“As he jumped out of the door I grabbed his left leg tight, and he was shot in the head. He dragged me on his way down without the rebels knowing. I quickly rolled under the bus with my legs out among the dead.”
Each of the nearly 38,000 immigrants in Worcester has a story to tell, but we don’t believe you’ve ever heard a story quite like that of Augustine Kanjia.
Worcester has long been a city of immigrants. A new wave of immigrants has driven the foreign-born population of Worcester to its highest level since the 1950s. They represent 21 percent of the city’s population.
Kanjia came to the city in 2010. He was an investigative reporter and photojournalist in the West African nations of Sierra Leone and Gambia from 1994 to 2009. He escaped the brutal civil war that raged in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002.
As a reporter for the Gambian anti-government newspaper The Point, Kanjia saw his friend and editor, Deyda Hydara, murdered in 2004, a case that remains unsolved and which many attribute to President Yahya Jammeh.
Kanjia was arrested in June 2009 while covering the trial of seven journalists arrested for sedition. After being bailed out of jail, Kanjia, who feared he had been marked for death by President Jammeh, persuaded the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to allow him and his family to leave Gambia.
After landing in the United States at Logan Airport, Kanjia and his family were driven to Worcester, where they still live today.
Kanjia and his family are now legal immigrants. He is a student at Quinsigamond Community College who plans to transfer to Worcester State University in January. He lives in Worcester with his wife, Theresa A. Johnson, son, Glen J.P., 21, and daughters Mary Hannah and Ann-Britt Anna, 15 years old and 17 months old, respectively.
We are pleased to introduce Worcester to Augustine Kanjia, and more pleased to announce he is the newest contributor to the Worcester Sun.
We asked Augustine to recount his journey from Sierra Leone to Worcester. We’re publishing the first two installments today.