Francis Bok, p2

In the beginning, Francis understood nothing that Giemma and his family were saying. They spoke Arabic; he spoke Dinka. This didn’t bother Giemma or his family. They pointed and used gestures to tell Francis what to do.

But Francis struggled to learn Arabic on his own. He felt he had to do this. He couldn’t understand why Giemma and the other raiders had the power to go into another part of the country and to kill and capture and enslave the people who were living there. He felt they must have secrets inside their heads that gave them this power. He wanted to steal their secrets, and he felt that to do that he had to understand their language. By the time Francis finally escaped, his Arabic was excellent.

When he was fourteen, Francis tried twice to escape—on two consecutive days. Both times he was caught, once by another farmer, once by Giemma himself. The first time, Giemma whipped him and threatened to cut off one of his legs if he tried again. The second time Giemma beat him again then tied him up and pointed a gun at him. Giemma’s wife, who was watching, urged him to shoot. Giemma told Francis that he was going to kill him the next day.

In the morning Giemma told Francis he didn’t want to kill him because he was doing a good job of taking care of his animals. But he also told him that if he tried to escape again, he would kill him.

Francis decided that he would wait three years before making another attempt to escape. He felt that it would take that long before Giemma trusted him and stopped watching him. He also felt he had to be bigger and stronger and smarter before he could succeed.

Three years later he tried again and this time he did succeed. After many adventures, he managed to get to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, and from there to Cairo. He was helped by many people along the way. In 1999 he went to the US as a refugee. There, with the help of Edward Tivnan, he wrote a book about his life, called Escape from Slavery.

- information from: “Escape from Slavery,” Francis Bok and Edward Tivnan, St. Martin’s Press, N.Y., 2000