My name is Santo Koch Maraak. I was born in 1978. I have three brothers and one sister. My parents were cattle keepers and farmers. We were living beautiful life without any problems in Sudan… The Arabs attacked early in the morning while I was with my father in cattle camp and rest of the family were at home. The Arabs attacked cattle camp first where we were living with my father. They killed many people included my father. They raided all the cattle. I escaped alone without my father. When I came home to where my mother and rest of the family is I found nobody at home. They also attacked that village… I [fled] to Ethiopia because many people followed that direction. I also thought that my mother might have followed that route with my siblings. I traveled on bare foot. I spent three months and half on the way to reached Ethiopia... I have encountered many problems such as hunger, thirsty, diseases, wild animals like lions and crocodiles, sometimes attacked by Arabs. Many people lost their life because of those problems along the way but God save my life until I arrived in Ethiopia… If our brothers die on the way, we are able to bury them on the way.
----- Santo Koch Maraak
The “Lost Boys of Sudan” are orphans from Southern Sudan in Africa who became casualties of the world’s longest running civil war in the mid-1980’s, when government troops attacked their villages. Members of the Dinka and Nuer cattle-keeping tribes, tens of thousands of young boys, many less than seven years old at that time, saw their families killed and their villages destroyed. As their villages were attacked, these young children fled into the wild in terror. Leaving behind security of their homes, adult guidance and the love of family, they began a journey that took them through three countries in search of safety. It is estimated that more than half of these children died from starvation, disease, and attacks by animals and government militia. The Lost Boys who survived ultimately reached the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where they languished for the next ten years, subsisting on a bowl of corn maize a day. Finally, the United States came to their rescue in what became the nation’s largest resettlement of unaccompanied minor refugees. In 2001 nearly four thousand Lost Boys and 89 Lost Girls came to America. They arrived with few possessions and no knowledge of life in a modern city. They possess no photos, letters, or other keepsakes from childhood. Many have only dim memories of their lives before the war, yet they yearn for a connection to their homeland. As survivors of genocide, reclaiming past familial links, cultural heritage, and a sense of self can be critical to the Lost Boys’ capacity to heal from the traumas of their past and successfully acculturate in modern society.
One written record does exist of the lives of the “Lost children” of south Sudan—personal histories taken by field workers in the late 1980’s, as nearly 20,000 orphaned children crossed the border into Ethiopia seeking refuge and solace. More than 18,000 personal histories were taken for the primary purpose of family reunification. The documents’ journey to the present is its own remarkable story, yet the civil war that killed more than two million and displaced five million others persisted far too long for reunification efforts to be possible.
Through an agreement with Sweden Save the Children, AZ Lost Boys Center (AZLBC), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the wellbeing of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, serves as the repository for these records, now scanned and digitized through grants from the Mellon Foundation. In partnership with the Lost Boys and Girls National Network, we seek funding to return these records to their rightful owners, the surviving Lost Boys and Girls now scattered across the globe. Our hope is that these records will enable these Sudanese war orphans to reclaim a roadmap back to their villages and rich cultural heritage, to open the doors to healing, to finding surviving family members and childhood companions lost long ago.