Subjects: Hutu and Tutsi, Nyarubuye, Tanzania, radio, friends with neighbors
Subjects: 1959 war in Rwanda, separation from her family, remaining with her father and her younger brother
Keywords: "When you kill a snake you smash its head."
Subjects: using machetes for mass killings at the church, death of her father, cut on her head, makeshift club with nails, torture for information
SLOAN: This is Stephen Sloan. The date is May 30, 2016. This is an interviewwith Valentine Iribagiza at her home in Bedford [Texas]. This is an interview with the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission's Survivors of Genocide Project. Thank you, Valentine, for hosting us in your wonderful home here. Thank you for having us here.
IRIBAGIZA: You're welcome.
SLOAN: We're going to spend some time talking today about your experiences inyour home country. I know as we talk about the events of violence and what you experienced, this is a very difficult thing for you to share. But I want to start by thanking you for being willing to share. You have already said you have the heart of a teacher. I know what you're going to do today is tell us things that you experienced that are hard for other people to understand because they 00:01:00didn't experience it, and events didn't touch their lives the way it touched your life so dramatically. You were very young, so I'd like to start with what early memories you have of life in Rwanda. Tell me a little bit about your family and your early experiences there.
IRIBAGIZA: What they had before genocide--I was nine years old, and I didn't seemuch with my family, my sisters, my brothers, like what they were doing, but what I remember was the Catholic church. Then I used to go to church with my family. And also, my family were farmers. In Rwanda we--when we call you a farmer you have fields, you have the cows, and you have other animals like goats 00:02:00but different animals. That's why we call you a farmer. I have an older sister, and I have an older brother--two older brothers--and then myself. Then my two young brothers left.
SLOAN: Did you--you went to school early on?
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, I went in the school only three [years]--I was in the--herethey call it--it's not public. I don't know here [what] they call it, but there we called it primary school.
SLOAN: Primary school.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, three.
SLOAN: Did you also contribute to the farming? Did you help with the cattle orget water or any of that?
IRIBAGIZA: No, that time I was young to do that, and the cows [are] kind of00:03:00messy, but I like milk. The things I help with them is to hold the milk and drink it, but I didn't help them to clean up or do other stuff for the farm--the cows.
SLOAN: What do you remember of--can you tell us a little bit about your village,where you grew up, some of your early memories of your village?
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, where I grew up is the village called Nyarubuye. It is thevillage or is the province real close to Tanzania or to the river Kagera. It's the village that has a lot of bananas, cassavas, and beans. The people, they grow stuff themselves. Most people grow stuff themselves and then sell on the markets. 00:04:00
SLOAN: I see, so there's a marketplace there where you can buy and sell things.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, and some of them they just sell them far away in the village.
SLOAN: Now you said church is a part of your life early on.
SLOAN: What were some of your early memories of church?
IRIBAGIZA: As I said, I [grew] up as Catholic Church and my family, before theydied, they were Catholic Church. Right now, I [have] changed. I'm not in the Catholic Church anymore, but I know the church. As Christians, we used to go to church, and I kept being with the Catholic Church until I finished high school. Then, when I came to United States, where I was staying, I couldn't find easy a Catholic Church close to me where I can go. Then I wasn't driving yet, so I used 00:05:00to visit Assembly of God, which is another church close to where I was living, and then I became changed.
SLOAN: You joined the Assembly of God Church?
SLOAN: Early on, you would go to mass with your family at the Catholic Church?
SLOAN: You would go to meetings there at the Catholic Church?
IRIBAGIZA: No, my daddy used to help with some stuff in the Catholic Church.
SLOAN: I see.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, like when they read and they hold the cross, but myself, Ididn't do anything. I was just learning how to dance in the Catholic Church and then after genocide, I learned how to do all those [things] he used to do. I used to read in church, and I used to hold the cross when they have 00:06:00celebrations. Also, my family died in the Catholic Church because when the genocide started it was in evening, and we were in the Catholic Church because we thought nobody can kill someone in the church.
IRIBAGIZA: All the people, they believed that church is like house of God. Whenthe people are in the church, they look like innocent. Nobody believed that someone can be praying or someone can be there and then someone else kill you. I think that's why it caused the people to go in the church, and my family did that.
SLOAN: I know you were very young when this started, but when do you remember00:07:00thinking something's wrong?
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah. Yes, something was wrong--I wasn't yet to know what happenedfor the--they told us there is a war, but I knew ffom the things they were teaching us for the Hutu and the Tutsi. As I was going to school, they used to ask us about Hutu and the Tutsi. They say, "Are you Hutu?" If you don't know, you ask at home, and then they tell you, "Oh no, you are not Hutu. You are Tutsi." So, I was Tutsi. They used to say that the Hutu are kind of tall and skinny--no the Tutsi--
SLOAN: Tutsi, yeah.
IRIBAGIZA: --tall and skinny and having those cows--the family kept cows. Theyused to tell us the Hutu they like to dig, like to work on the field, and to put 00:08:00the stuff on the market. That's their job, and our job is to prepare milk. That's the things that they used to teach us in school and kind of like traditional. Our president [Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana] died because he was coming from the meeting in Tanzania and then someone shot down the airplane. Then, in some cities, they start to use the bombs against and they kill people. [At] that time, I didn't know [who] was killing, the Tutsi or Hutu. I thought everybody's dying. As I said, they were close to Tanzania. Many people could escape to Tanzania across the river or even go another way. We had our leaders like the mayor who used to say that [the violence] will be in the 00:09:00cities. It will not come in the village. [He would say,] "Those who live in the villages, it's okay. You guys stay doing what you're doing. Don't go anywhere. It's okay. Nothing will come from far away in the city and then come kill the people in the village." They gave us hope saying that. They used to use the radio and talking using microphones everywhere, [saying,] "Guys, stay where you are. It's okay. Don't be afraid. It's okay." That's why many people died in the villages.
SLOAN: In a small village you were friends with Hutu. You were friends with Tutsi.
IRIBAGIZA: Yes. They were sharing each other. Nobody was angry with each other,and we know each other, that this family is Hutu, this family is Tutsi. Just to know each other but sharing everything [with] each other. Then, many people died in the cities, and then they start to come to the villages. The people in the 00:10:00villages didn't have the cars to drive. They used to use a bicycle and just walking. Those who cause the genocide in the cities, they send the army, the guns, and the machetes in the villages with the cars. We saw just cars coming, using the bombs and killing. The people started to go in the churches, and that's [where] they died, after that.
SLOAN: So your father came in and said, "We're going to the church?"
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, it was in the evening. Daddy's advice said to take KageraRiver. They were to go into Tanzania. There were many soldiers and many people dying. In my documentary, actually, you can see how many people died in the 00:11:00river, too. They put them in the river, those who were dying on the mountain, others who were dying in the street. They say their bodies already crossed. Those who try to go there are dying already. Let us go to church. Maybe we can survive. They told us there was a war but no genocide in 1959 [Rwandan Revolution]. In 1959, they had a war and some of our group, they died, and some of them who were in the church, they survived. Nobody killed them. That's why most people went in their churches.
IRIBAGIZA: So a large group of people is gathering--
(speaking at the same time)
SLOAN: --at the church.00:12:00
IRIBAGIZA: In the church. Yeah. In churches. It depended where you were. Whenthey sent the cars, they sent [the soldiers] to kill. They teach them to separate the people. Kill the Tutsi, don't kill the Hutu. They say [to] the Hutu, "If you are Hutu, just do your job." Even the neighbor, they change automatically like sky. They start to kill their Tutsi neighbors or those who have wives and are Tutsis. They start to kill them. They became like an animal, and they just start to kill.
SLOAN: I know once you get to the church, and once the crowd is gathering in thechurch, you have pretty vivid memories of what happened next there.
SLOAN: Can you share that with us?
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah. As I said, we were in church. It was on the evening on thetwelfth. When we get in the church, those who kill, they didn't come behind us 00:13:00to kill automatically. They stayed behind, taking the stuff from the houses, taking those farmers' cows, those stuff from those who have money, taking the stuff and killing those who are not in the church yet. We stayed there. They destroyed the houses. We stayed there on the twelfth at night. On the thirteenth, on the next day, they come. Then they come and then the people inside the church were many--people inside and outside the houses. Some of them, they start to jump the fence to go escape. They killed them. They kill all around those who are running around on the mountain, but we have soldiers who 00:14:00are defenses, who are guarding the fences from those who cannot jump again. After they came in with their--well, that time [it] was soldiers mixed [with] the people again but not soldiers--civilians?
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, civilians. They come in, and then they start to kill people.Before they kill, they said, "If you are Tutsi, here. If you are Hutu, here." If you lie--if I lie--my neighbor knows who I am. They say, "You are lying." If they figure out that your neighbor says you are Tutsi and you're lying [that] you are Hutu, they kill you very badly, to give it as an example to not lie 00:15:00anymore. They cut off the fingers, they cut off the arm, they take out the eyes, very badly just to show that you lied to them and that you waste their time.
SLOAN: Are you all in the main sanctuary of the church?
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, we were. The church was full, but the church has another nextchurch where the priest stays and where the nuns stay. That's where we were. My family and I, we were where the nuns stay, but when they come, we were separated with my mom and my sisters. I was with my daddy, but others--my mom and the other kids, they just ran into another room. Myself, I stay with daddy and my 00:16:00younger brother. We stayed in one room and then they come. We were in front, so they just come in the big door, and they start to kill, kill, kill using machetes. They said, "Do not waste the gun there or the bomb. We use it somewhere [else]."
SLOAN: Don't waste the bullets.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah. [They said,] "This one, use stone," or "Use machetes," and soon. They use machetes, and they use knives. They killed the people. They use the gun for those who jumped. They killed my father, and then they cut me on my head. Then, they throw me with the many bodies, and I thought that I was dying that day. Then they left--people dying, and then they left. It was night, and 00:17:00then it was raining, and then they left. The next day, on the fourteenth, they come back in the morning. They used to come to kill us at seven o'clock in the morning. They came, and that time they were just looking [for] those who didn't die last night. They used to take the stones and then throw [them at] the bodies to see who's going to scare.
SLOAN: See who's still alive.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, still alive. They took some people who were almost dying butnot even walking. They were really wounded. They pulled them outside, and I was there, too. Someone saw me, and they said, "Oh, she's still alive." I saw my 00:18:00younger sister--oh no, my older sister, too. She was really almost dying. She couldn't even talk to me. Myself, it was only my head and over here and on my shoulder. We went out, and then there was other people coming from the field where they carried them but [they did] not die, too. Some of them, they just tied them [up]. That was a very bad day. They start to say, "Why you guys didn't die?" Nobody said why. The kids are all crying and then [the attackers put the kids with] the wounded. I saw the man who was our neighbor, and he saw me. I 00:19:00wasn't really close to my sister. I was over there, but she couldn't talk. She was very badly dying where she was. Since we left home, nobody eats, nobody drinks. I'm very hungry and wounded. Then the men said, "Why didn't [you] die? You're whole family died, but you and your sister didn't die. Why?" They say that when you kill a snake, you smash the head. That was the mayor. Again, the mayor came with a lot of machetes. They--what is the word? They used to use like sticker--not stickers--how do you call--stick. It's a stick.
SLOAN: Like a club or a baton?00:20:00
IRIBAGIZA: No, no, stick--like stick that you [get from] the tree and then makebigger here.
SLOAN: I see, like a club?
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
SLOAN: Yeah, club.
IRIBAGIZA: Like a hammer.
SLOAN: Like a hammer.
IRIBAGIZA: They have a lot of hammer but those that make it like a stick andthen they put nails in it?
SLOAN: Yeah, I see.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah. They came with--he came with a lot of stuff, with other peoplecoming to kill, too. He said that when you kill the snake you machete the head, because when you machete the head they will not be alive anymore. Then, [he said,] "So you guys, you do your best." Then he gave the word, and they start to kill.
That man who questioned me, I knew him. He took my hands, and then he put [them]down, and then he macheted it, slowly, asking me, "Where is your older brothers?" I said, "I don't know." Then he [said,] "Why you didn't die?" I 00:21:00didn't say anything, and then he macheted it. If you see it in my website, you could see how my hands were macheted. They macheted it, the nerves flow away of everything. He machete it. Sometimes he changed. He throw [hit] them with a sticker. He used that. He beat me [on] my legs, and he beat me here [on my head and my shoulder] again. Then, he gave up, but before going on the first day, they hit me on my head, and they give me the knife here [on my hip]. I can show her, but I cannot show you.
IRIBAGIZA: Then, he thought that I died.
SLOAN: He was trying to get information about your brothers?
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the brothers and so on, and then I know they died before.00:22:00
SLOAN: What I'm imagining happened in the church, is they killed all the men first.
IRIBAGIZA: No, they didn't kill the men, the women, or the kids, because theygive them the order to kill everybody with a machete to the head. The first day they kill everybody, and the next day they took those who didn't die. They pulled them out, because they think you have the child. They say, "The Tutsi are going to grow and then grow the family." So, they kill everybody. Then the second day, that's the day they come pick up those who didn't die the first day. Then the second day, they pick us up and then put [us] outside to finish. After he macheted the head, I didn't know where I was. 00:23:00
Later, I can see when I wake up all my wounds [were] all dark. Because it rainsa lot in Rwanda, the soil--all the stuff coming like when the flood--like when it rains here, the water just come. Everything was on me, the soil, the little stones, the grass, and so on. I look around. I didn't see my sister, but I saw the bodies who were together. They had died already, but I didn't see my sister. That was really the middle of the night, and I thought to stand in that rain and 00:24:00I just start to crawl. I go back to where my father was in the church. It [was] dark inside, and the bodies--but I went across to him again, where he was. I just used to go and crawl through the bodies. I couldn't walk and I couldn't speak at that time. Everything stopped. I went there, and then I just lie down there. Then, the killers [were] still coming to see those who are alive. I try to not even breathe, and it worked. Now, I can't even try to not breathe, but I used to hold [my breath] like ten minutes. When they touch me, and the way I looked, they thought that I died. They used to come walking around inside with 00:25:00the bodies. Sometimes, they used sticks to see if they were alive, and then [they would] leave and then come back again. After four days, nobody came back again, because the blood and rains. Outside, the bodies they start to get bigger. Then they start to smell bad. They didn't come--only the dogs. The dogs come to eat the bodies, because those who died, they have the dogs. People died and the dogs were running away, so they didn't have anything to eat. They didn't have someone to keep care [for] them, so they have to eat the bodies.
SLOAN: Yeah, so the church is--
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah. In the church, the--the doors are all falling down, and so they00:26:00put some people in the toilet and so on. The dogs used to come to eat the bodies, and then I was there seeing them, but I couldn't walk, I couldn't talk, I couldn't do anything. I stayed there, and I was just waiting to die, but I didn't die. I stayed there forty-three days. I didn't eat, I didn't drink, so my body started to change like, kind of, blue. You know, like your phone's color? Yeah, that kind of blue, like the sky. M father's body started to become like--I don't know what to call it in English. Oh, they smelled bad. They all smelled bad to myself. I stayed there until--I just say forty-three days, because that's 00:27:00the time I get out. It was May 26, .
I saw the people coming. I didn't know who, if it was a friend. I didn't knowwhat's going on outside. I didn't know if someone came to save the country. I didn't know what's going on. I didn't know somewhere that life was starting, that they were saving the people. They were putting the--they were saving the people in the hospital and nobody saw me. Then, I saw them. As I said, I saw people coming--two men coming and soldiers. Those two men were in another part, 00:28:00and one solider saw me. He [got] scared, and then he ran out. When he ran out, they talked in my language that they see someone is still alive. They said, "Is that true?" Then, they come back again. He called other soldiers. They come, and then they see me.
But, before they come, there's one of my neighbors, a Hutu, that came like twominutes, before. He came with his sister, and they saw me. I thought they were going to kill me, but they didn't kill me. They said, "Why you didn't die?" They were scared. They said, "What do you want?" They give me the water, but they put 00:29:00in the really, really bad, dirty stuff, kind of trash. They put it behind me and in front of me, but I couldn't drink it. Then they say, "We will find someone to pick you up or maybe you can die." Then, they left. After they left, like in two minutes, that's the time when the soldiers come. Those soldiers called other people. They were the Frenchmen with the other soldiers, and then they came. They just come with the blanket. They pick me up from the bodies, and we went out.
I went to the hospital, where I spent seven months, and I didn't talk. I didn't.They tried to ask me my name, and I didn't know. I could understand and see, but I couldn't talk. I couldn't stand. I couldn't walk. I couldn't move. Then, we 00:30:00went to the hospital, so I have to repeat all of the things kids do when they start to walk. I had been in a wheelchair. I couldn't even hold something in this hand. I repeated all the steps that kids go over before they become walking themselves. I have to have someone to give me a shower, everything. However, I knew in my heart I didn't have any future for me. I was seeing the people really normal. It was kind of a surprise to me. I was seeing people having wounds, still in the hospital. I was seeing the doctors help them, but myself, I didn't 00:31:00have any hope that I will be normal again, or I will talk again, or I will walk again, or I will do anything. I spent seven months in the hospital. I have the people, those like you, who can come say, "Oh, there is a girl there who needs to eat." Then, they cooked the food, and bring it to me. People come in [to] give me a shower, but I didn't know them and I didn't know my two brothers survived, too.
After four months, they decided to cut off the bones [that] were in my hand,because it couldn't get better. They said there is no way they can do it except to cut it off, to make it like the way it is, and I am happy for that. After 00:32:00they cut it off, I have to get out of the hospital. It was seven months already. I have to get out of the hospital. I was starting to go around, holding the chair, but still in a wheelchair. They sent me to the orphanage, where I wasn't helped anymore. I went there, and then I saw the kids there. Some of them were handicapped. Some of them were in wheelchairs like me.
By that time, I could talk. I had one lady. She just came. She talked to me. Iasked her how long she had been there. She said she had been there two weeks from another orphanage, and then she said, "Oh, you know that one who takes care 00:33:00of you? It's a Hutu." They were teaching us to be nice, to love, and to call those who were staying with us [mother and father]. If they are a boy to call the younger men who're staying with them for their father--like a father. They asked [us] to call [them] like their mom, because all they're doing, cleaning up, washing our clothes, feeding us, and cooking for us, it's like the way your mama could do to. You should feel like it's your mom. At that time, I didn't have the heart to do that. I was kind of numb. I couldn't smile. I couldn't--I was kind of like, They don't know. [There was] nothing I could do, but I was angry. Then that lady told me, "You give it a chance." I said, "Why?" They had [assigned] sections, like a dormitory--like when they say "dormitory" like hall 00:34:00C, hall B. I was in hall B, and that's where [the Hutu caretaker] was, at that [dormitory]. She [had shown] me the one who they gave me to take care of me is a Hutu, and then I was very angry. How can I call her my mom? I cannot. She said, "You have to go back to school, and I'm going to clean up your clothes." I say, "You will never pick up my clothes to clean." I say, "No, no, no. Don't take them. Don't do anything for me." Then, she said, "Why?" I said, "Mm, mm, mm." [She asked,] "Do you want some more nurse?" They wanted to bring some more nurse to help me. I say, "No." I say, "No, no, no. I don't need anyone to help me. Just the things you can help me with, like the food, because I cannot cook, but not the washing of myself and the washing of my clothes. Please don't touch anything." I was kind of mean. 00:35:00
I went to school. We have the cars bring us to school, and they pick up, likewhat the [school] buses do here. When I get to school, I should learn to use my left hand, and then my left hand couldn't do anything. When I do things [for my] baby [I am] now using [my] left hand, and then I didn't even change it so I got too used to it. (laughs) I used to write, but even my name I couldn't. Then, I told the teacher and they used to write the things [for me]. I [already] knew how to write them because I went back a little bit, like behind where I was. But I couldn't [write]. I went back in second, and then I was in third and I couldn't write, [even though] I knew those things. Then, a little baby just waited a second and then he go. I said, "I know these things!" I was kind of mad, so the next day I didn't come. I wouldn't go back to school. I said, "No, I 00:36:00don't want to go back to school." They said, "Why? Why? Why?" They thought the teacher did something. I said, "Nothing, but I don't want to go back." I began to not like school. That time, I feel like I don't have any life, and I don't want to live. Who will I live with? I began to tell them, "If I study, who's going to say good job?" They said, "What? They already do that." Then, I said, "No. My dad could say good job. My mama could encourage me, but I don't have anyone. I don't need anything." I was kind of mean. To change my heart was no good.
But I started to see the people who's a Christian coming to pray for me andcoming to give me some little stories and little books to read and something to watch, and it helps me. Then, I became like--I don't know how, my heart changed. 00:37:00I became to like everybody. I began to have a goal, to go to school. I said, "No matter what, I need to go to school." My heart was want[ing] to go to school, to be successful, and then to become a soldier, so nobody will touch me anymore." Then I liked to go to school. They changed the teacher. That teacher was good, but she didn't let me use this hand, (shows right hand) and I wanted to use this hand, because it was still no good. I used to use--I tried to use it her right hand in my room where I was staying, and then it works very fast. So I need to use my right hand even though it was no good; it was still wounded. When I write, it write very nice and quickly. I used to wash my clothes with just my hand and I used to take showers with this hand. I did everything myself. It 00:38:00works. I went back and during school I asked to be in another room. I went to another teacher who told me, "Be comfortable. Do whatever you want for this hand." I was writing very nicely and very fast, and I learned very fast until I finished primary school. Then went to high school, and then I finished. I got a diploma. I came here [to the Untied States] after I finished high school.
SLOAN: Now didn't you live with your aunt? Didn't you go to live with your auntat some point?
IRIBAGIZA: Oh, I jumped over that one, actually. Let me go back a little bit.When we were in the orphanage, we spent time with--actually, I met my little brother, Placide. Now, he's not little anymore. He's really tall and big. I was 00:39:00in a wheelchair, and he was in a wheelchair. Someone said, "You know that you have a little brother here?" I said, "What?" Since we left the home, nobody [had] seen each other. Someone who was taking care of him, [was taking him] to another part [of Rwanda]. It's like from Euless, [Texas] and then I am moved this way in Bedford, [Texas]. When he came, he was in a wheelchair too because they used a bomb on his legs. I was in a wheelchair. And then we remember we all, before genocide, we were walking and nothing--didn't have any disease. We didn't have anything. We were playing around. When he saw me in a wheelchair, he 00:40:00cried and then I cried. I just showed him my hand, and then he got traumatized, but myself I just cried and got a headache for a long time. I give up the headache when I get in the United States, but all those years I [had a] headache. All the years there was always aspirin in my pocket like candy, always, always. They took a look at everything, and nothing was wrong, but after I get off [the airplane], no headache. Don't know how it goes. So my brother was shouting. I was shouting, we are crying [for] each other. They just keep him away, but I stayed where he was.
Then, after, the kids were a lot and a lot. [There were] many kids in the00:41:00orphanage, so they ask some people, if you have two kids, to come pick up one so one can be your child, just if you have the love. They encourage all Rwandans--our government, new government, I mean. Then, the people come pick up the kids. When the kids like the family, they go together--just get out of the orphanage and then to be part of your family. We can go somewhere and then kind of like adopt. So we get a chance to have an auntie. We didn't know her before genocide, because she got married [and moved] to another city, so we didn't know her. But, they used to tell us that we have an auntie. She survived, really 00:42:00badly, too. She comes to pick up us--take. She said, "Oh, you cannot go to another family when I'm here. We can go." That was a new auntie we never seen, but we were so proud to go with her. Then, we left. We didn't know what's wrong with her, and then we left with her. We went there, but the life was horrible. We didn't have a ticket to go back to where we were in the orphanage. We didn't have a phone to contact them. We didn't have anything, and they didn't come to follow us to see how we lived. We were struggling for more and more. I call it the second genocide, because that auntie we were left with was traumatized from losing her husband and children. Now, she's still in a coma. She get better 00:43:00today and tomorrow she's in a coma. Yesterday, I was chatting with my little brother, and they told me that there is a place where they put them there, like disability, those widows.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah. They decided to put her there, because today she'd die,tomorrow she'd--like for a few minutes she'd die, and then she would come around again. She's still having really bad memories, and she cannot talk. She can talk to me. I know her all her story--the way they kill her kids. She had three: two little girls and a boy. They killed them with their father, and they gave her the knife. They throw her in the river, and then she survived. She had the 00:44:00really bad, bad--she never get another husband. She never get any happier, even though when we were there. She never been happy to us. She was catatonic and then not speaking and always crying. Then she became to be like someone who don't want to talk, like to break something in your heart. She cannot talk. Maybe those things make her not feeling. She's always in the hospital. She came, but she's not going to die. Even though she can die today, we can say it's okay, because she is struggling and not dying. While she is still there, as I said, I was chatting with my brother. He said they just sent her to that center to see if she can get help. They bring psychologists, they bring many people to help her, but she doesn't get better. I call it second genocide when we left the 00:45:00orphanage and going to her house, because she couldn't cook for us. We didn't know anything, and then went back to where we were, where we could see the bones around.
We went back to go to school there, but couldn't even do it until our uncle, whowas out of the country during the genocide, he came back. He was in Kenya, and then he come back. His family died, and then he became our family. He came. Later, he took us from the auntie's house, and then he went to live in the city. He was far away, like two hours and a half from where we used to be. Then, we went back to school. He buys the new clothes. The shoes were--everything was going from the orphanage--very struggle, very bad, always just thinking to 00:46:00suicide, to die. I call it the second genocide. He helped us. He became our father. He get a woman who became married to, the wife who became our mother. Now, when I go in Rwanda, or if I stay in Rwanda, if I call someone, I know that I have my mom and my dad there because they became very nice to us.
SLOAN: I'd like to go back and--the forty-three days that you were in thechurch, were there other survivors in the church with you and how did you find water? Did you find food?
IRIBAGIZA: In the church there was the different trees--the different plants.00:47:00There was like apple--not apple, they don't sell apple. There is a way they call it, like avocado, other stuff like mangoes, there. There was water around, but I couldn't stand to go get it. I stayed there. I didn't eat anything. I didn't eat anything until my skin goes away, and then you see kind of--like you see the drum, how they make the drum? That's how my vein looked. It come from here and then touched right here. I wasn't eating anything. I could see the water, but I couldn't stand and get the water. I could see that the trees have a lot of the fruit, but I couldn't get it. I just stayed there and stayed there, but I didn't eat anything and didn't drink anything. Yeah. I stayed there. 00:48:00
SLOAN: One of things that you talked about, about just being angry, that seemsto be a natural thing to be is very, very angry, but you don't seem like an angry person--
IRIBAGIZA: No, I was really angry at that time, and as I said, maybe those whocame to pray for me in the orphanage and the hospital [helped] in a way, but I didn't know even how I changed in myself until I become to like even Hutu. I have many people, many Hutus, who're my friends. When I was in school, they were my friends. They were very [much] my friends. I go to church with them. We're 00:49:00sharing everything and then the people thought maybe I'm traumatized. I said, "I'm not." I become to really like the people and to not just separate the people. They became my friends. Their kids of those who killed our families, they came back, because our country invited them to come back home, the refugees who were in Tanzania, who were in other countries. They come back home. They were my--their kids were my friends. I didn't even tell them what their parents did; they didn't care for that. I know in my heart that I was happy for them because I said, if their father did [take part in the genocide], it's not their fault. They were my friends. Since I left Rwanda until now, some of them are my friends on Facebook. I know they are Hutu, but they are my friends. I become 00:50:00just to like people after I get a new life.
I kept having headaches, but after I [stopped being] very angry and changed mypersonality, I became better. My speaking helps me. Like when I talk to you, it helps, and then I'm an open person. If something's wrong, I tell you the truth. I don't hide anything. I say it looks how it looks like, but if I don't tell you and I keep it, I get a headache. I like to tell the people that I have an allergy to being angry. If you make me angry, I walk away from you. I will not 00:51:00be back to you. I will just go away from you. That's why I feel better, and I will not show you that I'm angry because I know if I be angry I get headache. That's what I like to say. Being angry, it gives me headaches or smelling [alcohol]--(laughs) then I say this: "The alcohol, it makes me headachey, too." That's my allergy, for alcohol and being angry. If I smell alcohol I get kind of a headache--my senses are like, I'm getting a headache.
SLOAN: Was it your uncle that created the opportunity to leave the country. Howdid that happen?
IRIBAGIZA: In English it's "uncle" but back in my culture, he's my older00:52:00brother, because his father and my father were brothers.
SLOAN: I see.
IRIBAGIZA: For example, you're my daddy, and then your brother has a son. He cancome and then raise me. He raised me. He was in Kenya doing his business, and then the genocide come up. They killed his family. He have two younger brothers, too. No--the one, he was not younger. He was grown, because he was a soldier at that time--and their little boy. Then [his older brother died] as we were going to stay in his house. We called him uncle, but that's the one who became our father. 00:53:00
SLOAN: I see. Is he the one that allowed or made it possible to leave the country?
IRIBAGIZA: He's--you mean leave the country for who?
SLOAN: When you left Rwanda.
IRIBAGIZA: Oh no, no, no. He's not the one. As I said, I have traveled for othercountries. The one who did the PBS documentary, I visited them, and I visited others, but the one who makes me leave the country is myself.
SLOAN: I see.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, because I need to be where it is safe. I know to be in mycountry is safer now, but being with someone who killed your family is not easy. That's why my brothers are not even safe now, because they're all staying with that. They have to leave. They have to go to far away to other cities and 00:54:00sometimes they meet.
SLOAN: Tell me about you starting the process to leave Rwanda. Can you tell meabout that? How did you do that?
IRIBAGIZA: How did I leave?
IRIBAGIZA: Oh, I have friends. They're still my friends. They're still myfamily. I call them my family. They live in Vermont and Boston. They came to visit Rwanda. They came to visit our national museum. They saw my picture there, because I gave it as a gift to present in my village in the museum, and then they saw me. You know, if you see my picture from the genocide, you will not believe that I am alive. You will not even believe how I look now. Even myself, it's not easy to see those [photos] back and now. It's really different. They 00:55:00decided to come to see me. Then they came to see me and they helped me. At that time, I couldn't speak English. They said, "You know what? You should come to learn English, and then in the future you can talk yourself." Then, there were students from high school, and I came to visit their family first. I went to school in Harwood [Union High School] in Vermont. I studied some English and studied some words, but I wasn't making sentences, yet. I went back. That was during the whole vacation in my school in Rwanda. I come stay like two weeks 00:56:00with them, and then I go back and learn English and then go back [to Rwanda] until I get the visa to go in the ESL, English as a second language. It takes a while, so I went to University of New Hampshire. That's where I spent six months. I learned ESL--English as a second language. I did the exam, and then they gave me the I-20 to go back in Rwanda and give me the paper saying that I'm coming here for five years, which is F-1. That time, I was able to talk myself actually, which I was proud for. Then I went back to University of New Hampshire 00:57:00and I spent two years and I study.
After that they--I told that before--how life was for my brother. They werestruggling a lot, not even having the shoes to go to school, not even having the books--nothing, because the one who helped us had other responsibilities for their kids, too. They needed help; my brothers needed help. I wanted them to grow, because we all three decided to be who we are now, and no one wanted to really let others down or to be nothing. I wanted them to go to school, to 00:58:00study, to learn to help each other, so I talked to many teachers, and then I talked to our counselor at my school. I said, "I am stopping to study now. I am going to find a job." They said, "You will not do it. You should study first." My goal was to be a nurse, including teaching the people what happened to me. Then I couldn't keep going because my brothers were struggling, so I stopped. I went to find a job. No, I changed my studying first, and then I have to go to work and to help them, which I achieved, because they are grown now. They finished their school now. They help themselves, never asking me for nothing. 00:59:00They're just proud, proud.
SLOAN: Have you been back to Rwanda?
IRIBAGIZA: Um-hm, before I married I went to Rwanda. I saw them.
SLOAN: What was it like to go back?
IRIBAGIZA: It was good. I didn't go back to my village, and I didn't want to. Ijust went back in the city in Kigali, in our capital. Then I met them. We'd hang out with friends, but those who [still] live [in the village], I didn't see them. I wasn't going to go back.
SLOAN: Since you left your village, have you run into any of the people fromyour village?
SLOAN: Can you tell me about that?
IRIBAGIZA: Oh yeah, actually, there is one question you asked me, but maybe Ididn't talk about that. I remember you asked me, are there other people [who] survived in Nyarubuye village. Yes, there are. I don't know--I cannot say how 01:00:00they survived, but later when I was in high school, I learned [there are] three. There is one young girl, she was in my movie. She died a few days after she finished her college. She was kind of the same, like the way my aunt is. She had been traumatized and traumatized, and then after she died. They told me she died. She died last year. The little boy in my movie is my brother. He survived there. There is another woman. She was coming from another city, and then she survived there, and there is another man. There is another young man that 01:01:00survived that. All of us survived. They survived in the--they got a chance--they saw them in the beginning and myself they didn't see me. That's why I spent those days lying in the bodies, lying there. But they picked them [up], maybe before, because they told me that they were there, too.
SLOAN: Have you seen any of the Hutus that participated in the violence since then?
IRIBAGIZA: You mean after--
SLOAN: Like the mayor you mentioned, people that you knew that--
IRIBAGIZA: Oh yeah, you mean during genocide?
SLOAN: Yeah, but after.
IRIBAGIZA: Of course, our neighbors. As I said that my sister, after genocide, Ididn't see her. Then one of our neighbors picked her [up] in his house. Then, with his wife, he kind of raped her [for] a few days, and then he killed her. 01:02:00Yeah. The neighbors, of course, I know them. Yeah.
SLOAN: So many people in your life continue to be traumatized, but why do youthink you've been able to deal with it? I know it's still hard for you, but you're also functioning. You've moved on from a place where you couldn't speak, you couldn't walk, you couldn't provide for yourself. I know you still struggle with it, but what do you think has allowed you to be stronger?
IRIBAGIZA: I think the one thing that makes me be stronger is the way I am to becomfortable to talk. If I'm in my country, I may not talk like this, because I 01:03:00don't know who's behind me. I may be scared. That's one [thing] that makes me proud. The second one is the decision I made to be open, myself, because many people, even many survivors, they don't talk. They keep holding, and it's not safe. The way you're holding it, you're hurting, too. Yeah, so myself being open, it helps me. Being social with people, being comfortable. I'm going to say the words--saying be nice to myself--being nice to others and to myself. I never get to say that I'm a nice person, and then I say 100 percent, I am a nice 01:04:00person. Can you imagine? And then it's--oh my goodness, look how you're saying. (laughs) Because, I say, "Yeah, I'm nice." I have to be nice to myself and I have to be nice to someone else. That's my decision, and I know it helps me. I know it can help others, but the way you are, the way you respect yourself, that's the way someone respects you. It's like the goal or the decision someone can make and get through it.
SLOAN: You mentioned that you've also always had goals. You've set goals for yourself.
IRIBAGIZA: I always have the goals for myself. First of all, the way I said that01:05:00teaching anyone who wants to know, even though behind you can come someone. [At] any time [I'm ready to introduce myself and say], "Hello, my name is Valentine." I need to know that because it's going to help with this one. I would be so happy to do it. If I meet someone who wants to know, I would be so happy to do it, and that's my goal. You know another goal is--and I know what I'm doing. It will not only help the kids around here only, it will help my kids, too.
SLOAN: Nathan Roberts and Melissa Sloan are with us in the interview, and Ialways give them an opportunity to ask questions that they'd like to ask. Nate, do you have a question that you'd like to ask Valentine?
ROBERTS: I do. Thank you so much for having us into your home.
IRIBAGIZA: Thank you.
ROBERTS: This is actually the second time I've seen you speak.01:06:00
ROBERTS: The first time you mentioned forgiveness as something that wasimportant. Can you talk a little bit about how that comes into seeing such horrible things, and losing your family, and then having to live with those neighbors.
IRIBAGIZA: Yeah, the forgiveness. Thank you for asking about forgiveness,because the two words forgiveness and reconciliation are two things always people ask for when I speak to students of universities and colleges. They were asking about, how do they look now? How do they hold each other? How do they share each other after those [things] happened? Forgiveness and reconciliation 01:07:00are the things [that have] come up to help people in my country. It helps them, those who are open to come to me and say, "I'm so sorry, Valentine, that I killed your family." It's not easy for me to accept--to believe that. You tell me, and then you know the reaction after may be good or bad. The forgiveness, it helped many people when the killers were coming back in the country or those who were in prison. When they believe that they killed someone's family and then ask 01:08:00for forgiveness, it helps them, but kills some others. You may say, like we are here, Oh, I forgive this one and I did that. Then, also, they say how they killed. Then, when I go back in my house, you never know. I may [be] crying a lot and make memories come back again. It helps, but in another way, it kills some people. But it helps. No other way that we can do. There's no way we can just let people be separate and be angry with each other for so long. Of course, forgiveness has to be.
Myself, I forgive those who killed my family, too, because I say, there is noprize that we get if they have been in prison for a while--for forever--nothing. 01:09:00When you become a Christian, also, you have to do it. Your god tells you to do it. I don't know if you've got enough [of an] answer but, I don't know how I can. They are two words, but they are similar. They are the same meaning: reconciliation and forgiveness. For me, they show me the same meaning, so they go together. When they came back, the killers, some of them were in prison, and some were in their homes. For example, if the man and the woman were grown, the killers went in their home. Then their kids are growing, and they're going to live and going to school, doing stuff each other with the survivors. They know each other. They will not look at each other [in a] good [way], but they have to 01:10:00forgive each other, which they bring the reconciliation they call Gacaca in Rwanda. They used to go sit [with] each other, and talk [to] each, and forgive each other. Myself, I didn't sit in public and do that, but I did personally before I left.
ROBERTS: I've got one more question. So you have a daughter.
IRIBAGIZA: I do.
ROBERTS: Soon you will have a son.
ROBERTS: What will you tell them about Rwanda and about the things that you saw,and when will you tell them? So what will you tell them and when will you tell them?
IRIBAGIZA: When? Why and when?
ROBERTS: What--what will you tell them about--
IRIBAGIZA: What, oh, what and when? The second was when?
ROBERTS: When do you think you will tell them? How old will they be?01:11:00
IRIBAGIZA: Oh, well, I'm going to give you an example before I answer yourquestion. As I said, I went back in Rwanda in 2011. I visited my uncle, who I can call my father--the family who held us until now, who helped us to be who we are. His son is twelve years old. By the time I went there, he was seven or eight. I can't count, because my math is not good. Anyway, he knew I'm auntie and he say, "Auntie, what happened to you?" Then, I left there when he was little, but he saw my hand. The memory for the baby, it's like someone who's 01:12:00getting older whose mind is like a baby's. They may ask you something they know. He asked me, "Auntie, what happened to you?" I said, "You know what? I had an accident." He said, "An accident?" His mama said, "No, tell him the truth now that he's growing. The Hutu killed her family and they cut her hands." She just said that. I said, "No, we should not talk that way." She said, "No, we are teaching them what happened." Myself, I was lying to him which was not good.
After he asked me that, I get a lot of questions myself. Now I'm prepared to getmarried, and this child asked me that. How is my child going to ask me? There are a lot of things my baby's doing. She's like me. She smiles, she claps her 01:13:00hands, just like me. When she claps her hands, she doesn't do like the way [her] father does. She does it like--suppose this is--she curls the fingers, and then she does it like me. [I say,] "Don't do it like Mom." She does it like that, and I say, "No, do it like Daddy." She doesn't do it like normally, she just curls the fingers, and then she does it like that, because she thinks I'm doing it like that. That gives me the sense, as soon as she talks, she's going to say, "Mom, why you don't have fingers?" You know? Of course, I have to tell her. I will teach her, and I may not tell her the scary stuff, but I will tell her a little bit. She maybe won't understand, but then when she's grown I'm going to tell them where I'm from. They were born here. They are born here, but they have 01:14:00to know where I come from. I'm sure they're going to ask me why they don't have the grandfather or the grandmother here. I'm sure they're going to ask me, "Why you don't have a sister?" You know that kids ask a lot of questions. I have to tell them. I will not tell them that grandma is--that grandfather is--that grandparents are in Africa. That, I know, is to lie to them. I will tell them they are not alive because, because. Yeah, I will just try to be gentle, not give them a hard time to understand that stuff or to give them the scary stuff, but I have to. I don't know when, maybe in seven years, but they need to learn. 01:15:00
ROBERTS: Thank you very much.
IRIBAGIZA: You're welcome.
MELISSA SLOAN: I do have one question. You talk about in the hospital when yousaid you couldn't speak, you couldn't move, and you had no hope. It sounds like then later, when you got to the orphanage that changed at some point. What was the turning point for you when you began to have hope again?
IRIBAGIZA: Um, do you know when I got hope is in 2000. Two thousand, that's theyear I got hope. That's the time after coming from orphanage and the auntie's house. I call those two parts second genocide to me, but in 1999, that's when my dad and mom got married. Then his wife said that when we be the good kids, she's 01:16:00going to be our mother. She's going to try herself to [do] her best to do whatever we want, and she did. She didn't have any baby at that time, and we were like her first kids. She helped us a lot. We went to school. We had someone to ask something. It was very helpful for us. They listened to us, and they solved our problems. When I got sick or something went wrong, we'd go to hospital with them. Though I was headache, headache all day, all the time I used to go with Sandra(??) to all the hospitals. They said nothing's wrong. That's the year I get the second new life. I can't say. 01:17:00
I can say that I got hope after I see my brothers growing and after I am able tohelp myself. Myself, I don't like to ask something two times, to beg for something. I thought that we may be the kids on the street, or we may not support ourselves. You know, someone can support you, but if you're not supporting your mind, the support you get in the home, the material and so on, will not help you. You have to support yourself, I mean the way you think or the way you do. I was so happy to see my brothers not begging [like] the kids on the 01:18:00street, and I was happy to know what I'm doing. So I started to get hope maybe when I get here. That's when I started to get hope.
You know, this life that I have been through and the wounds I have and the otherthings I have, I don't have any disease in my life. You can't even believe that. Not diabetes, nothing, everything is okay--nothing. I always talk to my doctors. I go to the hospital and I go to see the baby--I'm going to have a baby. Others they come and, "You're dilated!" I said, "Why do I have to go to the hospital. For what? I'm okay." There is not even--sometimes people get allergy or flu. I 01:19:00don't get it. You can't believe that. Whenever the weather changes, whenever it's snowing or it's hot--no. Is there another question for me?
MELISSA SLOAN: Thank you.
SLOAN: I want to make sure, Valentine, if there's anything you wanted to teachus or share with us that we haven't had a chance to talk about yet. Is there something you can think of that you wanted to make sure that you shared?
IRIBAGIZA: Well, I always share for love and you know--I think I said already.As I say, my child's named Peace, Shalom. If you have peace in your house, your 01:20:00neighbor will have peace, and your coworker will have peace, and your child will have peace. If you are proud--I'm just repeating my child's name--and if you are proud, everybody in the house is going to be proud. Even though you don't go to church, that's the heaven we need. There's no other heaven. If you go home and you sleep, you wake up. Someone's got to work on their selves. There's not another church you need. That's the heaven we need. I think that what I teach or what I can tell you, just be peace and then give someone peace. That's what I like. Just show the kids our love. That's all. If you show them love, their 01:21:00friends are going to be in your love. That's the things I always teach.
SLOAN: Thank you. Thank you, Valentine, for sitting down with us today.
IRIBAGIZA: You're welcome. You're welcome. If you have something to teach me,then you can teach me, but that's what I always see is the most important. As you know, there is no way you can buy happiness. Even though you have money, a lot, it will not go and buy happiness. By being happy yourself, someone else is going to be happy. That's what I like to teach.
end of interview