On the survivor

N. Lygeros

Translated from the Greek by Evi Charitidou

How to imagine a woman who survived genocide without dying out of pain? It is enough see her deciding to eventually deliver a speech during a commemoration day. We had such a chance last month in Ukraine. Because it is by discovering somebody who has survived another genocide case that we realize the way in which unknown people view us. We were in the National Opera’s big hall in the presence of the President of the Republic of Ukraine. After she was announced, an old lady stood up assisted by her daughter to walk. To reach the scene, she had to cross a podium. At that point, she lost her balance and her daughter could not hold her. Thus, the entire hall of the Opera saw the Holodomor survivor falling down. It was exactly at that moment that we all realized what the loss of a survivor does really mean. Suddenly, this idea had nothing in abstract. After the survivor stood up, she delivered a speech marked by humanness. While she was heading back to her seat the President himself escorted her to protect her from any risk of falling down again. This move on the part of the President was all symbolic. For, the survivor certainly is the spearhead for recognizing genocide. And it is exactly this realization that urged him help her. He knows the value of her existing as regards the recognition cause. That survivor shows us thanks to her life, which was nothing but survival, the magnitude of human spirit. That survivor proves us the humaneness resistance to barbarity. Against any totalitarian system she constitutes by resisting a symbol for all recognition combatants and for all peace fighters. She is not just an old lady as those who forget and remain indifferent think. Neither is she fashionable as some cynical and fanatics, too, claim. That survivor is an endangered example of humaneness. It is necessary to keep in mind the famous Cicero’s quote on the dead to comprehend the state of mind which should govern us: ‘the life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living’. That survivor shows us that we are responsible for holding her alive in our collective memory. This phenomenon is general and should not be limited to one genocide case. Every survivor male or female reminds us that nothing justifies a genocide case. No barbarity should be allowed. This is what every male and female survivor says to society. And it is up to us to listen to this unique message, by comprehending that forgetting her equals to her premature death. That survivor reminds us that even though we were not present at the time of genocide, we are all responsible for genocide of memory. Letting a survivor to get lost in oblivion renders us accomplices. Whereas remembering her equals to a real action of resistance. And we are all capable of doing it. Knowing that this action is within our abilities comes to us from the existing of survivors of every genocide case. Thus, any crime against humanity does not have only victims, but it has also proof. And it is thanks to these testimonies that we can condemn executioners of history. This is the survivors’ contribution. Their survival is a sacrifice, their life a gift, and their death our memory. Hence, it is up to us to comprehend the sacrifice, accept this gift, and safeguard their memory.

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