The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee's Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World

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In 2006, when Gulwali Passerlay was twelve years old, his father and grandfather were killed by U.S. troops during a raid of their home in rural Afghanistan. Suddenly targeted by the American army as informants and by the Taliban as recruits, Gulwali and his brother Hazrat are forced to flee their home as refugees. On the first leg of their perilous journey toward Europe, the two young boys are separated and left to fend for themselves amid a shadowy network of smugglers.

The Lightless Sky details Gulwali’s efforts to reach safety in England and reunite with Hazrat. From midnight mountain treks to near-fatal ocean crossings and several stints in prison, Gulwali’s story gives readers an incredible and heartbreaking glimpse into the danger of being a child alone in the world.

 “One of the strangest things about this journey was how whenever a smuggler or a driver gave us an instruction, we simply followed it.  Whether it was get in the car, stay silent, follow me, eat this, shave your beard, hand over your passport — we simply followed orders.  Without questioning or really even thinking, we put our lives into the hands of strangers, time and again. We had no choice.  When they said come, we little lost sheep had to follow.  It's very hard to explain the feeling of repeatedly putting your complete trust into the hands of strangers who see you as a commodity.  Every time I did as one of these men asked, I had an acute awareness that this could be the last instruction I would ever follow.  Each of these men had the power to take us to our deaths, at any time.”

Gulwali Passarlay is a public speaker, activist, and the author of The Lightless Sky, which he co-wrote with Nadene Ghouri. He currently lives in England.

Published: 2015
Length: 368 pages
Main settings: Afghanistan and Manchester, England
Secondary settings: Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, and France