Note: This is a guest post from Appleseed Immigrants & Communities intern Kseniya Ruzanova.
The moment Abeny Kucha Tiir realized she was a refugee came on a plane bound to the United States.
“I looked down and saw all those lights as we were taking off, and it hit me- I’m a refugee now.”
She remembers her heart racing fast and the uncertainty behind the reason. “[Is] it because I am leaving home? Or is it because I’m going to a different place?” The answer, she would find, was a mixture of both in her new home away from home.
In the early 1980’s Abeny’s home country of Sudan was plagued by civil war. She fled from her home with her children to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. While at the camp, she lost her husband to the war violence and her daughter to a lack of proper nutrition and medication. Hoping for a better tomorrow, she and her children journeyed to America in 1994.
When the group first landed in New York, a refugee resettlement agency told Abeny she was going to Portland, Maine, where she remained for thirteen years. Then, she moved to Lincoln to raise her children in an area with more Sudanese refugees. Abeny has worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant as well as a Surgical Processing Tech for more than ten years. Habitat for Humanity built her a new house after an application process. To her, this house was the final step in finding the person she was before the war came.
“At times, refugees think it’s over, and the important part is to know you can succeed,” she said.
This is the advice she gives in her memoir Tears of a Mother, and repeats often in conversation. A huge part of what has motivated her to stay positive and keep moving forward is her involvement within the community, especially her active membership in Calvary Community Church. Abeny says her biggest motivator is having God as her leader, which she takes into account when considering her future. She also adds that the entire city of Lincoln has equipped her and her children with a path to possibility.
Since the war, Abeny has had a chance to go back to her village in Sudan. She has even built a two-bedroom house there for herself and her children and has made a positive impact on her former home. Using her skills in the medical field, she has taught local maternity nurses additional techniques.
Abeny has used her beliefs to speak about Sudanese women and issues such as gender equality. Many of these are reflected in Tears of a Mother, about her strength developed through her experience as a refugee, a mother, as well as follower of God. She currently is in the process of recording Tears of a Mother into an audio edition, as well as starting to write her second book.
Read More:Lincoln Journal Star: “Book documents Lincoln woman’s survival in war-torn Sudan”