Come, take shelter from the rain
Rwanda is a country in Central Africa. In April 1994, the conflict between two peoples of Rwanda – Tutsi and Hutu – escalated. Almost one million people, mainly Tutsi, perished within 100 days. The impulse for the massacre was shooting down a plane with the President of Rwanda. However, the genocide had been planned beforehand. The majority of victims were murdered at their places of residence, often by their own neighbours, beaten by the machetes used by the Hutu mobs.
The African continent has been a site of internal conflicts for years now. The borders, delineated by the colonizing powers, did not consider the ethnic divisions. The ethnically diverse states and weak governments were the main causes of the state of affairs.
Josephine and Marie. Both were Hutu, and both helped Tutsi.
In his journalistic book titled Dzisiaj narysujemy śmierć (Today We Will Draw Death), Wojciech Tochman wrote: “Tens of Rwandan men and women found time and energy to talk to me and tell me how the genocide touched them personally. […] for obvious reasons, I did not reveal their first or family names.” Over a dozen years after the civil war, it is still dangerous to talk about certain events.
“Come, take shelter from the rain,” Josephine began. Or: “And you just keep strolling around while they are shooting at you?”. Theodor remembers that day somewhat differently. He found shelter at her house, he survived. The owner of a local store was popular among the local population. She provided those in hiding with food and information. “What was the hideout like? How did the people in hiding deal with their physiological needs? How often did they wash? What did they eat?” – Tochman did not ask Theodor these questions. “Why ask a victim about his or her shame?”
Marie looked after those, whom her husband, a car mechanic and a respected member of the Nyamirambo quarter of the capital, brought home. She also looked after those who asked for shelter. They used to bring the lorries full of cassava bulbs in order to feed all the people in hiding.
Yvonna, one of the survivors from Marie’s house, remembers the crowd. Due to her pregnancy, Yvonna was placed in a single room and the landlady taught her how to look after a newborn. “She cared for us without a word of complaint, but also with no particular warmth or unnecessary talking.”
When the house was visited by those from Interahamwe, the Hutu mobs, her husband claimed that all the women of the house were his wives. He did not manage to help one couple; he knew that they did not have suitable documents and therefore he could not vouch for them. He is in prison now – his brother accused him of a crime. Josephine had four children at the time, Marie had eight. “She won’t say a word about her fear back then – what will happen to them when I get killed for these Tutsi in the cellar?” wrote Tochman.