Former child soldier finds solace in sharing his story
AYIK Chut has recounted the extraordinary story of his transformation from a child soldier in Sudan to one of the first migrant families in Toowoomba, in his newly released book The Lost Boy.
Mr Chut described his new book as a "colourful" tale, which touched on themes of forgiveness, love and respect for his new home.
His journey began in Sudan in the late 1970s, where he lived in a tribal community.
"In the '80s the war broke out in Sudan - all I remember was my older brother was killed at the start of the war and then we made our way to Ethiopia," Mr Chut said.
"It was there many south Sudanese rebels were getting trained and I became a child soldier at around 12 or 13 years old.
"(These years) were traumatic, I witnessed things nobody needs to see.
"I suffered at the hands of older child soldiers, torturing me endlessly and subjecting me to actions I can now assume they too were subjected to previously."
He said hatred and revenge had become a priority before his sister made a lifesaving decision.
"My sister went to the Australian Immigration (centre) in Nairobi and did all the paperwork - and somehow Australia accepted us," Mr Chut said.
"When we came to Toowoomba in 1996, I tried to forget about everything that had happened, because this was a different world.
"My brothers and I were the first African students to be enrolled at Centenary Heights High School and, with the celebrity status of that, also came the insecurities of not knowing much of the language nor how the education system worked."
Mr Chut said his love for Toowoomba grew as he completed his studies.
"I have much to thank Toowoomba for, it provided us with a place of belonging, without shunning us - it was a place to really call home.
"Life was beautiful, you could walk down the street and you didn't see anyone with a gun."
His cousin, Ruben Manyok, remembered the pair's school days as a good time in life.
"Being young teens, we felt welcomed by our peers," Mr Manyok said.
"We used to go and sleep at our friends' places - these were good memories."
Mr Chut has since moved to Brisbane and started a family.
He said writing his book had bought back memories.
"Writing the book has helped me a lot, it's helped me move on," he said.
"If you keep it inside, it's like a ticking bomb - however (writing this book) was like reliving it again.
"A lot of people come from third world countries and they don't talk about their pasts."
The Lost Boy is now on sale at Big W, Target and other bookstores in town.
Mr Chut added there had also been interest from the film industry in his story.