After several bouts of ethnic hostilities in Nigeria during which thousands of Igbo people were murdered and chased out of cities, back to their ancestral communities in southeastern Nigeria
, leaders from the southeast declared on May 30, 1967 that the region would breakaway from Nigeria and form the Republic of Biafra.
Diplomatic efforts to unite Nigeria failed; war spilled out and continued pouring out atrocities for three years.
The land of my birth- southeastern Nigeria- collapsed into a battlefield: Nigeria versus Biafra. Most of the Biafrans were like me, Igbo.
My mother, an Igbo woman, was a six-year-old child when she ran away from a city in central Nigeria where Igbo people were being "slaughtered like chickens," as my grandmother told me.
Mom journeyed with her mother and siblings from one town to the next, fleeing Nigerian soldiers. She ended up in a camp where children died of malnutrition everyday.
My father, also Igbo, didn't run. He stayed in his village, a hamlet nestled in a dense forest resting on the bank of the Niger River. It became a refuge of hundreds of Igbo families who had nowhere else to go.
No one knows how many people died in the war and the Nigerian government has never presented an official death toll of it. Neither has the United Nations but estimates range from one to three million. Relatives I never knew disappeared and no one held funerals for them.
Today, my mother can't stand cramped, windowless spaces, like small elevators or an MRI machine. In them, her heart pumps faster and she feels like the walls are falling on top of her.
She thinks she's now claustrophobic because of the underground bunker she and her family had to stay in to hide from the frequent shelling during the war.
If the war hadn't happened, my father wouldn't have permanently left Nigeria.