The boy nobody wanted finds home
Tewodros Fekadu has lived in five countries on three continents and speaks four languages. His amazing journey, from the streets of Ethiopia to a detention centre in Japan and finally to Australia is told in his book 'No One's Son' and he will be in Lismore to tell it personally as a guest of the Living Library on October 31.
Tewodros' mother was only 14 years old when she had him and never had a relationship with his father. In Australia we would call it rape, but Tewodros said the term was “culturally inappropriate”. His mother is Ethiopian and his father Eritrean, a nation annexed by Ethiopia that sparked a 30 year civil war between the two countries.
Tewodros spent nine years living with his mother, poor and malnourished and always having to move because of the war. After this, he was sent away to live with his father's family as his mother could no longer cope.
His father's family quickly rejected him, as his birth brought shame on the family and he was put in an orphanage.
“My father was well known, he was a doctor and ashamed by me. He was admired (in his community) and had other children,” Tewodros said.
He was then rejected by the orphanage because he had a rich father and for two years he lived on the streets, searching for his mother. Eventually a priest helped him get back to the city where he got a job in a video store. Tewodros now works as an independent documentary film maker and credits his time in the video shop as helping him work out what he wanted to do.
“When you see American movies, it gives you hope knowing that lifestyle through movies... I always wanted to be a film maker. When all these problems were going on (in detention) I thought, 'I have to share this'. Media is important.”
His journey took him to Egypt and eventually Japan where he applied to the Australian Embassy for refugee status. His application was rejected and he was arrested for working without appropriate permits and spent a total of three years and three months in a Japanese detention centre.
He said if it wasn't for the help of people from Amnesty International, he would have died of despair. He was introduced to a church group who helped get him released and for the situation of the detainees to be investigated. It was during this time he met his future wife, Anita, and he finally made it to Australia.
Tewodros said once he was granted citizenship here, it changed his life.
“I've always been looking to belong somewhere, to have a normal life. My whole life was a struggle from day to day. I didn't have a family. I was half Ethiopian and half Eritrean and the two countries were still at war. On top of that unique situation where the two countries were fighting a civil war, my parents didn't have a relationship... I'm very lucky to survive and share this story with the world ... Now, finally I have identity.”