I was 9 years old when we had to leave Chile. We had to go from Chile to Argentina to seek refuge because the United Nations offices had been opened in Argentina and then we fled from Argentina after a year. We were given refuge in the UK and so we came to the UK as refugees. Back then the relationship between Argentina and the UK was still OK, it was before the Falklands. It was 1977. The Falklands was I think ‘82.
The four children travelled with my mom because my father had to leave before us, so my mom put into a suitcase some black and white photographs which we still have and things which were valuable for us and for our grandparents. My grandfather took these photographs, I never met this grandfather because he passed away before I was even born, but he had a workshop and he worked with metal and he made this little matte folder for my mom and it survived the journey, she put that into the bag and I have it now, so I think it’s three generations, my father, my grandfather and it will go to my nieces and nephews in the future.
I think it’s difficult here, because the hostility towards refugees is getting worse, so I think by the time I came here to Hastings I wanted to just relax, I realised there was too much hostility, maybe not towards me personally, but certainly to refugees and also I felt there wasn’t enough knowledge and understanding here about how a refugee might feel or what they might need, so I felt I had to start something, to create a community, and I started The Refugee Buddy Project.
– Rosanna Leal