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Refugee 'Lost Boys' of Sudan beginning to settle in WNY

The Lost Boys are finding a home in Western New York.

They are so named, according to John Bul Dau, who survived the genocide in Sudan, "after the boys in 'Peter Pan,' who had no families and who never grew up."

Dozens of Dau's countrymen have resettled in Western New York, including James Uchan and Santino Garang Atak of Niagara Falls.

And now they are speaking out about the suffering their country has endured.

"It was long journey for me," Uchan, a Niagara University accounting major, said on Sunday. "It was difficult."

Dau, a student at Syracuse University, recalls the first time he touched ice, thinking, "How could people live in a land where water turned to stone?"

Dau is the subject of the award-winning documentary, "God Grew Tired of Us." Atak also is mentioned in the memoir of the same name.

"My father told me, 'Don't ever give up,' " Dau said.

The plight of the Sudanese is gaining widespread attention.

Sunday, during a vigil in Rochester's George Eastman House, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, called for an end to the civil war, which has injured or killed almost a half-million civilians over the past few years.

"The ongoing tragedy in Sudan cannot be ignored any longer," Slaughter said. "The U.S. has a moral obligation to aggressively push the Sudanese government to accept the United Nations Security Council's resolution, and admit U.N. peacekeepers into the country immediately to stop the carnage."

Dau is optimistic.

"When I look at Americans, I see the humanity in their eyes," said Dau, the founder of the Sudanese Lost Boys Foundation of New York, which provides tuition, books and computers to fellow countrymen finding their way here.

Dau walked barefoot for 1,000 miles during his flight from war. He was 12 when his village was shelled, and then burned by armed invaders.

"I have witnessed my share of death and despair," said Dau, in "God Grew Tired of Us." "I have seen the hyenas come at dusk to feed on the bodies of my friends.

"I have crossed a crocodile-infested river while being shelled and shot at," he added. "I have walked until I thought I could walk no more. I have wondered more times than I can count, if my friends and I would live to see another day. Those were the times I thought God had grown tired of us."

Dau's plans for the future include opening a medical clinic soon back in Sudan, with a promised visit there from actress Angelina Jolie, whose partner, Brad Pitt, produced "God Grew Tired of Us," narrated by Nicole Kidman. "God Grew Tired of Us" won last year's Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance film festival.

Said Dau's friend, Atak, "Being a senior economic and finance student here at Niagara University is a positive experience that I never could have thought of back in those days. It happened beyond imagination."

A photo exhibit on Sudan atrocities is on display through April 22 in the Eastman House.


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