A few months ago Ros and Hilary heard Gulwali Passarlay speak at a bookseller’s conference: his book, ‘The Lightless Sky’, was due to be published soon and he was there to promote it. They were so moved by his story that they approached his publisher to ask if he would come to Church Stretton to give a talk about his extraordinarily traumatic journey from Afghanistan to the UK as a child refugee.

We were delighted to welcome Gulwali to the United Reformed Church, where a sell-out audience listened to him tell his story and speak with great passion about his hopes for the future. He answered questions from the audience, then met and chatted to people individually as he signed copies of his book. He made sure everyone in the long queue got the chance to speak to him. This charming, polite, and eloquent young man left no one in doubt about his ambition to help the plight of other refugees so they don’t have to experience the awful situations he went through. He talked about his hopes to one day return to his homeland, Afghanistan, and do all he can to make it a safe, war–free country. We wish you well, Gulwali, you were an inspiration.

About ‘The Lightless Sky’

Gulwali Passarlay was sent away from Afghanistan by his mother at the age of twelve to save his life, after losing his father in tragic circumstances. Smuggled into Iran, Gulwali began a twelve-month odyssey across Europe, spending time in prisons, suffering hunger, cruelty, brutality, and nearly drowning in a tiny boat on the Mediterranean. He finally arrived in the UK, no longer an innocent child but still a boy of twelve.

In Iran Gulwali made a treacherous night-time mountain crossing, only narrowly escaping as he and his fellow-travellers were shot at by border guards. In Bulgaria he jumped from a speeding train, nearly breaking both his legs. He travelled across the Mediterranean in a broken-down vessel with dozens of starving men. In Greece he saw the insanity of a legal system which gave him six weeks to leave the country.

Here in Britain he was fostered, won a place at a top university, and was chosen to carry the Olympic torch in 2012. Now a young man, he is intent on changing the world. ‘The Lightless Sky’ is the story of an extraordinary, and often terrifying, journey.

Gulwali Passarlay – 20th April 2016