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Transcript of Valentina's Story
The killing at Nyarubuye began with an attack on the Tutsis residents at the local marketplace, but it wasn't until the afternoon that the killers made their entrance, with the accompaniment of the mayor Sylvestre Gacumbitsi. By this point, Valentina and her family had taken shelter in the church, and she was able to recognize many of her family's Hutu neighbours among the pack of extremist terrorists.
"First they asked people to hand over their money, saying they would spare those who paid. But after taking the money they killed them anyway. Then they started to throw grenades. I saw a man blown up in the air, in pieces, by a grenade. The leader said that we were snakes and that to kill snakes you had to smash their heads."
The group of Hutu extremists moved into the crowd of men, women and children, hacking and clubbing at their will. "If they found someone alive they would smash their heads with stones. I saw them take little children and smash their heads together until they were dead. There were children begging for pity but they were killed straight away."
This took place over the span of four days Through the attack, Valentina had been struck on the head and hands by a machete, which resulted in a fairly large amount of blood loss. Her hand had been chopped in half and the wound became infected. In addition, the wounds on her hand had taken on a shade of ominous black. Valentina was able to hide among the slaughtered bodies, literally playing dead. By doing so, she was able to find her the body of her mother, and her child's instinct kept her there in the "safety" of her limp arms.
After several days, Valentina crawled to a near by room where there was the fewest number of bodies. For the next 43 days, Valentina managed to live among the rotting corpses of her old community. She was too weak to stand, and she was convinced that the world had come to an end. "I prayed that I would die because I could not see a future life. I did not think that anybody was left alive in the country. I thought everybody had been swept away." Valentina was able to drink rain water and she rummaged for scraps of food to survive. There was wild fruit and some grain but Valentina found herself becoming weaker and weaker as the days progressed. In the weeks that followed, more children emerged from their hiding places near the church. The older children who had suffered the least amount of violence were able to light fires and they cooked whatever food they could find. Valentina was found forty-three days after the violence had broken out in her village by a French journalist near her local church. She was found barely alive, beaten and broken with head wounds caused by a machete. Her brother, Gahini, was the only one of her six other siblings to have survive the attacks in her village. Valentina was hospitalized for six months. Later in life, she made the decision to permanently reside in the U.S as a student in 2008, and was granted political asylum. Now eighteen years after the mass murders of genocide took place in Rwanda, Valentina lives safely in the U.S as a student as well as a political refugee. She continues to follow new developments back in Rwanda though her remaining family members overseas don’t speak too openly to her. She lives in Malden with great financial and emotional assistance of Malden’s Refugee Immigration Ministry. Valentina has been able to have her own apartment in the city, as well as find work. As of 2010, she has worked at the Fairmount Hotel in Boston and has attended the University of New Hampshire. Valentina aspires to eventually become a nurse. Everyday for three months, Tutsis were hunted, tortured and massacred on the streets, in their homes, in churches, and in schools. Military officials were not only perpetrators; threats and calls for violence turned neighbour against neighbour, as civilians picked up machetes and guns and slaughtered one and other. By the end of the murder spree, almost 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus had lost their lives. These people were not killed by bombs or machine guns but by garden tools, kitchen knives, and machetes. The genocide formally ended when Tutsi-led troops overpowered the extremist Hutu militias.