Oral History Excerpts

Lucy Achieng Odhiambo
Yudis Akoth Odego


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Have Had Leprosy

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The gravesite of Yudis Akoth Odego's husband.
It was a shock to me when I learned that I had leprosy. What tore into my heart most was the haunting thought that I had leprosy because my parents were witches. It is what everyone including my husband believed. My husband was so ashamed of me that he would not accompany me to the health centers and hospitals when I went for treatment. To him I was a curse and he said that he wanted nothing to do with me.

-- Excerpt from oral history conducted by Jack Obonyo and Joshua Oraga with Lucy Achieng Odhiambo, a widow in her mid-30’s with six children.

When the dead body of my husband was brought from Alupe, the village elders said that it could not be buried inside the homestead. They buried him out in the bushes and left all his clothes and belongings at the gravesite. No one visits the gravesite. The village elders said that anybody who goes back there would get the disease. Even herders do not take their cattle to graze there.

Sometimes when I am asleep I have a dream that we are together -- my husband, my sons and their wives. When I wake up and realize that it is all a dream, I cry for days.

-- Excerpt from oral history conducted with Yudis Akoth Odego by Jack Obonyo and Joshua Oraga. Her husband and three sons had leprosy and died between 2000 and 2003. The wives of her three sons later died of other diseases, probably HIV/AIDS and her grandchildren are living away from her, not going to school. She lives alone, without visitors.