The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee’s Harrowing Escape from Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World by Gulwali Passarlay

Gulwali Passarlay was born in 1994 in Afghanistan one year before the Taliban took control of his country. When Gulwali was 12 years old, his father and grandfather were killed by U.S. troops for allegedly collaborating with the Taliban.

Gulwali’s mother realized that he and his brother Hazrat were in imminent danger. If the Taliban conscripted them, they would be two of many disposable children caught in the struggle. If they sided with U.S. forces and were discovered by their neighbors, they would surely be killed. So, Gulwali’s mother “made the ultimate sacrifice any mother could ever make.” She paid traffickers to bring her sons to Greece “so she didn’t have to bury another person that she loved.” She could not know that she had launched her sons on such an excruciating journey. To make matters worse, the brothers were separated.

Highly organized smugglers “helped” Gulwali make his way into Iran, across Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Germany, Belgium, France, and finally, a year later, into England. Along the way, Gulwali learned “that everything came down to money with these people.” Treated like commodities and human cattle, Gulwali and his newfound friends supported each other and met unexpected kindness from strangers. Without these helpers, Gulwali realized he would not have survived.

Gulwali’s gut-wrenching, first-person account is a variation of the reality millions of refugees face today—ordinary people who, through no fault of their own, are forced to flee their countries and lose all they hold dear. (HarperCollins)

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