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Woman shares story of Rwanda survival at BGSU Firelands

Alissa Widman Neese • Feb 9, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Such brutal, torturous acts were everyday affairs during the 1994 genocide that ravaged Gashumba’s homeland of Rwanda. More than 500,000 people were killed in the bloody, 100-day massacre.

Gashumba, who experienced the violence firsthand, lives to tell their tale.

She survived a near-fatal blow to the head and climbed from her grave to what she calls “a second chance at life.”

“A man heard me screaming and dug me out,” Gashumba said. “It was like a dream.”

Gashumba permanently moved to the U.S. in 2011. Now 32, she has traveled the world sharing her survival story, documented in her book “Frida: Chosen to Die, Destined to Live.”

She studies nursing at BGSU Firelands and lives in Norwalk with her three children, Maxwell, 8, Natasha, 7, and Asher, 5.

Gashumba spoke to about 75 people Thursday at the college’s Cedar Point Center. She answered questions about her book and Rwanda while offering a message she believes all people can relate to.

“I told myself I’m going to use this to become a better person, not a bitter person,” Gashumba said. “I want to encourage people and teach them.”

The Rwandan genocide was the culmination of longstanding tension between two ethnic groups, the Hutu and Tutsi.

During her presentation, Gashumba recalled growing up as a member of the minority Tutsi tribe and watching her parents, siblings and cousins being massacred by Hutu men with machetes.

Surviving the horrific experience has taught Gashumba a valuable lesson, she said.

“Bitterness is like drinking poison but expecting the other person to die,” Gashumba said. “There’s no point. Forgiveness is essential to living a better life.”

After listening to Gashumba’s presentation, BGSU Firelands sophomore Jacqueline McClune said the genocide survivor is a strong woman whose message applies to any culture.

“It’s inspiring that she still moved on with her life after everything she went through,” McClune said. “What she said about being better, not bitter, is something we can all learn from.”


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