Voices of Kosovo in Manchester
The voices of Kosovo in Manchester (VOKIM) Archive is a collection of oral history recordings and accompanying resources curated by the Manchester Aid to Kosovo (MaK) charity. MaK began the VOKIM project in 2014 as an oral history project to document and preserve the history of the Kosovar community in Manchester.
The VOKIM physical archive is now hosted at the Refugee Archives at the University of East London; the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre at the Manchester Central Library; the Imperial War Museum in London; and the National Library of Kosovo in Pristina.
The VOKIM website also provides online access to the oral testimonies and educational resources.
Manchester Aid to Kosovo (MaK) was founded in 1999 in response to the ethnic cleansing of Kosovan Albanians in the during the Balkan Conflict. 2,400 Kosovan refugees were evacuated to crisis reception centres in the North West of England. MaK is now a registered charity supported by volunteers with a focus on issues of justice of justice, human rights and equality. MaK aims to support recovery and development in Kosovo through a range of engagement activities.
Following their evacuation to Manchester in 2000, some of the Kosovan children asked MaK to establish a Peace Park in Kosovo. The 22-acre Manchester Peace Park in Podujevë, Kosovo was subsequently established in collaboration with organisations including the Eden Project. MaK continues to engage and work on educational, sporting, art and music activities in both Manchester and Kosovo.
Crossing the Borders
Crossing the Borders is a recent deposit of oral history project undertaken by The Wai Yin Society in Manchester. The oral histories were deposited with the UEL Archives in October 2019. We were very fortunate to be able to support this project on behalf of both the UEL Archives and the Oral History Society Migration Special Group from application to the Heritage Lottery Fund through to the book launch and deposit of the oral histories. A copy of the oral histories has also been deposited with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre at the Manchester Central Library.
Crossing the Borders focused on working with first generation immigrants of Chinese ethnic origin, who had migrated to Greater Manchester after the Second World War. These oral histories have captured the first-hand testimonies of people who had migrated to Manchester from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Macau and Malaysia.
The UEL Archive hosted the Gujarati Yatra collection of oral histories, originally collected as part of the `Gujarati Yatra – Journey of a People’ exhibition held at the Museum of Croydon (Clocktower) from 14 November 2017 through to 14 April 2018. Originally designed as a multi-dimensional museum installation, Gujarati Yatra looked to highlight the cultural heritage and the historical journey of the Indian Gujarati community from the state of Gujarat on the north-west coast of India.
The “exhibition tells the story of the double diaspora of the Gujarati people, many of whom left the westernmost state of India in the 19th century to develop the trade and the industry of ports in the east and south of Africa, before being forced in the 1970s to leave their African homes and communities to find refuge in the UK and other countries.”
The UEL Archives were pleased to work with the exhibition co-curators, Lata Desai and Rolf Killius to help support the long-term preservation and access to the numerous oral histories which were recorded as part of the exhibition process. Co-curator Lata Desai highlighted the importance of Gujarati Yatra to help support the notions of identity and belonging for the project participants.
This collection of oral histories can be a lasting legacy record of the Gujarati Yatra exhibition, helping to document the Gujarati diaspora community in the UK, the interaction of people and communities in a tangible and intangible culture, the double diaspora of the Guajarati community and adaptation to life in the UK.
`Yatra’ represents the ancient Sanskrit word for journey and this project not only documented the physical journeys of Guajarati’s but also the journey of Gujrat cultural heritage and the stories of how these communities preserved their culture through language, literature, art and religion. It also reveals – “through its stories of everyday racism, the Grunwick strike and the extraordinary success of certain individuals – aspects of migration and settlement that will be familiar to people from different cultural backgrounds."
If you are interested in the role that oral history can play in the documentation and preservation of the life history narratives of migration, explore our Oral History Society: Migration Special Interest Group.