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His father alerted his mother that he and other ELF soldiers were crossing the border into Sudan in order to escape and become refugees, and the family should join him.Kidane and his mother were soon off to be reunited with Kidane’s father, riding in the back of a truck to the Eritrean side of the Sudanese border.Those feelings intensified when the family visited relatives in Seattle, and he saw what it was like to be among people who looked like him, spoke the same language and ate the same food.“I did not want to leave,” Kidane said of the trip to Seattle. It was OK to be me, or where I came from.” Halfway through Kidane’s year in third grade, his family moved to Oakland, where his father had gotten a job as a registered nurse at Highland Hospital.The family moved into an apartment building on 8 that was home to a few other Eritrean families, most of them recent immigrants.“For the first time, I was immersed among other Eritrean kids,” Kidane said.
“I didn’t know where we were going, or why we were leaving,” he said.
“It was great.” Kidane remembers the Eritrean community as “tight knit” with a community center that helped recent immigrants help find jobs and offered classes in Tigrinya, the native language of Eritrea, for kids on the weekends.
“That’s how I learned to read and write Tigrinya,” Kidane said.
“I remember that sound vividly, and how it felt to have a plane fly over you, and the fear that it instilled,” he said.
“I’ll never forget that, that sound, and how it made you feel.” It’s also where he met his father for the first time.