My dear beloved Husband,
today, as every 7th of April since 1995, your country is walking, remembering, commemorating, praying, crying, and looking toward a better future together. Your city is silent and there isn’t anything forcing you to be happy. Your family members are sitting next to each other and your people are telling their stories. It is raining as it always does this time of the year.
But here, it is not raining.
This year is different for you: You can’t be part of the collective commemoration – because of me, as we decided to live for a while in my country of origin. And now I am afraid you feel alone with your grief, with your desperate need of backpedaling, without your fellows whom you can feel comfortable with working on your own trauma. This is why I am writing to you.
Here, it is not raining but still, our hearts cry.
I know you understand that here in Germany, I can’t shut down the bars in my town, that even most of the inhabitants don’t know what happened 24 years ago in your country. No one here can see what is going on in your mind, why you just need to sleep and what it is that makes you that sad and sometimes angry at the same time.
But I know. I know about the precolonial proud kingdom your country was and the beautiful culture coming from those times, I am aware of the fact that it initially were the German and Belgian colonial rulers who implemented a racist two-classes system your ancestors had to suffer from, I studied about the first Rwandan republic, about political, economic and social conditions in the 1990s, and I learned more about the Genocide against the Tutsi than I know about the Holocaust in my own country. And most importantly, I remember every detail of your personal story from 1994.
But still, I will never be able to fully empathize with you about your surviving and struggle to build a life afterwards. Not because I would be uncompassionating or even immune from the suffering of trauma caused by your – and therefore our – horrific history. But because I would never claim for myself to know how you and your close ones must have felt and still must feel.
I can’t give you the Rwandan shining community you’d need now to feel better, to overcome your grief, and to remember together. Yet, I want to offer you my own silence, my open heart and ears, a hug and shared dolor. And a sincere, however foredoomed, attempt of understanding.
I am here to remember together with you the victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi who did not only die, but leave us beautiful memories too. I am here to remember together with you not only to talk about the past, but to get the strength of building a strong future together.
Here in Germany, instead of rain there is sunlight that finds its way through the window, getting reflected in your empty eyes and letting teardrops shimmer in the colors of a rainbow. I cry with you.
(Intergenerational) trauma is a reality in Rwanda and it is a reality in our family. But you and I are together, and I hope this counts enough to give you the strength you need during this time of the year, whether it’s raining or not.
In deep love,