'Proof of my past'

  • November 22, 2010
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AZ Lost Boys Center Phoeniz AZ

An article in Sunday’s New York Times reported that s a new digital archive is now available for the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” The archive offers some of the Sudanese refugees who fled their country as children records of their personal war stories.

The newspaper reported (in italics below) that Malek Deng, a refugee who fled at the age of 14, examined some of the papers from his war-torn childhood that he had never seen before. “The papers said he was born in a village called Thur Kuol in the Bahr al-Gazal region of southwestern Sudan. The documents listed Mr. Deng’s relatives and recounted how he tended cattle before civil war drove him from his family. He has explained to the interviewers that he fled with other Lost Boys to avoid being kidnapped by soldiers from northern Sudan.

“It’s amazing to see,” said an emotional Mr. Deng, now a medical technician in his mid-30s who lives in Phoenix. “It’s proof of my past. In my head, I know what I went through. I can tell people verbally, but now I have some records to prove it.”

Often, refugees (like my mother) lose so much of themselves in their immigration — home, country, family, language, identity. One of the greatest losses is people — family and friends — to cross-reference experiences, witnesses to childhood to share or contradict recollections, provide testimony and a frame of reference.

In the absence of those people, records and pictures fill in some of the blanks. “This photo is all I have of my childhood,” Kuol Awan, executive director of the AZ Lost Boys Center and a refugee himself, said as he gazed at a snapshot taken when he was about 15. “I can show this to my grandchildren one day when I tell them stories about my life.”

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