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June 14, 2019

Surviving Biafra: A Nigerwife’s Story

By S. Elizabeth Bird and Rosina Umelo

During the year of 1961, Rosina ‘Rose’ Martin married John Umelo, a young Nigerian, she met on a London Tube station platform. She eventually moved to Nigeria with him and their children. As she was teaching Classic in Enugu, they found themselves involved in Nigeria’s Civil War. The family fled to John’s ancestral village, then moved nomadically as the war intensified. When the battle terminated in 1970, approximately 2 million passed away, and most of these individuals suffered from starvation. Rose had kept notes, remarking the reality of living in Biafra–from excitement in the beginning to despair toward the end.

Soon after the war, Rose transmitted her notes into a narrative which described the ingenious ways Biafrans made do, still wishing for victory while their territory tremendously reduced and starved by the thousand. Now, anthropologist, S. Elizabeth Bird contextualizes Rose’s chronicle by providing background on the progress of the war and international reaction to it. Edited and annotated, Rose’ vivid account of life as a Biafra ‘Nigerwife’ provides a fresh, new look at hope and survival through a brutal war.