Allan Moise fled persecution and a camp littered with the burnt bodies of his countrymen, before landing on Australia’s peaceful shores. He was safe, but he wasn’t slowing down.
Within three months he had learnt English and by his second year he was holding down two jobs – peppering an 84-hour working week with three or four hours of snatched sleep each night.
The money was important for supporting his family, and others who had not yet made it out of the refugee camps. He knew better than most that the camps were not impervious to violence.
Mr Moise, 29, and a survivor of the 2004 Gatumba Refugee Camp Massacre in Burundi, is among Illawarra refugees who will share their experiences on Sunday at the Wollongong screening of Constance on the Edge, a documentary aimed at humanising the refugee experience.
He fled Gatumba village, in Burundi’s west, after armed factions targeted the camp, murdering 166 people and maiming and injuring another 116 – many of them before his then-teenage eyes.
Like most of the dead, Mr Moise belonged to the Banyamulenge tribe and had been persecuted and run out of his home in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. His father had been killed when he came to collect him from school as the pair fled DCR; at the camp he thought he would be safe.
He found there was little do do there, and every day was much the same. At nights he would sit with teenage friends, “chilling, teasing each other – like brothers” – to pass the time.
When gun shots sounded the night of August 13, 2004, the boys at first dismissed them as nothing out of the ordinary. Then they realised they were in the midst of a massacre.
“They were shooting everyone,” Mr Moise told the Mercury. “So I lay down myself – you have to pretend like you’re dead.
“My cousin and I waited until it was quiet, then we ran. I ran to see where my mother is – no one was there. My cousin found his mother shot, and his brothers all killed.
“Everybody had to run – just to save yourself. In a few seconds [the gunmen] … get petrol and they put it in all the tents and then they burn all the bodies.”
The boys returned the next morning and stayed for a week, burying the dead. Then they set out on foot for a refugee camp in Uganda, walking for several months.
Mr Moise spent four years in the Ugandan camp, before he was granted entry to Australia. His mother and siblings would follow several months later.
Sunday’s screening is at Greater Union Wollongong from 2pm-4pm.
Tickets cost $10 and are available at www.southcoasttickets.com.au