Another year without Them

I was born in a divided Rwanda.

After the 1994 genocide during which I lost my father, I was exactly how one can be after facing such horrors. I would not say I was hopeless, because it would be a lie about still being able to feel and describe whatever was missing inside me. I was full of emptyness. Everything in me was completely gone.

After all, when you’re hopeless, you somehow know  that hope exists…

Later that year of 1994, when I went back to school, I supposed life must go on. And at the end of the year, it was the first Christmas without my father and then the new Years’ Eve. The first Christmas as refugees and all that it takes. We would say Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year like anyone.

What was merry, what was happy ? I don’t know.

I just remember I felt that thing inside me, damn, this year is ending. I was happy that it was, but still I wanted to hold it back because it was the last year that had started with my father alive. It was the last year that had started with a million of Tutsis alive. It was the last year that started with still some hope that divisions would find a peaceful and blood-less end.

Today, another year is passing. It is the 24th time since that year where everything changed. I can almost be the mother of the friends I lost during that time. I have friends that have almost the age of my father when he was assassinated. In the coming days, in Brussels Streets, I will maybe bump into friends who lost everything and everyone, I will smile when telling them « Merry Christmas » but will then feel bad, because I know how Christmas can be for them.

This time of the year, is the one we celebrate life more than ever. All together.

But someone is missing…A million people are missing.

That’s the time I realise more than ever that we will never go back to the times we were all still…alive. Don’t get me wrong. The alive I mean here is the one that even the survivors won’t have back. We will never go back to the times where everything was possible with everyone. I guess that’s why survivor is a never ending name. After all, you can stop being a refugee, because you gained another nationality or went back home. But when do people stop calling you a survivor ?

Congratulations! You’re not a survivor anymore. You’re alive. Like anybody else. Here is your new ID card, passeport, can you sign here please…This won’t happen. Because, I survived what others did not. And as long as they will be missing, I will be a survivor.

A new year always pushes away the little things I still want to hold back even if I know it is impossible. It reminds me that I should not forget. It’s telling me that I am getting old, and not them. By the way, I hate saying them, because they had a name. They were loved, I mean, they were supposed to live. Like any of us.

Can I draw a million stars in the sky?

Despite of all this, I am thankful. Because I am healthy. I am free. I am whatever it takes to be me. I am thankful because I am alive. Deep inside, I also feel guilty. It’s part of the survivor’s package. There is that song in my mother tongue that says : we dind’t give anything to stay alive, and those who didn’t have that chance, it is not their fault neither.

Ntacyo twatanze ngo dukunde turamee. Abataragize ayo mahirwe, nabo si ku bwaboooo…

This time of the year, before we start any party, let’s take some time to remember all the people that lost their lives. I know that for myself, between two swings, two smiles and hugs to the people I love, I will be terribly missing my father.  Like in that Luther Vandross Song,

“If I could get another chance
Another walk, another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never ever end
How I’d love love love, to dance with my father again”

 But, hey, that won’t just be possible. Blame hate.

I survived to write his name. Boniface Ngulinzira.

Write theirs names…take a pen and write their names.

This time of the year is the 23rd I will have to accept that the new year will not be with my dad. Really, I will never get used to that. Neither to the fact that the new year will be without so many lost lives. And I know that every survivor has to step into the new year, taking the courage to accept again, that it will be without his loved ones.

No shop in the world sells you acceptation once for all. You need maintenance. And it is so expensive. You need to buy it piece by piece…And I wish I was wrong.

Now this. Let’s be clear. There is no victimisation here. At this point I am struggling a bit, but by tomorrow, I will let be what I cannot change. I will rise like a sun and smile to the moon. I will enter a place where nobody is expecting me. I will walk  through it with all eyes on me, find a first table and clap my hand on it.


Everybody will play the shocked, while I will be screaming out loud ” I want my piece of Happiness !!!”

They will think I am joking, but am not that little piece of scared girl anymore. I will go and grab my piece.

Excuse-me. Can I have a piece of happiness please ? Not that I did not try the polite version, but it didn’t really work.

All this to say, in 2018, I will give the best of myself but I will not forget where I am coming from.

That’s my plan.

Zaha Boo


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