South Sudan

This is
Godfrey Lado (1978)

Lives in

Country of Origin
South Sudan

In the Netherlands since

Writer, Poet and singer

First impression
An exciting city

South Sudan in the Netherlands
The forest between the city and Ruigoord

“I hadn’t known anything but war. I thought war was a part of life. It was my reality. It was only when I arrived in the Netherlands that I experienced life without war.

I fled to the Netherlands when I was nineteen. I had finished school, but to continue studying I was expected to join the war. I ran. I first arrived in Den Bosch and then on to Amsterdam via a transfer initiated by the asylum procedure itself. Amsterdam is my second home. I don’t call myself Dutch, but an Amsterdammer.

South Sudan was formed in 2011. So for the first time, I have a country of origin. I never felt I belonged in the former Sudan. Five years ago I returned to South Sudan for the first time in eighteen years. I immediately felt I was back at home. Everything is still recognisable. My mother is happy I live in Amsterdam and wants me to stay there. If I had stayed in South Sudan, I would be long dead.

But I don’t feel completely at home in Amsterdam. I come into contact with discrimination on a weekly basis. For example, I don’t dare stand next to an expensive car. People refuse to believe that I could be the owner, and immediately presume I want to steal it. I do have lots of friends here. More than the Dutch usually have.

It is on the fourth and fifth of May when I feel that the Netherlands understands me. The war stories talk about a familiar theme for me. On other days, we argue about the most stupid things. The Netherlands should stop complaining and realise how good it is here. I am a refugee’s ambassador and give introductory lessons at schools to help asylum seeker’s integration, and to make them realise that they’ve got it good here. It’s also, personally, a type of trauma therapy. These talks and building up of awareness are, and will always be, necessary. We behave as if refugees are a completely new phenomenon, but I went through it all nineteen years ago.”


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