I was first told about this book when chatting to a couple at Holden Sheppard’s talk at Koorliny Art Centre. It sounded like a book I needed to read. Learning that Yout A. Alaak was part of our Perth community made me even more interested in reading it. When I saw he was speaking at my local library as part of the Perth Literature Festival, I immediately booked in and borrowed the book from the library.
As part of the Perth Literature Festival, I was just lucky enough to go and listen to Yuot A. Alaak the author of the memoir Father of the Lost Boys. Even luckier, his father, Mecak Ajang Alaak, the man the book is about, and his mother were there too. This is one book that should be read widely, one that can open up people’s minds and understandings about the trials refugees face.
Yuot’s father led 20,000 lost boys between the ages of 8-12 1000’s of km through the most dangerous of places to safety and stopped them also becoming child soldiers. More than 20 years on and unfortunately the refugee camp on the border of South Sudan and Kenya is the largest in the world with 180,000 refugees living there because it is still unsafe for them to return home.
His father was asked how he managed to logistically move that many boys. He made it sound so simple, but given the circumstances, it would have been anything but.
As I sit with my feelings about the journey I have just taken, with all that Yout and his family and the 20,000 Lost Boys and thousands more refugees and South Sudanese people went through and continue to go through, I find it so hard to comprehend. To have survived what they survived is remarkable, to keep fighting (not with weapons) for the people of their country is a powerful insight into the strength and courage of these people.
Yout’s father, Mecak Ajang Alaak is an amazing role model, not just for the South Sudanese, but for everyone. The love he has for his fellow countryman regardless of which tribe or area they come from is wonderful. How he kept things together and organised keeping 20,000 boys safe on their perilous journey from one refugee camp to the next is incredible.
I feel honoured to have read Yout and his father’s story, and that of the thousands of people who shared that journey.
The brief history notes at the end of the book were an eye-opener. I truly had no idea of the way the British and the Arabs played their political games with the lives of these people. I had no idea how long they had been fighting to be independent. Another war wages now, it is hard to imagine there will ever be a time of peace, but I truly hope for the people of South Sudan, that they do get there.
This is part of the #2021ReadNonfic hosted by Book’d Out to encourage people to read more nonfiction.