Melissa MacKenzie and Esayas Asfeha

Recorded July 2, 2020 Archived July 2, 2020 38:39 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019880


Melissa Mackenzie (68) prompts her dear friend Esayas Asfeha (41) to recount his migration story from multiple refugee camps to his arrival in Missoula, Montana, a 16 year process.

Subject Log / Time Code

E.A. talks about his wife and kids, who they are and what they love to do.
E.A. remembers growing up in Eritrea, before and after the civil war.
M.M. ask's E.A. to recount his time in the military.
E.A. speaks about when he was imprisoned by the Eritrean government, where he was kept and for how long.
E.A. describes seeking asylum in Ethiopia and deciding to walk to Khartoum, Sudan. He remembers crossing the desert again, with the aid of smugglers.
E.A. talks of being arrested and imprisoned when he arrived in Tripoli, Libya.
E.A. recounts crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat, trying to get to Italy. He describes the wind and the sea and the way they made the boat sway. After attempting to cross the sea three times, he decides he no longer wants to live in Italy.
E.A. talks about being smuggled, then being sold to another smuggler, who tortured him. His dad had to sell the family home in order to pay the debt the new smugglers had set on E.A.'s life, which was a deposit of $10,000 USD.
E.A. describes being nearly shot by the Egyptian military as he attempted to cross into Israel. He was imprisoned again and that's where he met his wife.
E.A. recounts being sent to a different refugee camp because he couldn't return to Eritrea. That is where he and his wife were wed.
E.A. says a year and a half passed before his asylum case was approved.
E.A. remembers his father passing away 20 days before E.A. reached the United States.
E.A. says the difference between what his family has access to in this country helps him to feel lucky.
E.A. gives this gratitude to M.M.


  • Melissa MacKenzie
  • Esayas Asfeha

Recording Location

Virtual Recording

Partnership Type



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00:00 My name is Melissa Mackenzie. I'm 68 years old today's date is Thursday, July 2nd, 2020 and where we are in Missoula Montana at my home and my conversation partner today is just a SS Baja and our relationship is good friends, and I consider say it's part of my family.

00:32 Okay.

00:39 Melissa is so good my friend in my family.

00:44 How old are you?

00:57 How are you today, too?

01:11 Tell your story that's what has brought us here together. We're going to share your difficult journey to Missoula Montana with others.

01:21 And I started on May 31st 2017 when I met you your wife Jessica and your beautiful children that being dalila the International Rescue committee had brought you here to settle after you've been living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for six years. Even Tucka. Full-time jobs soon after you got here.

01:54 You currently work at a company that supplies convenience stores with snacks and everything else. They sell what do you do there?

02:12 Do you are you happy there? And what about your family my English student and

02:28 She's part of my family to how would you describe a good wine?

02:44 It's because you're a good person and what about Debbie? How old is Debbie and what are his favorite activities?

03:12 Alila, how old is she?

03:43 It's getting very smart.

03:47 It's anybody's, she is very smart and very athletic.

04:07 Hello. Well, you were born in Eritrea in the northern region of Ethiopia in 1979. In 1991. That region became the country of Eritrea after the civil war for independence. What was your life like with your family when you were growing up?

04:45 This life is my family's it's a good life with my family.

04:56 1099 what is my friend?

05:21 In 1999, you were forced to join and remain in the Eritrean military indefinitely without proper nutrition medical care worker salary.

05:34 What was your job know I'm not going to buy I'm 6 months since he's in the military and he's almost sent to you when you needed to see your parents when you're having.

06:33 Craigslist OKC savings Mall

06:51 I can say is.

06:58 Yeah, I'm going to buy my sister.

07:03 It's one year. I'm working to use my family after 1 year.

07:11 The military is coming my home.

07:14 So

07:20 You were in prison.

07:23 And you could not.

07:27 When you run president container

07:40 The name of the place

07:49 Not enough water.

07:56 I don't know the military.

08:09 So when you are out of prison.

08:12 If you

08:14 Continue in the military

08:17 Yes, it's three of them in the freezer.

08:29 New again

08:44 Again, I ask my family is the problem. I want to go to my phone my phone.

08:58 I'm I'm working.

09:04 I got you to my home wondering is my friend.

09:30 You left the country.

09:33 Because you couldn't go home.

09:35 And then

09:38 Refugee camp in Ethiopia 16 years without a country

09:53 What was it like in the refugee camp?

09:58 Yeah, I just did that.

10:07 The government is sending me today.

10:17 Melissa again

10:34 How do you know it's not how did you get to cartoon?

11:21 I wondered if the book by working 7 days. Why did you leave after a year did the cartoon cartoon?

11:55 They're not you're not accepted to go to bed.

12:33 I'm working and I helped my family.

12:46 I think your dad.

12:56 Cross the desert again in a truck this time with 65 people in it. And what happened?

13:05 Just play music.

13:15 I'm going to bed.

13:19 It's not I don't know.

13:47 It's because companies.

14:07 Fastest 3-day

14:10 Today's

14:15 Food and water for 3 days

14:39 The people

14:50 And how many people died?

15:11 I've heard this before but every time it's difficult here.

15:18 So

15:20 The survivors that are 30 of you arrived in Tripoli, and may they rest of you?

15:33 Yes, it's it's 40.

15:37 I'm going to the face.

15:42 The first days

15:47 Seems like you two diabetes.

15:51 The Border delivery ice cream today

15:56 What everybody is the peak of the desert?

16:06 Some people go to jail.

16:15 Dim to the Red Cross

16:19 We come today.

16:48 Yeah, I think you weren't in the truck being given to you when you tried to get to Italy.

17:36 I'm go to the

17:39 Mediterranean see my friend's sister in the morning I go to bed.

17:49 405 X

17:56 Snooze

17:58 Don't do too much.

18:11 156 Morgan 3460

18:27 Yeah, I wanted there at sea.

18:31 The Mediterranean Sea

18:33 Wandering in the sea there wind in the wave you come to the wind?

18:52 1 days I wanted to see.

18:58 It's the classic.

19:05 Excalibur plastic

19:16 The people he's a funeral date because it broke the broke the plastic.

19:39 What do you say it broke with the waves the way we're too much for the plastic Daddy's all so it was an inflatable.

20:05 So I just happened at once but three times with you.

20:12 Survived in a boat on the Mediterranean and it never worked so

20:21 You decided that you were not going to try to live in Italy anymore after that.

20:30 Yeah after 3.

20:45 Their government leave out overnight

21:24 Skip today

21:36 Israel

21:40 And you crossed Egypt. How did you cross the Egypt the money?

22:01 I think that money was everything.

22:16 You are a group of 30. Yes, I go to the ER when you get to Egypt.

22:33 I just got.

23:01 Smuggler everybody every person

23:12 So they started killing people.

23:29 Econo Paint

23:39 I don't know where it was.

23:46 Neontaster music

23:51 Living by elephant Olympics

24:07 Oh, oh, oh, oh.

24:12 Yasser.

24:15 Therese M Pokemon

24:20 What's my timezone?

24:35 Job 1

24:45 Your father is she sent to my phone Family Home Live dinner. They started renting.

25:06 And then they let you go.

25:22 I'm going to Denny's like fortnite with my friend.

25:44 Legal

25:47 She started shooting.

26:01 How did you escape shooting?

26:09 When my friend is with me and my baby.

26:23 It's like a wife and the baby my friend.

26:33 This what you should eat.

26:53 The ladies to lose weight

27:03 Nick

27:30 Big Baby Davis

27:36 Mother was very confused and she wanted you to just leave the baby.

27:43 And so what did you do?

27:48 Dr.

27:50 That's the baby's okay. I'm going to go to bed with the baby.

28:20 Johnny's got coming in.

28:26 The people is it shadilay something again.

28:34 I gave you shutting the pieces.

28:38 Discovery review

28:43 But it's not your blood.

28:48 Winter is coming in to me.

29:06 Mi Gente

29:08 The blue the blue team and the gun

29:24 Give me the gun safe.

29:33 So they took you to prison part which is where you at in prison.

30:07 In today for the first time

30:13 So when you got to prison she was already there.

30:17 Michiana, okay. So you saw each other and did you fall in love right away?

30:40 Schools in the freezer back to my country, but can't I come to a different plane to the same.

31:29 And when did you were you in love?

31:34 Yes, and

31:37 Did you get married?

31:54 And then how

31:58 In the United States

32:05 660

32:09 Yeah my flight to.

32:17 Unica

32:24 Did that take years and number of years for that process?

32:35 And then and then I met you in the airport.

33:03 Again, when you did have didn't have a country, you're finally coming to a place where you could live and you haven't talked to your family.

33:28 20 days before you got here not that it.

34:10 So

34:12 What dirt you're lying, and I know you got a lot of times it stinks and I'm wondering what you

34:31 Are hoping what are your dreams for your children? What what would you like?

34:39 And yeah.

34:46 Yeah, I am lucky.

34:53 Something's eating my lunch.

34:57 Should my lunch time. After my lunch the food?

35:10 What's the people who are still there who still are suffering?

35:18 No, you're good schools. Not yours.

35:26 I'm lucky.

35:40 Now he's I'm lucky School.

35:58 I want to learn from our school.

36:03 And it's a good but a good person.

36:09 Everything good?

36:20 Wonderful person that I know

36:38 I think the first sharing your family and your story.

36:47 I don't know how much time we have.

36:57 You have any questions for me?

37:04 I love you so much and all the people International.

37:52 So I'm just so happy that you were willing to sit down after work, and I know you're okay.