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Posted 18 April 2024

From a refugee to a princess, here's Elizabeth's story. 

Elizabeth’s life journey is a testament to her strength, resilience, and the power of community. Born in Biafra, Nigeria, Elizabeth shared her unique cultural story, reflecting on her life, experiences, and the impact of historical events on her path.

Elizabeth was born into a loving and comfortable family in Biafra, Nigeria. She was one of eight siblings, growing up in a Christian household. Her father worked as an engine driver, providing a stable and nurturing environment for her childhood.

At the age of 18, Elizabeth agreed to an arranged marriage. A year later, she left Nigeria for the UK  with her husband, who worked as a diplomat for the Nigerian High Commission. However, their lives took an unexpected turn when the Nigerian Civil War broke out in 1966. Elizabeth's husband lost his job due to their support for Biafra, and they became refugees, living in a one-room accommodation.

Life became incredibly challenging, especially when Elizabeth found herself pregnant at 19-years-old. However, her husband eventually secured a new job. It was during the tenure of Prime Minister Harold Wilson that they were granted residency permits, allowing them to stay in the UK where they could build a new life for themselves.

Elizabeth and her husband went on to have four children ; a daughter and three sons. Elizabeth's pursuit of education brought her to a local technical college, where she encountered racial discrimination. She was one of the few non-white students in her class and often found herself sitting alone during lunch breaks. However, she formed strong bonds with an Asian and a Chinese classmate who, like her, experienced similar challenges. They supported one another throughout their schooling.

Elizabeth vividly recalled the cultural adjustments she had to make. Coming from the warmth of Biafra, London's fast-paced life was a stark contrast. She chuckled while sharing a story about learning to wear stockings during the winter, a necessity she had never encountered back home.

In 1970, after the Nigerian Civil War, Elizabeth returned to her homeland. Her dedication to community and charity work earned her the title of ‘Princess’ (Ezenwanyi) from the royal father in Biafra in 1985. She used the funds she raised to establish schools for children, provide clothing and allowances to widowed women, and offering scholarships to the deserving youth. As an Ezenwanyi, she continues to visit her homeland, attending royal events such as the "yam festival," a cherished Biafran tradition.

Elizabeth is proud of her Biafran-Nigerian heritage and does not recall facing significant discrimination. However, one thing that bothered her was when people struggled to pronounce her surname, particularly during visits to the doctor's clinic. Elizabeth embraces her identity, seeing herself as just another person in the world. She thrives in the company of diverse individuals and treasures the sense of community she's found at Housing 21’s Extra Care scheme.

Elizabeth effusively shared her love for her Housing 21 Extra Care scheme, expressing that it feels like a family and a community. She attributes this sense of togetherness to the incredible employees who have made it all possible.

Elizabeth's life journey is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the human spirit. Her story serves as a source of inspiration for Housing 21 and beyond, reminding us of the strength that lies in embracing diversity and building supportive, inclusive communities.

To find out more about living in an Extra Care scheme, visit our website: Housing 21 - Extra Care by Housing 21. Buy or rent your new home with the peace of mind of having on-site care workers to help if you need it. 


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