The Story of Eugenie Mukeshimana: A Rwandan Genocide Survivor

redefy had the honor of hosting Rwandan Genocide survivor Eugenie Mukeshimana for an event a little while back. Mrs. Mukeshimana is an amazing and articulate women and shared her moving story with us. We were able to film the majority of it, but due to technical difficulties – the camera cut off unfortunately. Please take the time to listen to the part of the story we were able to capture – you will not regret it. Mrs. Mukeshimana also has an organization called Genocide Survivors Support Network (GSSN) which you can learn more about here: http://www.gssnglobal.org/.

You can watch Mrs. Mukeshimana’s story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-l0ZLdXRFA 

Here are some reflections from those who were able to make it to the event:

From the minute Eugenie Mukeshimana walked into the room, I could feel her authoritative presence, and I sensed the weight of the story she was about to tell. There is a reason that her title is not “Rwanda Genocide victim”, but instead “Rwanda Genocide survivor”. She survived the genocide, and the story of how she accomplished this completely captivated me. Eugenie told a detailed account of the genocide that she personally remembered, which, in my opinion, trumps any internet description on Wikipedia or another site. What a privilege it was to listen to Eugenie speak of personal genocide events, ranging from horrendous to incredible. The most heart-wrenching event, I have to say, was the story of birthing her daughter, on her own, in an outhouse, after being kicked out of the home she used for refuge during the genocide. The incredible ending to that story is that her daughter is now currently starting her second year of college! All in all, Eugenie’s haunting account of the Rwanda Genocide blew me away, and left me in awe of the strength and triumph she and other Rwanda Genocide survivors must possess. – Cierra Moore, redefy leadership team member 

The story she told was both riveting and heartfelt. For almost 2 full hours, I listened and lived each moment in Rwanda with her, as if I were reading a really suspenseful fantasy novel. This time, however, the story was all too real, recounting the betrayal and shock at her own friends turning against her, as well as the horrors of living underneath a bed for many weeks facing imminent death more than once. Putting myself in her shoes, sustaining myself for so long under such emotionally and physically taxing conditions would really seem impossible. Her surviving through the genocide was almost a flip of a coin, with luck playing an enormous role. The fact that she lost her family, her husband, and her ability to ever feel at home in Rwanda again, while other countries did little to interfere, amazes me. I could feel her pain and sorrow through out her entire narration, but it was at the end when she beseeched us to consider hosting genocide survivors who many need the support and care of a family that she became overwhelmed with emotion and struggled to speak. The last part was truly moving and testified to the enormous suffering she and other survivors had to endure for so long. – Michael Zhao, redefy leadership team member

Hearing Eugenie Mukeshimana’s story was truly an incredible and eye opening experience for me.  Eugenie’s story was one filled with passion, and emotion.  A story which begs to be retold, but clearly was one that was painful to tell.  The vivid descriptions, and memories that will clearly scare Eugenie until the day she dies, truly showed me the pain and hardship that this conflict in Rwanda contained, in a way that no article, movie, or book, ever could.  Eugenie Mukeshimana’s amazingly horrific story was awe inspiring for me, and left me thinking about all the hardship she was forced to endur, and the injustice that occurred by having to lose one’s friends and family merely because you belonged to a certain group of people.  And I can honestly say that this account has mad me feel like i want to make a difference, that i want help stop further people from having the feel the hardship that will forever haunt Eugenie Mukeshimana. – Nick Jain, redefy school representative 

It’s really hard to understand things you’re not a part of. Whether it’s a bunch of tweets about some tv show couple, an event at school that you were sick for, or a series of killings you heard about on the news, it’s close to impossible to comprehend things unless you’ve had a personal experience with them. I’d like to say I keep pretty up to date with weekly headlines, as my parents are always listening to NPR when I trudge downstairs for breakfast, and how ‘World News with Diane Sawyer’ was a staple (and still is!) of my childhood. But come to think about it, do I actually know any of these events? Do I actually understand the significance of them? I would have said yes until I heard Mrs. Mukeshimana speak.

Hearing firsthand about hiding from virtually everyone surrounding you, being isolated, and almost dying every single day- well, it’s scary. But it’s also important. And the way Mrs. Mukeshimana spoke, it was like I could feel her emotions run through my bones. Her challenges were mine, and in that moment, I felt closer to anyone then I ever had before. When every living day is a life or death gamble, your perspective on life changes. Immensely. And somehow, Mrs. Mukeshimana managed to change my perspective in 2 hours. Through one, single story. It’s amazing what can happen if we actually listen.

Now, if you ask me, “Do you really know that event on the news?” I’ll say no. But give me an opportunity to hear about it? I’ll jump out of my seat to listen before you’ve even finished your sentence. – Lara Strassberg, redefy leadership team member

Upon hearing the amazing story of Eugenie Mukeshimana I felt many things, but above all else, I felt a sense of disbelief in the moral capabilities of humans in general. In the story Eugenie talks about her life growing up in Rwanda, and, more specifically, her experience with the genocide that took place there. As I stated before, the biggest shock to me was the idea that those who were once your neighbors and friends could so suddenly turn on you due to mass hysteria or otherwise. The atrocities committed by the Hutus directed towards the Tutsis were just that; terrible things done by ignorant people who, through lack of communication and information, turned on their Rwandan brothers and sisters. The stereotyping of the Tutsi people contributed largely towards the genocide, as Hutus no longer saw them as equals, but as groups intending to rebel and undermine them, where in reality the people who actually wanted these things made up an insignificant portion of the Tutsi people. All in all, stereotyping and mass hysteria bended reality, allowing for the tragic events to unfold, leaving me to think how people could kill In the name of that which they didn’t know. – Ziyad Khan, redefy leadership team member