Refugee family’s odyssey finally over

It has been said the longest journey begins with a single step and for Christian Lado, that first step was taken 11 years ago when he fled his war-torn native Sudan for an uncertain future in a Kenyan refugee camp.
It could have been worse for it was in that camp that he met Christine—the woman who would later become his wife the mother of his two children. Those children—Knight, three and Malcolm, one—were born in that camp amidst thousands of other refugees from Sudan, Uganda, and the Congo.
But thanks to a group of generous people here in Borderland, that is all behind them. Last Wednesday, the Lados arrived in Emo after a roundabout journey that took them from Nairobi, to London, Toronto, and finally Winnipeg. On that flight were other refugees who made their way to other cities in Canada.
Now the Lados are ensconced in a neat little house on the main street—their first real home in years—and Christian is chomping at the bit to get out and start taking care of his family after over 10 years of enforced idleness.
Technically, the family are landed immigrants, so the first order of business is to get health cards. After that, he needs a work permit.
“Since I left my country, I have not had a good job,” he explained in the livingroom of his new home on Monday.
“I want to do any kind of job. I want to be very busy,” he added.
Christian is a tailor, but he has not had many opportunities to ply his trade in the refugee camp, where most people had little more than the clothes on their backs. But his immediate priorities concern regularizing his status and that of his growing family here in Canada.
Christine is now pregnant with their third child, which is due in October. She spends much of her free time making beautiful necklaces and bracelets by painstakingly threading multi-coloured beads on thread and thongs.
Christian is slim, of medium height, and smiles readily. His English is quite good, although he still lacks confidence in what is his third language. His first language is Arabic and his second is Swahili. Christine speaks Swahili, but her English is still rudimentary. The children will undoubtedly pick up English quickly as children are wont to do.
All this has been somewhat overwhelming for the young family and Christian is still attempting to come to grips with his new environment. His first impressions were most positive, however.
“It is so different,” he explained. “Canada is very big and very beautiful,” he added.
But there is no question in Christian’s mind he has come to the right place. From the moment he arrived a week ago, Emo made an impression on him.
“Emo is so beautiful. I don’t think I ever want to move,” he remarked.
For the first few days, there was a constant parade of visitors and well-wishers—many of whom brought clothing and toys for the children. In fact, the Lados now have a collection of stuffed animals that could fill another Ark.
In addition, Lincoln Dunn from the Fort Frances Times is setting them up with a computer so they can stay in touch with their family and friends via the Internet.
Also, Dan Loney—a member of the Refugee Welcome Committee that brought the family here—and Times sports reporter Emmanuel Moutsatsos are making arrangements for Christian to join the Borderland Soccer League.
But for the time being, Christian says he wants to get a job and take care of his family. Once he gets on his feet, he wants to further his education and perhaps go back to Africa to help people like himself and his family find a new life here with the generous people of the Rainy River District.
Christian has had some time to take in his new surroundings while Christine minds the children and the first thing to attract his attention was the river. He found it drew him like a magnet and he has spent a considerable amount of time just walking along the bank.
There is a reason for that. In his native Africa, the river is the source of all life.
“In Africa, people migrate to the river in the dry season and wait for the rains,” he explained. “All life is drawn there. When the rains come, we move back to the fields and plant our crops, but the river gives us life.”
The river is also a source of food—just as it was and continues to be here for the native people. Christian said there is a fish called the talapia found in the Nile and surrounding lakes such as Lake Victoria that is the main source of animal protein for millions of Africans. He was delighted to know the Rainy River is teeming with fish as well.
But as life slowly begins to settle down for the Lados, there are still other things on their minds. Christian has two brothers—one older and one younger—back in Africa and he is concerned for their welfare. One brother is in Uganda while the other is in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
He is concerned for both of them and hopes to one day bring them to Canada as well.
“I am very happy, but I miss my brothers,” he acknowledged.