Nyirantore Nyiraruhimbi: Surviving Genocide While Pregnant
The Texas Story Project.
In 1996 in Congo, during her fifth pregnancy, the most unpredictable event took place: a government-approved mass genocide of all Tutsis living in Congo. Nyirantore Nyiraruhimbi had no choice but to survive this genocide, because it wasn’t just her life on the line. She had an unborn child to think about and four toddlers. After consulting with her husband, she decided that the best course of action was to escape and travel to Rwanda. However, it wasn’t until she moved to San Antonio, Texas that she finally felt safe and accepted for her ethnic background.
She had several days to plan the escape before the soldiers came knocking on her door. She witnessed multiple Tutsis slaughtered with machetes and countless women and young girls being raped. Time was running out and she did not have a promising escape plan. A few days passed and she just couldn’t risk getting killed so, she decided to just follow a group of Tutsis who were also planning to escape. The plan was to gather in the night and walk to Uvira quickly and quietly. Mulenge is 2 hours 33 minutes away from Uvira. This journey was extremely difficult. She had contractions on the way and had to carry her two-year-old on her back. Thankfully, they found a camp to take refuge in for a while and that’s where the baby was born. The other women in the group helped her through the childbirth process, but it was extremely risky. Surprisingly, the baby was healthy and Nyiraruhimbi could not have been more grateful for the new addition to her family despite the circumstances.
Nyiraruhimbi had to carry her 3-month old child from Uvira to Rwanda. This journey became impossible to withstand and she began to lose hope along the way. Her baby was starving, and her toddlers could barely stand. She felt extremely useless. It wasn’t until they were stopped by a truck filled with other Tutsis, that she finally regained hope and believed that there was a possibility of survival. She lived in the refugee camp in Kubiye for 15 years until she decided that it was time for a change. Although the standard of life had improved in Kibuye, Nyiraruhimbi wanted more for her children. She wanted to give them the life that she never had and the only way to do that was by migrating to the United States.
The process took a while, but luckily in 2010, her family was chosen, and they were on their way to America! The journey from Rwanda to America was a huge transition, she was so amazed on how beautiful this new country was. She immediately knew that this was place is where she wanted her kids to grow up.
Nyiraruhimbi and her family landed in San Antonio Texas, and although they were unfamiliar with the environment, they were thrilled to see a lot of diversity, they knew that they would fit in with no discrimination for being Tutsis. It took a few years to adjust to this change, however with the help of social workers and other government aid, she was able to provide for her children. She saw so much potential for her kids in this country. The possibilities were endless.
In Texas, she noticed that even though there was so much diversity, nobody was treated differently for their ethnic background. This characteristic of acceptance was important to Nyiraruhimbi, because she never experienced it while back in Congo and Rwanda. Even though Nyiraruhimbi and her husband couldn’t speak English, they managed to find employment within 6 months. This was another thing that came as surprise for her: the willingness to give everyone a chance, even if they were not necessarily qualified. Her children went to school and made friends from all over the world. Texas saved Nyiraruhimbi’s life by transitioning her from a country filled with hatred and discrimination to one that embraced acceptance and diversity. In 2018, she became an American citizen and it was one of her proudest moments. She was proud to be a part of a nation that showed her the true meaning of acceptance.
Joyeuse Nishimwe is a biology major with a minor in chemistry at St. Mary’s University. She was born in Rwanda and moved to the United States at the age of 10. Nishimwe plans on pursuing a degree in pediatrics where will give back to the village that raised her by one day opening her own hospital in Rwanda helping children and families in need. She’s currently employed as a Certified Nursing Aide and wishes to take her experience to the next level.
Posted March 03, 2020