This week, on the anniversary of the 100 days of killing that we now call the Rwandan genocide, Biteback is privileged to publish You Alone May Live by Mary K. Blewitt OBE, a harrowing and important account of her own experiences.
Over a period of 100 days from 6th April 1994, largely unimpeded by the international community, up to a million Rwandan Tutsi were murdered by Hutu militias in the most appalling episode of ethnic cleansing since the Second World War.
Fifty members of Mary Kayitesi Blewitt’s family were slaughtered in cold blood during the genocide.
Mary was lucky. She managed to locate the bodies of her loved ones and lay them to rest. After the killing ended she travelled the capital, Kigali, witnessed the exhumation of mass graves and struggled to understand the scale of the killings.
To try to make sense of what had happened, Mary undertook voluntary work, believing she had been allowed to survive in order to help others like her. She became a figure of trust with survivors seeking her out to tell their own stories of survival. One woman told how she was raped in front of members of her own family who were then murdered. She was allowed to live and told, “You alone may live, so that you will die of sadness.” This was a common experience amongst women survivors.
You Alone May Live is an important book about grief and survival in the face of unimaginable trauma. It traces the arc of Mary’s own extraordinary journey from a childhood in exile in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, to trying to come to terms with the loss of her family in the genocide, to setting up the Survivors Fund (SURF) a charity providing aid to Rwandan survivors. Poignant, sad and sometimes overwhelming, this book records Mary’s story but also encompasses the painful testimonies of those who survived and shared their memories with her.