Jonathan and Anouchka Sterling with their children Maija, 5, and Sylvan, 1.
“I have actually been in London longer now then I have anywhere else in my life,” says Anouchka, who was born in Zambia. “There is a piece of my heart in each of the three places I have lived—Zambia, Mauritius and the UK.”
Anouchka: My parents were from Mauritius but eloped to Zambia. They had different backgrounds; my father was Roman Catholic and my mother was from a Muslim family. I had a happy childhood in Zambia with my two younger siblings.
When she was 12 years old her family moved back to Mauritius; it wasn’t safe anymore in Zambia, and the family had been held up at gunpoint in the house.
It was during the summer of 1998, when Anouchka was 24, that she moved from Mauritius to the UK to continue her studies in Accountancy. She now possesses British and Mauritian citizenships. “I had to renounce my Zambian citizenship.”
She met Jonathan Sterling at a church she had stumbled across in October. “There was a music group that was rehearsing in the corner. I grew up with a lot of music in the house, so I was drawn to it. And then I saw him and heard a voice in my head that said, ‘it’s him’. I returned the following Sunday.”
“A year later we got married in Mauritius—the kids came along quite a bit later,” says Jonathan, who grew up in Grimsby. “My father is from Bristol and my mother is from Durban in South Africa, which is where I was born. I am the oldest of four children and moved over here when I was eleven months old.”
“The plan was to return to South Africa, but this didn’t happen. My father is an Anglican priest, and the government was concerned he would become involved in the anti-Apartheid movement. So I always grew up with this sense that ‘we didn’t get back to Africa’. There is a sense of shared longing for Africa in London, which is perhaps why we feel so at home here.”
“I don’t think that I could live in Mauritius now,” reflects Anouchka, “I never felt quite completely Mauritian myself”.
“Something we have brought from Mauritius is the cuisine,” says Jonathan. “Over half our food is Mauritian. We are also trying to make sure our children speak some French, it being the main language spoken in Mauritius.”
“In 2005 we returned to Zambia, 20 years after I left. As we got off the plane I heard voices and music, saw people, and cried—because it felt like coming home.”