Amy Shrodes, an Ypsilanti resident, is the co-author of the children’s book, Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey. The book tells the true story of one cat’s journey to be reunited with his war-torn family. Shrodes played an integral part in the reunion of a cat, Kunkush, and his refugee family that fled a war-zone home in Iraq. She shared some of that story with Ann Arbor Family.
What brought you to the island of Lesbos, Greece? I was traveling through Europe to take a break from my career and continued to notice refugees throughout my travels. I was on my way to India when I felt a strong desire to help. I found an urgent post in a Facebook group called, Third Wave Volunteer Network, asking for volunteers on the Greek island of Lesbos. The next day, I was on my way to Lesbos to help serve food and tea to refugees after they crossed the Aegean Sea.
What was it like, working with the refugees? It was a life-changing experience. Lesbos is one of the closest gateways from the Turkish shores into the safety of the European Union. Their journey to Europe is long, scary, and the trip across the sea can be a terrifying experience. When refugees get off the boat, it is chaotic. I sat next to grown men having panic attacks. The refugees have no other option because their homes are being taken over by militant groups and their lives are threatened every day. They just want to find a place to live where they are safe.
Tell us the story of Kunkush and his family. Sura, and her five children had fled from their soon-to-be occupied home in Mosul, Iraq. The family carried Kunkush, the family cat, in a basket throughout the entire journey to Lesbos. In the chaotic landing on the shores of Lesbos, Kunkush escaped and got left behind after the family had to continue without him. I found Kunkush at a local café and worked with a huge network of volunteers, two women, Michelle and Ashley, and the co-author of the book, Doug Kuntz, to launch a campaign to find Kunkush’s family. After three months the family was finally found living in Norway.
Amy with Kunkush’s family in Norway. Photo Credit_ Hakam Hasan
Did you get to meet Kunkush’s family? After writing the book, I was able to go to Norway to meet the family. It was really important to Doug and I to give the family a portion of the proceeds of every book sold. The family chose to give all of the money from the books sales to the family member that assisted them in leaving Iraq, as that family member is now stuck in Turkey. They just kept telling me how thankful they are that their family is safe now.
What inspired you to write the book, Lost and Found Cat? Doug’s fiancé, Sandra, met an editor from the Children’s Department at Penguin Random House. The editor was asking for some heartfelt stories of experiences with the refugees and Sandra told them the story of Kunkush. Creating the book was a way for us to help explain the life of a refugee to children. The overarching theme I want others to take away from the book is that when we come together, it is amazing the doors that will open. Miracles do happen when we all put our differences aside and put kindness first.
What brought you to live in Ypsilanti? My mom was living in Ypsilanti and I fell in love with the culture here. I appreciate the diversity and find it to be a very open and accepting community. I am so grateful to be part of this community where People truly care about their neighbors.
What is your advice for how we can make a difference to help the refugee cause? Get involved on a local level! Here in Washtenaw County there is Washtenaw Refugee Welcome working to support our local refugees and WICER working to support our local immigrants. Amalshop.org or revifamily.org are also great because you can buy handmade gifts from refugees with all proceeds going directly to them.
Purchase Lost and Found Cat, through
lostandfoundcat.org or at local booksellers.
Also, check out Amy’s podcast, Unified Threads, where Amy
talks about her experiences working with refugees in Greece.