‘Lost girl’ returns to Winnipeg after unexpected bloodshed on peacekeeping trip

Rebecca Deng was in South Sudan this summer moving sewing machines for women when a killing spree left hundreds dead


By Austin Grabish | 

Rebecca Deng isn’t giving up hope.

The ‘Lost girl,’ who got swept up in a violent killing spree that left hundreds dead this summer has returned to Winnipeg and wants to continue building peace for her home country.

“It is what it is. We can’t take it back we just need to move forward,” Deng said Wednesday evening at the South Sudanese Community Centre.

Deng returned to Winnipeg Aug. 30 after venturing on a women’s peacekeeping mission to Bor, South Sudan. The trip came to a crashing halt after a brutal clash between the country’s military and rebel forces erupted.

Members of Winnipeg’s South Sudanese community held a moment of silence for the hundreds that were killed. Silver ribbons were also tied around everyone’s wrist to honour women that were massacred in 2013.

On July 14, Deng said she saw people shooting machine guns, so she asked why.

“The answer was it’s a celebration,” Deng said. “I was shocked. I couldn’t talk.”

As the violence continued to erupt,  Deng said soldiers started raping women and the military also took her cellphone away for taking a photo of a woman on the side of the road.

She has lived this before.

Deng is one of thousands of former children best known as lost boys and girls for fleeing an Ethiopian refugee camp in 1987.

“The life of women in South Sudan is dangerous,” Deng said.

“We suffer a lot.”

When Deng returned to South Sudan in July, she was to help start the Winnipeg Women’s Resource Centre in Bor. The centre is to honour 33 women, including her aunt, who were murdered in 2013 at the St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral.

Silver ribbons were tied around everyone's wrist Wednesday evening to honour 33 women massacred in 2013. Austin Grabish / On The Line.
Silver ribbons were tied around everyone’s wrist Wednesday evening to honour 33 women massacred in 2013. Austin Grabish / On The Line.

But when her plans came to a halt due to the country’s escalating violence, Deng fled to Rwanda. There she trained women in a peacekeeping program.

When things calmed down back at home, she returned and delivered 24 sewing machines to the women’s center.

She said the machines mean a lot to local women in Bor.

“Women were so excited for receiving the sewing machine and also having program, classes going on,” Deng said.

“So now they’re in the classes, they’re attending classes and also they’re doing training for the sewing.”

“The peace mean a lot to them because women is the foundation of the house.”

Elizabeth Andrea, a Winnipeg grandmother originally from South Sudan, also returned to her home country this summer to take part in peacekeeping efforts.

She told the crowd at the South Sudanese Community Centre she was born in war, grew up in war, was a woman in war, and now can say she’s a grandma in war.

“As you know our country is a torn country.”

“It’s been (torn) by the war. A long, long war.”

But she said she too isn’t giving up hope and called on Winnipeggers to help.

“This is a great evening,” Andrea, 51, said of the community’s coming together Wednesday night.


Follow Austin on Twitter: @AustinGrabish

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