Monday, March 6, 2006
Monday, March 6, 2006, students filed into Gottesman Room to hear the story of a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Yvette Rugasaguhunga, a Tutsi woman not much older than most Pace students, came to share her story with the assembly. Rugasaguhunga was born in 1980 outside of Rwanda during a time of political tension, but her parents moved back as the country’s political atmosphere lessened and allowed them back to their homes. During the event she spoke of her two older brothers and two older sisters. The children lost their mother in 1986, but they lived with their grandmother and depended on their father to play a dual parental role. “My father was both my parents, mother and father, as well as my best friend,” she stated when recalling him.
For more than an hour, Rugasaguhunga took students through her memories of that time in her life. From hearing of her father getting shot, her grandmother begging to die, and watching her oldest brother get beaten to death, she held a firm tone of factuality. When speaking of her sister’s rape, however, Rugasaguhunga dissolved into tears. “From then on she just didn’t care if we got caught or not, she would only hide when we made her,” recalled Rugasaguhunga of her sister. “She was an empty shell of my sister.”
She also held a brief question and answer session about the historical events, to help people understand the political climate that led to this tragedy. This led invariably to a debate about who was responsible, and who should have done what during that time. Regardless of their final stances however, everyone in the room learned something from the discussion.
Students and faculty alike were touched by the stories that Rugasaguhunga had to tell. Since coming to the US, she has vowed never to keep her story silent, and for over an hour she fulfilled that promise to a rapt and captivated audience.