LATHAM Shaker High School held its first Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony Tuesday, April 29, and had a survivor of the Rwandan genocide speak about how important it is to remember these events so they don’t happen again.
The main speaker, Eugenie Mukeshimana, survived the Rwandan genocide that took place 20 years ago in 1994. Mukeshimana, a Saint Rose graduate, founded the Genocide Survivors Support Network. She created the organization after working with homeless people in New York and New Jersey and discovering how many survivors immigrated to the United States from Rwanda.
When Mukeshimana began speaking at Shaker Tuesday night, she was surprised that a high school was holding a ceremony like it was.
“I can tell you that there are not many schools that have this kind of program. You should be very proud of having this type of program at your school,” Mukeshimana told the audience with a strong Rwandan accent.
“I wish I was here for something different something more uplifting because of the springtime, but because of the history that has shaped my life and the life of others that came before us, here we are tonight,” said Mukeshimana.
The Rwandan genocide lasted roughly three months and was the result of a civil war. The former government began killing people that were Tutsi and moderate Hutu, until they were stopped by the Rwandan Patriot Front (RPF) .
When the genocide began, Mukeshimana was a young adult and was also eight months pregnant. Giving birth to her child alone in a field, she knew first-hand what a mother would go through to keep her child alive.
She also saw what lengths people would go to in order to help others when a neighbor hid her and four more women. Mukeshimana was able to escape, but the four other women hiding in the same home were found and executed.