...after a year and a half chained to one place I didn't know how to run or where to go.
—Muuxi Adam, filmmaker
Last year, 248,000 newcomers came to Canada of whom 27,000 arrived as refugees. Winnipegger Anne Mahon has gathered just a few of their stories for a book launching this Tuesday at McNally Robinson.
The Lucky Ones: African Refugees' Stories of Extraordinary Courage is the verbatim transcription of interviews Mahon conducted with 18 African refugees who made their way, through often horrific events, to Winnipeg.
The Lucky Ones by Anne Mahon (Great Plains)
Part documentation of the storytellers' extraordinary trials and part love letter to the cultures and connections who sustained them on their journeys, The Lucky Ones
is Mahon's first book. All proceeds from sales are being donated to Winnipeg's African community through the micro-lending non-profit organization SEED Winnipeg and the University of Winnipeg's Opportunity Fund.
The following excerpt is from Somali refugee Muuxi Adam's story:
When I was 14, I came home one day to find neighbours screaming and crying outside my house. They told me to run away. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what was happening. Instead, I went inside and found my stepfather bleeding and dead on the floor. I felt like fainting and I had to hold myself up. My brain couldn't function. My mother and stepfather were from different tribes. I found out much later that the elders of my stepfather's tribe had wanted to take us children away, but he refused. The elders said he was no longer loyal to his clan and so later they returned and killed him.
I could not see my mom or my family anywhere. I felt dizzy, so I went outside to get away from the horrible sight of the body and when I did, two guys grabbed me, put me in a car and drove off. They kidnapped me and took me to an outdoor garage where an armed guard watched over me. I was chained to the fence - it was a very long chain so I wore it all the time. I spent the next 18 months of my life there. I wore the same clothes on my back the entire time. If the rain came, my only protection was to sit in the toilet stall - which was really a hole in the ground with a small roof for covering. I had to fix cars and carry heavy things no kid should have to carry. I slept in the corner of the garage on a carpet. I didn't get enough food or water to drink. It was inhumane. As a hostage, I had no choice. Either I did what they asked or they would shoot me. That was my life.
The way I escaped is a miracle. Sometimes we hear about miracles and do not believe in them, but sometimes miracles do happen. There was a fight that broke out one night, close to the garage. The gunfire was so loud that the watchman ran away in fear and left me unguarded. It was at that moment that I faced the biggest decision of my life - to stay at the garage and know that I would eventually die there, or to get help. For me, believing I could get help and leave the garage, that was very difficult. But thinking about dying wasn't any easier, so I screamed for help. But it wasn't just a regular scream; it was a cry from deep within my heart. I knew it was my last chance for life. Either I would die inhumanely or I would find a way free. That night, I had to be willing to sacrifice my life for the idea of freedom. When I screamed, two guys with guns finally came. I shouted "Don't shoot!" and started to explain my situation, but they interrupted me, saying they didn't have time to listen, "What did I want?" I told them freedom.
They shot the chain on my leg free and said "Run!" But I couldn't; after a year and a half chained to one place I didn't know how to run or where to go. They said, "What's the matter with you? Run!" My body took over and I ran. It was three in the morning, and I didn't know what to do, so I ran to the only place I knew--my family home.
Adam was eventually smuggled out of Somalia and left alone, to his surprise, in Winnipeg. He was able to reconnect with his mother, first by phone, then in person in 2008.
A filmmaker, Adam spent August 2012 in four African countries interviewing and filming children for his latest documentary about how war affects their lives. He has created a charity called Humankind International, which is raising funds to build a school in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.The Lucky Ones: African Refugees' Stories of Extraordinary Courage launches at McNally Robinson Grant Park on Tuesday, May 7.