The Lost Boy by Ayik Chut Deng with Craig Henderson tells of Ayik’s life as a boy soldier in South Sudan, fighting battles in Ethiopia and Sudan. He then manages to escape, and becomes a refugee, in Toowoomba.
Ayik was born in the Central East-African nation of Sudan. It was a time of uneasy peace following the civil war (1955 and 1972). His father was from the Dinka tribe, who raised herds of cattle, which defined their wealth. He worked in a hospital in Juba as a qualified nurse/paramedic and died, suspiciously, from poisoning in 1983 when Ayik was 6 years old. This was also the beginning of the second Sudanese Civil War. As a consequence of both the family returned to their tribal land where Ayik learnt traditional ways and became a cattle herder.
With their lives disrupted by the war, Ayik and his sister fled to Ethiopia joining countless other refugees. They arrived at the Dimma Refugee Camp opened in 1986 by the United Nations. When registering for refugee status Ayik’s birth date was unknown. He was given the 1st of January 1977. The refugees were continually gunned down by angry locals, therefore it was arranged that he move to Koi River to live with his Aunty Dew, who was married to an SPLA (Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army) Captain.
At the age of 12, Ayik joined the Red Army and was eventually assigned to a task force of over one thousand boy soldiers. Camp life and the training was soul-destroying. He and his friend, Daniel, tried to escape on many occasions but were brought back and tortured unmercifully. His nemesis was Anyang, the camp’s Prison Warden. And so began years of suffering when he was forced to witness and commit acts of unspeakable violence.
At age nineteen, he and his family escaped the conflict in Sudan and resettled in Toowoomba, Australia. However, he found that adjusting to this different lifestyle and culture was more difficult than he could imagine. The wrong type of medication led to constant battles with alcohol and drugs, fights with family members and police arrests. Eventually, he realised that his behaviour was putting his own life, and the lives of those he loved, at-risk. So he asked for the right type of help he personally needed.
Later on, as an adult, Ayik had an extraordinary chance encounter with a figure from his past that eventually led to an appearance on national television. It gave him the chance to find self-acceptance and peace. It helped him to forgive himself for past actions and to appreciate the man he has now become.
This remarkable personal account by Ayik Chut Deng takes the reader on a heart-wrenching journey through the depravities of war to refugee status in a foreign country and their effect on his state of mind.
The Lost Boy may not always an easy read, it confronts the reader with the reality of those who are still oppressed and being driven from their homes this very day. It is a tribute to the human spirit of survival and a must-read for 2020.
Publisher: Penguin Australia
The Lost Boy is also available as e-book and audiobook.
About Ayik Chut Deng
Ayik Chut Deng was a boy soldier in South Sudan who eventually made his way to Australia as a refugee. He lives in Brisbane where he works as an actor, is sole-carer for his baby daughter, and volunteers at the local PCYC.