‘We Hear Gunfire’: Tennis Session Turns into a Nightmare as an Aid Worker and Her 8-Year-Old Son Fight for Their Lives

Published 04/20/2023, 6:42 AM EDT

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The ongoing conflict in Sudan has caused untold suffering and tragedy for numerous innocent civilians. Among them are aid worker Katharina von Schroeder and her eight-year-old son. They found themselves trapped in a school when clashes erupted between the Sudanese military and rival parliamentary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for control. As gunshots and explosions rumbled through the streets, their weekly tennis session turned into an active nightmare.

The aid worker and her son are fighting for their lives with dwindling supplies. They have no idea when they will be able to leave.


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A young tennis player and his mother trapped amidst violence in Sudan

Katharina von Schroeder, a 43-year-old aid worker, and her eight-year-old son were attending his weekly tennis class at a school in the capital, Khartoum. According to the Independent, the two heard gunshots and explosions rumbling through the streets “like a thunderstorm”.  From an undisclosed location, to ensure the safety of those involved, Ms von Schroeder spoke, “The fighting has been nearly continuous since Saturday morning. Sometimes we hear gunfire. I see lots of smoke and burning buildings. The noises of aircraft and detonations are really loud, like thunder – those sounds go into your stomach.

The group of 20, including von Schroeder and her son, are trapped with only a week or two of supplies. The situation is chaotic, with the risk of stray bullets hitting the school or any fighter making a mistake. On Sunday morning, the group saw a military jet flying past the school and heard shooting noises. They also found two stray bullets on the tennis court. Von Schroeder is trapped with her friends, who are all providing each other with emotional support. However,  she feels “very tense and stressed” and is struggling to sleep.


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The conflict in Sudan has been ongoing for years, with various factions vying for control of the country. The violence has sparked widespread protests and condemnation from the international community. The impact of the conflict on civilians has been devastating.

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In addition to the immediate risks of violence and instability, the conflict has also had a profound impact on Sudan’s economy and infrastructure. The country is facing shortages of fuel and electricity. The healthcare system is in disarray, with hospitals and clinics struggling to cope with the influx of wounded and sick. The conflict has also caused significant damage to Sudan’s cultural heritage, with numerous historical sites and artifacts destroyed or damaged.

The international community has been working to address the crisis in Sudan, with various aid organizations providing support to those in need.


Written by:

Dr Aditya Raveendran Menon


One take at a time

Aditya Menon is a Tennis Writer at EssentiallySports, covering several high-profile tournaments and events. With a passion for writing that matches his love for the sport, he has a special interest in covering the activities of tennis legends like Serena Williams and the ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis. Aditya’s interest in tennis started at a young age when his father introduced him to the sport.
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Edited by:

Jayant Chhabra