In 1987, Abraham Lueth says he was out playing with friends when he heard the gunfire that started an attack on his village during the Sudanese civil war.
At age 7, he was forced to flee to Ethiopia, without going home to find his parents or his four brothers first. The journey ahead of him was dangerous and gruesome.
Lueth became part of Sudan’s “Lost Boys,” a group of more than 20,000 boys whose parents were killed or who lost contact with them because of the war.
The Lost Boys of Sudan walked barefoot to get to Ethiopia, where they lived for about two years before taking a month-long journey to Kenya. Starvation, violence and death were not uncommon.
Food and water were scarce. Although fruit trees grew in the forests, they did not provide enough food to go around. Lueth says he ate whatever he could find, even if it was not, strictly speaking, food.
After being in the desert for two days without water, Lueth says, he witnessed people drinking their own urine just to wet their mouths.
“Nobody was taking care of us,” Lueth said. “It was the survival of the fittest.”
Because most of the Lost Boys did not know how to swim, crossing the rivers presented a challenge. Lueth says he had the advantage of being small. He was able to grab onto aquatic plants to help him across.
Lueth says his best friend was killed by a lion. He says the animals came right up to the children and snatched them away.
After surviving the journey, Lueth lived in refugee camps in Kenya for nine years.
With the help of the United Nations, many of the Lost Boys were sent to the United States for better lives.
In 2001, Lueth was brought to Kansas City. For the first time since 1987, he was able to contact his family and found out they are living in Kenya.
Lueth lived in Kansas City with friends for three years before attending school at MU.
Now 24, Lueth is a junior studying biochemistry. He enjoys playing soccer and reading.
Lueth is unsure whether he will go back to Africa; he says he enjoys the freedom he has in the United States. He considers Kansas City his hometown and plans to move back when he graduates from MU.