Abdul Gaffar Mohamed Rafeek

Abdul Gaffar Mohamed Rafeek (53 years) Zürich, Switzerland “The atrocities that happened at that time cannot be expressed by words; escaping the situation was the only priority in our minds at that time. It was a dangerous and sad period. When each year the situation arises for us to revisit it during the month July, comes sadness, lethargy and yearning! ‘’Somewhere riots had broken out and the people were all running amok, scared to even divulge their identities. We were young at that time so we did not take it that seriously but the bus driver’s foresight was to drop …

Pushparani

Pushparani (63 years) Paris, France ‘’In 86’ I arrived in Colombo on my way to France. I stayed with a Sinhalese family. They were very caring. I still remember how they served me with fish curry and hoppers. Also, they had only one room and they gave it to me while they slept outside. Their house was small and they used to live in a ‘Thottam’ (Watte). When I came there initially I was a bit scared. On my way there we had to come through some paddy fields and we asked for directions from the farmers. They were very …

Patrick B. Yogarajan

Patrick B. Yogarajan (31 years) Germany/ Switzerland This short video captures a part of Patrick’s everyday life as he traces his memories of first hearing and seeing images of the 83’ pogrom as a 6 year old at an exhibition organised by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The images of gore were what stayed in his mind and he sometimes struggles with the thought that he has failed to fulfil a part of his duty by leaving Sri Lanka and questions whether things would have ended differently if he had stayed back. Patrick is studying for a Master …

Pathmapraba

Pathmapraba (47 years) Davos, Switzerland ‘In July 83’ we arrived in Kankesanthurai and went to our home in Point Pedro. In one month all our belongings arrived from Colombo. This is when it struck me that we will not be going back again. This was difficult for me…. Life in Jaffna is very different to the life we lived in Colombo. I could not accept this change all of a sudden.’’ Pathmapraba who was 17 at the time of the riots, used to live down Muhandiram Lane in Colombo, while her father was employed as a personal accountant for Upali …

Ponnambalam Murugaverl

Ponnambalam Murugaverl (49 years) Bern, Switzerland ‘’In 83’ we used to go to Sockan Master to prepare for our exams and on that day we had a class in the morning; it was very early since I remember the dim morning light. When we arrived Master told us, ‘Thambi, it is not possible to conduct classes today and I am unable to give you any details but the situation is not good to conduct lessons and it is better that you all go safely. There has been some problem down Palali Road. We should not be talking about it now.’…. …

Jenny Jeyachandran

Jenny Jeyachandran (53 years) Paris, France ‘’In 1983, we had paddy fields in Kitulwatte, Trincomalee, nearby the Sinhala colonies. We would come home to the town after working in the fields. There was a common caretaker for the land. Nearby the main road there was a canteen run by a Tamil. We would all drink tea and leave for home when the bus arrived. Near this canteen there was a house with a 1-½ year old child and its parents, a young couple. When the riots broke out, the Sinhalese people there, not the original residents but the colonised people, …

Delon Madavan

Delon Madavan (32 years) Paris, France ‘ The first question that people ask me is, ‘do people in France know what happened to us? The fact is that even me… I don’t really know…, so I understand that as a researcher, among the different things that we have to do is try to work to conserve this memory of what happened.’’ Delon was born in the 80s in France and does not know about the 83’ pogrom from his parents. Nevertheless, he recalls the experience of a good friend who experienced it and noted that it is part of a …

Anuthigaa Periyathamby

Anuthigaa Periyathamby (23 years) Zürich, Switzerland In this video story Anuthigaa talks of the 83’ pogrom as a vague event in terms of her knowledge of the Sri Lankan conflict and recalls that she has not spoken about it with her parents, whom she feels may have left Sri Lanka due to it.  Her perspective is reflective of what is common amongst the diaspora youth. Anuthigaa reflects on her experiences with colleagues who discuss the event in emotional terms, internalising it as a personal experience even though this was not the case, something that she is unable to do. Anuthigaa …

Anthonipillai a.k.a Azhagiri

Anthonipillai a.k.a Azhagiri (65 years) Paris, France ‘‘I need to mention here about Manikathasan a PLOTE member who I came to know from the time in Elephant Pass. I am grateful to him that I am here today, speaking…[breaks down] the energy he gave us at a time when we thought we were going to die; his response when I asked him jokingly, ‘what are you going to do with this machchan?’, was, ‘before we die we should be able to hurt our enemy even if it were just a scratch that draws blood’ as he sharpened a rusted nail …

Sanctuary

Audio Photo descriptions “Black July” was a time of great horror in Sri Lankan history. The pogrom of 1983 devastated families, homes and communities, and its after effects haunt us to this day. But in the midst of that horror, there were moments of humanity, bravery and compassion. This is the story of that week, as told by those who bore witness to it. “The 24th evening, we knew there was a lot going on up North and we also heard that there was some killing of 13 soldiers and that evening they were going to bring the bodies and …