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December 12, 2013

A reunion in Africa

Native of war-ravaged South Sudan sees sister after 30 years

DANVERS — Anyang Bior went to visit his sister this past October. It was no ordinary visit, as a bloody war had kept them apart for 30 years.

A native of South Sudan, Bior was 14 and attending school in 1983 when Arab Muslims from North Sudan attacked.

“It was a racial thing, a religious issue,” he says. “They wanted to control the country and for the country to be an Arab country. That’s why the war broke out. ... They wanted to kill every Christian.”

Modern aircraft dropped bombs on simple villages and homes of mud and grass. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Bior’s father, a farmer, and his brothers were killed in the clash.

“You don’t know what you’re going to do,” he says. “You run for your life.” For him, it was the beginning of a remarkable odyssey.

Ironically, Bior ran north to the capital of Khartoum where his uncle, a Christian, too, still had a position on the City Council.

“My uncle also was in a tough situation,” he says.

By 1992, Bior had learned of his father’s death but knew little of the fate of his siblings. And it became impossible to stay in Khartoum, as the government had taken note of him.

“They wanted to put me in the army to fight against my family,” he says.

Thus, his efforts to survive now took him farther from home. Bribes helped get him into Egypt where he lived with fellow Dinka tribesmen and studied accounting at Cairo University. In 1998, he was accepted as a refugee by the United States and found himself in Fort Worth, Texas. And if life in a cowboy town wasn’t enough of an adjustment, in six months he moved to the home of a distant cousin in chilly Boston.

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