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.

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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

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.

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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

Why is saying “I can’t” so difficult?

“Unfortunately, most people do not stop to feel their tiredness. Faced with the pressures of life, they believe that it is a matter of survival to go on as they have been. Feeling tired raises a deep fear that they may not be able to continue the struggle. Many find it difficult to say, ‘I can’t.’ As children, they were taught that where there’s a will, there’s a way. To say, ‘I can’t,’ is to admit failure, which is seen as evidence that they are unworthy of love.”

– Alexander Lowen

Hi everyone,

No time to think, No time to Breathe... Is this Me? (Saturday,  June 5th)

We still have space available for No time to think, No time to breathe… Is this me? this coming Saturday, June 5th. I really hope you will join us, and here’s why.

It has become commonplace to joke about our crazy-busy-multi-tasking-non-stop-over-scheduled lives, yet how did we get to this place of taking it so lightly? Are we really willing to collapse into resignation and say, this is just the reality of life in current day society? We accept overwhelm as the new norm?

What is this driven-ness to be super-human, defy all limits, and push beyond our natural reservoir of energy?

We are in trouble when start using our emergency inner resources on a day-to-day basis just to get by. The good news / bad news is we can adapt to ever increasing demands really well, but not without paying the horribly destructive price that we stop feeling what we are really doing to ourselves. Eventually we reach exhaustion . . . of course we might not even notice that. Sometimes we just get numb and stop feeling. Despite the exhaustion we just keep going because we don’t feel much of anything anymore. We fail to recognize the self-cruelty in this, and the result of vicarious traumas we have yet to process.

Our bodies were designed to push and stop, run and rest, exert and recuperate, expand and contract. When we stop abiding by the rhythm of life itself, we lose the ability to know our own inner state, think creatively, and grow in consciousness. We also lose the ability to resonate with one another and the greater world around us. We sacrifice our capacity for that which is ultimately human, to relate, bond, connect, empathize, care and love.

None of us deserves this sort of mistreatment. And we will all pay a hefty price if it persists. We need to push the “pause button” and get re-centered. We all need some help with figuring out how to do this.

I hope you will join us this Saturday. If there is any financial hardship, please do let us know. This workshop series is a service to the community and no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Barbara Engilsh
Living Ubuntu
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No time to think, No time to breathe…

Is this me?

by

Tarra Stariell

No time to think, No time to breathe... Is this me?

presented by

Living Ubuntu
Southern California Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis

Saturday, June 5 2010
9:00a – 12:00p

University of San Diego
Manchester Conference Center
5998 Alcala Park I
San Diego, CA 92110

Why is it so hard to keep up? Where is the time for me? Why do I feel so lost in my own life?

Join us for a workshop about our overwhelmed lives and how to find our way back to a healthy balance. This is a not-for-profit event. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Advance registration is required. Please visit http://livingubuntu.org/events for more information.

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