When Home is New
Nyagoa Nyuon, 30, was just 5 years old when her family left in 1986. Her father sent her family into exile to protect them from a raging civil war, a conflict that over time killed roughly 2 million people. William Nyuon Bany, one of the founders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, knew that because of his profile, his family was particularly at risk, and so he dispatched eight of his nine wives abroad, along with dozens of his children. Her mother was one of the first women to join the militia that sought the independence of South Sudan. Even as they fled Sudan, she believed she would one day return. When her father was killed 10 years later in circumstances that remain unclear, the plan for a joyful reunion with his family died. But for Nyagoa Nyuon, her father’s legacy was one of the main motivations for returning to South Sudan. “I told my mom I would come back…for the celebration” of the peace agreement that ended the civil war, says Nyuon. “My mom said, ‘You should be here. This is what your father started.’ “My dad always told us, ‘You’re going there for security. Get what you can, educate yourself, come back, and find your place. America is not your home; this is your home.” “If I stay in the U.S., my father’s name dies. And I feel like I’m here to make a difference—for my younger brothers, for the people who are coming after me.” Nyagoa’s memory of Sudan is “military men with heavy guns and tanks. I could never get those images out of my head."
Images © 2011. Portfolio design by Neon Sky.