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Georgina Nwangwu: My Biafran Story

 

 

As told to Vivian U. Ogbonna

 

 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017.


 

I was already working at Aba General Hospital by the time the war started. They used to bring wounded soldiers, both dead and alive. One faithful day, the Nigeria soldiers threw a bomb at Eke Oha market. That day, I saw something! Many people were buried alive. When the Napalm bomb meets somebody, the person will burn and shrink. The whole body of the person will be like a goat that was burnt inside fire. The leg, the hand, all the body parts will gum together. One of my friends, also a nurse, she identified her sister among the corpses with the cutex on her toe nails. Everybody was stitching. Blood everywhere... They [corpses] were heaped like you are heaping fire wood...It was a horrible experience...” –Georgina Nwangwu.

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To get my wedding cake was a miracle. My Sister-in-law, the one that saw me and told my husband about me, she met somebody who made my wedding cake. There were things in the market, not that you can’t get them, but you know they had changed the currency from Nigerian to Biafra money, so it wasn’t easy to plan and purchase anything. I bought satin and lace, and made my wedding gown and that of my Chief Bridesmaid.

 

That time, whatever you want to do, you will hurry up and do it because of the flying of the planes. When we hear the sound, people will be shouting, “A biala h’o! A biala h’o!” [They have come o! They have come o!] It is because the planes are hovering. You don’t gather much in groups because it is easy to see people in groups. But we still did our wedding and reception. We did everything. It was at St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Omoba, Isiala Ngwa, on 29th of June, 1968. The reverend was Reverend Asiegbu. The church was a bit hidden where the planes cannot see people. Many people came. We ate. We also danced. The house where we cut the cake was covered with palm fronds and we had a [high] table as it is done today.

 

I was already working at Aba General Hospital when the war started. They used to bring wounded soldiers, both dead and alive. One faithful day, the Nigeria soldiers threw a bomb at Eke Oha market. That day, I saw something! Many people were buried alive. As I was running for my dear life, I was near to the wall of the ward. A bullet came and pierced the wall and I was near it. It did not touch me but if it had touched me that would have been the end.


People in their shop, selling, their shops were burnt, everything. They were packing all the dead people from Ekeoha and bringing to us. When the Napalm bomb meets somebody, the person will burn and shrink. The whole body of the person will be like a goat that was burnt in a fire. The leg, the hand, all the body parts will gum together. One of my friends, also a nurse, she identified her sister among the corpses with the cutex on her toe nails. Everybody was stitching. Blood everywhere. So that was the horrible experience I had during the war.

 

After, Ojukwu came to see the dead people in the mortuary. They were heaped like you are heaping fire wood. They were carrying the dead people on top of each other. It was a horrible experience for me. That day, the thing was horrible.

 

Some people came and identified their own and took them away. The rest were buried in a mass grave. The ones that survived were kept in the hospital and we started treating them till Aba ran. The government took care of them. That was the last bomb attack that was done in Aba.


When Aba ran, we didn’t know what to do. No telephone connection. I was carrying my first pregnancy. I was afraid something will happen and my husband will not be nearby. They were evacuating the soldiers in Aba General Hospital. I was among the people that were evacuated because of my pregnancy. I went to Umuahia because that was where my husband was staying. He said he’s not sure of my safety, that I should go to my people in Amaimo, Ikeduru. So I went there. I was there until Ogochukwu was born.

 

It was during that time that Caritas was working in our place. We were like auxiliary nurses in the refugee camp at Baptist Church, Amaimo. They were supplying us things. People that were sick, that are not able to do anything, they come there in the morning. We recruit the villagers that are strong to do the cooking, then we dish out to them. The World Council of Churches, they give us stock fish, Ghana beans, Ivory Coast beans and other things to cook.

 

That was one of the good things Biafra government did. Some people that would have died of kwashiorkor did not die. They distribute the egg yolk and prepared soup in a tin. They warm it and give people. When we make the milk we give them in cups; they bring their cups and we pour for them. That is how we served the public during the war. The white people tried so much. They were bringing cooked rice, canned food and giving to the people to eat. You will see a child like this - very puffy. That is kwashiorkor. No blood. After the feeding we give them drugs, we de-worm them because a lot of them are sick and inhabiting worms and other bad diseases. They also brought a lot of multivitamins.

 

The supplies were enough and anybody that comes will get. But some will not come because they prefer dying in their house. Maybe they don’t trust the refugee camp. There was a maternity ward where we refer the pregnant women for proper treatment and delivery. Some nurses even worked at the war front so when the war is tough they will bring any wounded soldier to them. But I was never posted there because I was nursing a baby.


The war did not touch Amaimo. Owerri people ran to us but war didn’t touch us. I was there till after the war. Ogochukwu was about six months when the war ended and we came back to Enugu.

 

Apart from one of my uncles, nobody in my family died. He was a sea man and sometimes he will go on the ship and stay for six months. He died because he was blind not because of the war. He had an operation abroad and he came back blind from Britain. When the war started he couldn’t contain it and he died.

 

Let us not fight again. War is bad. It is painful. You will not have rest of mind. You’ll be afraid all the time. All those that want to fight again should go and prepare but I am not among those who will support them. Ojukwu didn’t get it. Is it you who will get it?

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Mrs. Georgina Nwangwu retired as a Chief Nursing Officer from the Anambra State Ministry of Health, on April 1, 1995. She is a mother and grandmother, and lives in Enugu, Enugu State, with her husband.

 

Georgina Nwangwu: My Biafran Story

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