Skaneateles “Mother and father were in church. Our village was attacked. We heard gunshots. The guns’ sounds kept coming. You could see smoke. Everyone was scared so you just start running. Tabitha was three; I was six; we just kept running. The smoke was getting higher and higher. Fire kept coming. It was terrifying. “
These words were spoken by Martha Akech on May 5 at the annual Issues at Breakfast hosted by the Skaneateles Branch of the American Association of Women at the Skaneateles Country Club. She and her husband, John Dau, were part of the Lost Boys and Lost Girls who fled civil war in South Sudan.
Judy Lindsey, program director of the branch, introduced the speaker, saying, “It is an honor and privilege to introduce Martha. I’ve known her since 2004. She is the mother of three children, a trained phlebotomist hoping someday to go to nursing school.”
The following is Martha’s story in her words:
“We walked with a group. The decision was to take the children to Ethiopia. We took only what we could carry — millet, gourds for water, a blanket. We were trying to survive. We were walking barefoot. It took a long time. It was hard. We ran out of food so we boiled leaves. We ran into the desert where there was no water. People were dehydrated. A lot of kids lost lives. To see people dying at that age was very tough.
“You’ve heard of people drinking urine; when you’re dehydrated there’s not much urine. We reached a river so we stayed there two days. You could hunt. Everyone was getting something to eat. The rest did not last long. We were waiting for the sun to cool down; the elders were forming a line. Then attackers came. They were in tops of trees and began shooting; one elder was killed. These things you see at a young age you don’t forget. There was nowhere to run. That was very tough. We finally made it to Ethiopia.