Title: Left To Tell
Author: Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin
Publishers: Hay House Publishers
Year of Publication: 2006
I have always known that my true love is somewhere. I have always known that he exists and that when he sets eyes on me, he will hold my gaze. His jaws will drop and his blood will boil at a dangerous degree. Then he will step forward after recovering and say, ‘At last, there you are!’ Then I will stare at his big lips like they are chocolate. I will look into his eyes and find home. I’ve always felt that he is close, almost finding me.
But I’ve been wrong. So wrong it hurts beyond comprehension. I’ve met him when it is too late already. Damascene is one man I fell in love with terribly. I can hear his voice. I can see his smile and his open eyes. He is a hardworking man and is among the few villagers who earn a master’s degree. I have cried for days after his death. I cannot even find strength to move on. How can people be so cruel as to murder a kind person like him? Split his head and laugh saying, “I have seen how a master’s degree looks like in a brain!”
Left To Tell is an autobiography from a Rwanda holocaust survivor, Immaculee Ilibagiza. I never want to read a book on war again. I’m done because my heart aches.
I cannot meet the love of my life, Damascene, then suddenly he is killed in the most inhuman way.
Immaculee is caught in the middle of the genocide and her father sends her to a Hutu pastor, Murinzi, trusting that he will protect her. Her father, mother and two brothers are murdered coldly by their Hutu neighbors as the genocide picks pace. The pastor hides Immaculee and seven other women in a tiny bathroom for 91 days. The bathroom is so tiny, that they sit on each other’s laps. They cannot speak and resort to sign language. They don’t shower for the period they are in hiding. Their periods come and go and they sit on the same spot for months, only standing for a few minutes late at night and change positions.
Extremist Hutus are looking for Tutsi to finish them. They call them cockroaches and the government encourages them to wipe them from the face of the earth. Each household is given a rifle. Hiding in the bathroom, they can hear killers searching the pastor’s house uncountable times and hoping to find hiding Tutsis. One time, the killers come looking for Immaculee, saying she was last seen in the pastor’s house. She knows their voices because they are her neighbors. Bodies of Tutsi are spewed all over the roads, some heaped like a dumpsite and the dogs feed on the human carcasses.
This book will leave you haunted with bad memories of what tribalism and war amounts to. Pastors took part in killing, neighbors killed their Tutsi neighbors, teachers killed their students and Rwanda came to a standstill. The world watched from a distance as they killed each other. Tutsi are hunted in forests, roads and Lake Kivu, which was the only way to escape to Zaire. They are exterminated and as this goes on, records of their existence are destroyed. However there are good Hutus who risk their lives hiding Tutsi, including Bonn, Damascene’s best friend. After he is murdered while trying to escape to Zaire, Bonn goes mad.
Immaculee and the other women in the bathroom turn to prayer. They would each be shivering as the killers scraped their machetes in the house turning it upside down. They would pray silently, shaken and be in a trance. One time, 7 hours after the killers had left, the pastor comes to check on them and finds them absorbed in prayers, unaware of their surroundings. It is in this bathroom that Immaculee’s relationship with God deepens beyond human understanding. I’m in awe at how someone can trust God and pray when clearly there is no escape plan. What a remarkable woman with shocking faith!
Would you forgive people who coldly murdered your family?
Dear Damascene, Vianney, Rose, Leonard, Tutsis and moderate Hutus murdered in the genocide, rest in peace. You are in a better place that knows no pain and hurt.