As the global migrant crisis claims lives and spurs political battles, an Eritrean-Canadian traces her family’s journey.
Days after my uncle was killed by the Ethiopian military in 1980, my grandparents helped pack my parents’ bags, filling them with light snacks, lentils, and canteens of water. During the Eritrean War of Independence, all military-aged men had become targets for swift execution by Ethiopia. My grandparents had just lost their eldest son to the violent tactic aimed at squelching resistance, and they decided my father’s chances of survival were slim if he and their recently wed daughter didn’t flee. My mother was just 17.
Eritrea’s post-colonial history mirrors that of multiple former colonies across Africa. After World War II, decolonization from European rule brought about a mixed bag of revolt in nations seeking statehood and sovereignty; many were faced with subjugation instead. In the case of Eritrea, the region’s governance was handed to Ethiopia by a United Nations resolution. The Eritrean battle for independence began in 1961 and lasted 30 years, until 1991, when they finally won.