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Family escapes war, but struggles do not end
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Dec 29, 2008 - 9:30:32 PM

Family escapes war, but struggles do not end

By Jodie Tillman, Times Staff Writer

Published Monday, December 29, 2008 8:57 PM

NEW PORT RICHEY Ibrahim Yagoub slipped away when the soldiers weren't looking, leaving behind his home in Sudan for one in America.

He found a job with a Pasco County sprinkler company. He found a house for his family and got something he had never heard of mortgages? to pay for it.

Then the economy began to falter. This time, home slipped away from him.

In Sudan, Yagoub was a father who trucked vegetables to market. But one day almost a decade ago, he recalled, the northern government ordered him and the men in his village to make other plans: They were to fight in the civil war against their neighbors to the south.

The war had already left his two cousins dead, and it seemed a senseless endeavor to Yagoub. "It's same people," he said, "fighting each other."

Now 53, Yagoub sneaked off during a military training exercise, first to the city of Khartoum, then to Egypt and, in 2001, to the United States through the help of World Relief, a refugee aid group that brought more than 50 Sudanese men to Pasco County. Most of those men were "Lost Boys," who as children had fled their villages during Sudan's 1987 civil war.

Yagoub's circumstances in Sudan had been different from those of the Lost Boys, but he and the younger men formed a close community in Pasco, sharing tiny apartments, working in the construction and landscaping industries and learning together how to navigate their surreal new world.

Much was riding on Yagoub establishing a foothold. Back in Sudan waited his wife, Khadiga, now 36, and their five children, Awatif, Shadia, Faiza, Mustafa and Tassabeh, now 18, 16, 11, 10 and 7, respectively. They would come when he prepared a place for them.

So he worked overtime. He saved money and sent money home. The apartments he had lived in were too small and, he thought, too crime-ridden for five school-age children. His instincts were reinforced by what he heard from everyone around him: Buying is better than renting.

Nearly five years later, his family's paperwork to come to America was close to approval. He needed a home. Soon.

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