“An interview with…” — survivors of genocide

Genocide Awareness Film Series
APRIL 2014 GENOCIDE AWARENESS AND PREVENTION MONTH:

Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future
A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public. All details are here.

As part of featuring the stories of survivors and their children, Living Ubuntu volunteer, Alicia Buly, has been conducting a series of interviews. Most of these survivors will speak at the April film series events. To date, there are five. They are listed below.

Cambodia’s Past Shapes America’s Future – An Interview with Zaklin Phat (April 3 – Cambodia)
Second Generation Survivor, First Generation Activist – An Interview with Martina Knee (April 17 – Sudan)
Giving Back to Sudan, from San Diego – An Interview with Wai John Wai
Finding Strength in Testimony – An Interview with Edith Umugiraneza (April 1 – Rwanda)
Activism Through Education – An Interview with Levon Marashlian (April 2 – Armenian)

[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.

Activism Through Education – An Interview with Levon Marashlian

 

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My grandmother asked: “Are there any Armenians left?”  What she and her companion had witnessed during the deportation made them think they were the only Armenians left in the world. – Levon Marashlian

APRIL 2014 GENOCIDE AWARENESS AND PREVENTION MONTH:
Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future

A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public.

Below is an interview with Levon Marashlian, a third generation Armenian genocide survivor who will be a featured speaker at the Armenian genocide event.

***

An Interview with Levon Marashlian

Born:  Beirut, Lebanon
Degree:  B.A.-University of Illinois. M.A. and Ph.D.-UCLA
Occupation:  Professor, Glendale Community College, Glendale, CA

Q: When did you move to the U.S.?

A: In 1956 when I was 7 years old.  We moved to from Beirut to Chicago. It was just my immediate family. All my grandparents stayed behind. That’s why I lost contact with them, which is too bad, because I never had a chance to talk to them about their experience during the deportations and massacres.  By the time I visited Beirut in 1973, they were all gone.

Q: Did you have any other family left in Beirut other than your grandparents?

A: A few family members, but no one from the survivor generation. If I had known then what I know now, I would have had them recorded.  Armenians started this late, not until the mid 1970s. I did over 20 interviews myself as part of a course at UCLA.  By the time oral histories were recorded in the 80s and 90s most of the people who were still alive and able were children during the genocide so they knew things from the perspective of a child.  That’s still useful, but the most valuable witnesses would have been people who were adults in 1915.  The memory of the most valuable generation was lost. Read more of this post

Finding Strength in Testimony – An Interview with Edith Umugiraneza

This is the dress that I wore for three months during the genocide.  My mother gave me this scarf and said, "If anything happens  to us, you will have this."

This is the dress that I wore for three months during the genocide. My mother gave me this African wrap because it was the rainy season at the time.  She also gave me a necklace and said, “If they kill me, have this in remembrance of me.” – Edith Umugiraneza

April 2014 Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month:
Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future

A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public.

Below is an interview with Edith Umugiraneza, a Rwandan genocide survivor who will be a featured speaker at the Rwanda genocide event.

***

An Interview with Edith Umugiraneza

Birth Place:  Kigali, Nyarugenge, Rwanda
Occupation: Indexer for USC Shoah Foundation
Degree: B.A. in Social Work from Laval University, Quebec, Canada


Q:  What was your life like before the genocide?

A:  I was 17 years old when the genocide started.  Before that, life was good.  I was a high school student with six siblings.  My mother was a widow.  We had a normal life.  I was the youngest.

Q:  Prior to the genocide did you have many Hutu friends?  Did you notice divisions between the two populations?

A:  No.  And yes, when we were in elementary school they used to ask us which group we belonged to.  Each year they would ask this to find out who people were.  They were practicing segregation to choose who would go to public and private schools.  The Hutus were chosen to go to public schools. The Tutsis would be sent to private schools, and many of them didn’t have money to afford the tuition so they didn’t go to school at all.  Before the genocide, in the political parties, we could see people being jailed because of who they were.

Q:  What is the first thing you remember about the start of the genocide? Read more of this post

Giving Back to Sudan, from San Diego – An Interview with Wai John Wai

 
We learned how to jump into bunkers by about age five.  We were taught to distinguish the sound of a normal airplane coming to land and the sound of the bombers.
– Wai John Wai
 

April 2014 Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month:
Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future
A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public. On Thursday, April 17, the film series will include an event about the Sudan genocide.

Below is an interview with Wai John Wai, a first generation survivor from South Sudan.

* * *

An Interview with Wai John Wai

Born:  Bor, South Sudan (Jonglei State)
Age:  29
Occupation:   Elementary School Teacher’s Aide,  Director and Founding Member, Sudanese-American Youth Center (San Diego, CA).  Graduate of Concordia University-BA in History
Major:  Acquiring Masters degree in Health Informatics
 

Q:  What year did you come to the U.S. and how?

A:  1995.  My older brother Simon came here first by himself a year before.  Later I came with my aunt and cousins.

Q:  Do you have any other relatives still in South Sudan?

A:  Yes, my mother is still there, my sisters and about 12 nieces and nephews.  My father died of natural causes way before I was born.

Q:  Are any other siblings besides your brother in the U.S.?

A:  I have five siblings.  Just Simon and I are in the U.S.  I am the youngest.

Q:  What kind of memories do you have of your childhood in South Sudan (both good and bad)?

A:  We left around 1990.  I was very young. I remember the journey we took.  I can’t remember exactly how long it was, but it was a looong journey… many months.  We left by cars and were told we couldn’t drive with lights at night because we could easily be spotted.  We had to zigzag around the rebel held towns and government held towns all the way to the Kenyan border.  We went to meet up with my brother there.  At first we were just in the border area for a number of years, not in a camp (refugee).  Then later we went to a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya.  We didn’t stay long after that.  I moved to Nairobi with my aunt and cousins for maybe a year then came to the U.S.

Q:  How did your brother manage to get everywhere first, by himself?

A:  He was working with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I believe it was World Vision; they were delivering aid to the refugees.

Q:  Do you have any special happy memories that stand out in your head?

A:  Hmmm I’m trying to think.  My friends and I used to love swimming in the Nile, during the rainy season.  We used to just play in the water a lot.  And eating mangos.. I used to love eating mangos in South Sudan.

Q:  Why did you end up coming the U.S. to join your brother and not your other siblings or mother?

A:  We ended up being separated in a border town. Some people went toward Kenya, some went toward Uganda.  Also my mother just didn’t want to come here.  She actually declined three times.  She didn’t want to come start all over since she doesn’t speak English.

Q:  What was the political climate like in South Sudan when you left?

A:  That was when the civil war really intensified, during that time.  The current Sudan president (Omar al-Bashir) had just come into power.  He came with a new ideology to win the war (Second Sudanese Civil War), and that was to encourage the mujahideen (Muslim guerilla fighters) to fight, so the war was intensifying.  A lot of people were displaced during that time.

Q:  Did you leave before soldiers in your area were attacking people in their own homes?

A:  Yes we left early on, maybe a couple of years before.  But the town that we lived in by the border was bombed almost every day.  It was called Kapoeta.  We were living there, and the capital city of the South, which is called Juba now, was the only stronghold left under government control.  They would protect it with the air force and all their  arsenals.  So sometimes they would send the air force to go bomb all the cities in the south from Juba.  Kapoeta was one of the cities that was getting bombed almost every day.  We learned how to jump into bunkers by about age five.  We were taught to distinguish the sound of a normal airplane coming to land and the sound of the bombers.  The high and low altitudes have distinct sounds.  We used to say “That’s a higher altitude.  That’s a bomber.  Let’s go to the bunkers.”

Read more of this post

Second Generation Survivor, First Generation Activist – An Interview with Martina Knee


My first thought when I learned about the genocide was that if I could help just one child not experience what I went through as a second generation survivor, then it would be worth it.
– Martina Knee

April 2014 Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month:
Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future

A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public.

Below is an interview with Martina Knee, a second generation Holocaust survivor who will be a featured speaker at the Sudan genocide event.

* * *

An Interview With Martina Knee

 
Birth place: Vienna, Austria
Occupation:  Corporate Attorney-Retired,
Full Time volunteer for Darfur Coalition (San Francisco Bay Area)
 

Q:  When did you come to the U.S.?

A:  When I was two years old.  We lived in the suburbs of Washington D.C. until I was twelve.  We then moved to the Chicago area, and I came to San Francisco to finish college.

Q:  Were both your mother and father from Austria?  What do you know of their background?

A:  Yes, but I know very little of my father’s side of the family.  He didn’t know his father, and he was an only child, very distant to his mother. He was raised Catholic but a very devout Atheist as an adult and died when I was ten years old.

My mother’s father (my grandfather) was a soldier in World War I and spent time in a prison camp in Siberia.  I don’t know anything else about it but mention it as it is the earliest war-related trauma in my family of which I am aware.  My mother described her father as a cold, selfish person who took care of his children, but today I think we would call him emotionally distant.

My mother’s mother was Jewish, and her father was Catholic.  Her parents married in 1920, when Jews and Catholics in Austria just did not marry.  They converted to the Lutheran religion so they could marry, but they did not observe and did not raise their children to observe.  Austria was then, and is now, about 97% Catholic and has a long history of anti-Semitism. In the Jewish religion, Judaism passes through the mother.  So, my mother was Jewish and was identified as a “half-Jew” by the Nazis. There is no such thing–one is either Jewish or not.

Q:  Did your mother/family ever talk about what life was like before the Second World War (WWII)?

A:  In a very idealized way.  My mother absolutely loved opera from when she was little.  She would talk about going to the opera as a child and being able to present flowers to the lead opera singer.  But she never really talked about reality much.

Q:  Did she have any siblings?

A:  Yes,  my mother was the oldest.  She had a younger sister who was very different from her, and a younger brother who was drafted into the Nazi army toward the end of WWII.  As the Nazis became more desperate, they started drafting teenagers and “half-Jews” such as her brother (my uncle).  He was killed at age 17 on a train that was bombed by the Americans.

Q:  What did your mother’s parents do for a living?

A:  Both of her parents were doctors.  It was very unusual then for her mother (a woman) to be a doctor.  Both of my parents were doctors as well, and my mother’s sister is a doctor.  Status and education were incredibly important to my parents, particularly my mother.

Q:  Did your family ever try to emigrate before the start of, or during WWII?

A:  I don’t know the answer to that.  After Germany annexed Austria and persecution of the Jews accelerated, my mother’s mother, her maternal grandparents and a maternal uncle committed suicideAnother maternal uncle disappeared; no one knew what happened to him. My mother was 19 when her mother committed suicide. I have a feeling they committed suicide to avoid being taken to camps.  My grandmother was, so to speak, the “Jewish link”.  She thought her children would be better off if she were dead because then there would be no link.  They were all in various places in Austria at the time (not in the same house), and I don’t know the details.

My mother never sat down and told me about the war as a story.  She would just mention these individual vignettes or feelings, but it was never continuous.  She never said that I shouldn’t ask questions, but somehow I knew not to ask questions.   It wasn’t until after she died that I read a zillions books on turn of the century Vienna and the time leading up to the war.  And then I had so many questions, and no one to ask…

Read more of this post

Cambodia’s Past Shapes America’s Future – An Interview with Zaklin Phat

ZaklinMy grandmother talked about how peaceful life was before the genocide…
…after the Khmer Rouge, everything changed.

- Zaklin Phat

April 2014 Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month:
Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future

A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public.

Below is an interview with Zaklin Phat who will be a featured speaker at the Cambodia genocide event.

* * *

An Interview with Zaklin Phat

Birth Place: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Age:  21
Occupation:  Student, University of CA-Irvine
Major:  International Studies

Q:  Do you have any memories of life in Cambodia as a child?

A:   Actually, I only have happy memories of my childhood there.  I remember mostly playing hop-scotch and jumping rope with friends, and also teaching myself to ride a bike in alleyways and scraping up my hands and knees.  One of my favorite memories is of my birthdays.  My dad would always buy a piece of cake just for me, and we would spend time together,  just the two of us.

Q:  How were your school days?

A:   School there was very strict.   We had to have our hair pulled back and wear uniforms. Our skirts had to be at least knee-length.  The teachers used rulers or a metal stick to hit our hands or behinds if we didn’t do our homework, misbehaved or even if our fingernails were too long.

Q:   How did you come to live in the U.S.?

A:   When I was nine years old, my father asked my older sister and I if we wanted to come stay with an aunt and uncle who had moved here a year or two before.  Because I was so young, I thought at first he just meant to visit.  It wasn’t until I got here that I realized he meant for us to stay.  My sister came here with a relative, and then I came with my Godfather about a month later. Read more of this post

Who Is… Samantha Power?

Samantha Power addresses reporters on evidence of Syrian chemical weapons attacks collected by U.N. investigators.-photo by: Stan Honda

Personal Background and Education

Ambassador Power was born in Dublin, Ireland, and immigrated to the U.S. with her family at the age of nine.  She holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.  Power’s first profession was that of field journalist.  She covered the Yugoslav Wars and reported from Rwanda and Sudan.  Power was later the Founding Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government from 1998 to 2002.  Here, she also became the Ann Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy.  She is married to Cass Sunstein, and they have two children.

Professional Experience

On August 2nd, 2013, Dr. Samantha Power became the acting U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN (she replaced Susan Elizabeth Rice as the nominee in June) and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet.  Dr. Power’s previous posts under the Obama administration include Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council from 2009 to 2013.  During this time she also directed the fledgeling Atrocities Prevention Board. In these positions, Power directed efforts toward UN reform, advocated for LGBT and women’s rights,  addressed human trafficking and the safeguarding of religious minorities.

Now, in case you are feeling a bit winded just from reading a resume (I know I am), there is a reason why Power’s work, and resulting appointment as U.N. Ambassador, is so crucial to organizations like Living Ubuntu and the victimized and oppressed around the globe… her unwavering commitment to human rights, specifically in the Middle East, North Africa, Sudan and Burma.

Read more of this post

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