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Stories of Survival: A Conversation on Genocide, Past and Present

  • Oregon Historical Society (map)

What is genocide? How does it start, and what do different genocides have in common? Not every step that leads to genocide is obviously evil. Survivors of the Holocaust, as well as the Rwandan, Cambodian, and Bosnian genocides, discuss their own experiences and share their reflections on the current Rohingya crisis. As different experiences are shared, an overarching pattern becomes evident, giving hope that the pattern can be recognized and interrupted in order to prevent future genocide from occurring. This program is presented as part of Exiled to Nowhere: A Symposium on the Rohingya Crisis.

Rosalyn Kliot was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1945, after her parents' courageous escape from the Klooga concentration camp in Estonia. In 1947, the family sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Boston Harbor. They settled in Skokie, Illinois, in a community of people who shared similar survival experiences. In her adulthood, Rosalyn owned her own business in southern California and later moved to Oregon, where she worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and then a manager in her company. She traveled the West Coast as a Forensic Vocational Expert Witness at Supplemental Security Income hearings while she was the owner of her own consulting business. She has been a guest lecturer at Portland State and Southern Oregon universities, a practicing artist, and a published author in various journals and newspapers. Today, Rosalyn focuses on her art full time, as both an artist and a member of the public art and selection committee for the City of Lake Oswego. She has been telling her family's story of Holocaust survival for over 25 years.

Sivheng Ung came to the United States from Cambodia in 1979 at age 28. She lived through the killing fields from 1975 to 1979, when the Khmer Rouge killed more than two million people. Sivheng's newly wedded husband was taken away, tortured, and killed by the Khmer Rouge. She lost her unborn baby due to extreme hard labor. Both of her parents, her grandmother, and youngest sister died within the same month due to starvation. Her brothers in-law, father in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles, and their children were also murdered, simply because they were educated. In total, more than forty members of Sivheng's family were murdered or died of starvation and diseases. Many Cambodians escaped to Thailand through the jungle and mine fields. Sivheng and her young brother were among them. They came to the United States in September of 1979. They are very grateful and feel fortunate to be safe here!  

Samir Mustafic was born in 1972 in a small town called Buzim in Northwest Bosnia. He was 21 years old when he was injured in a shelling attack by Serb forces in June of 1993, which left him paralyzed. The same attack killed his mother and sister. After multiple surgeries, and spending 9 months in hospitals in Bosnia and Slovenia, he immigrated to the United States. Following two successful surgeries, Samir decided to focus on the positive. To this end he learned the English language, put himself through college, and eventually became a computer programmer. Today he works for the State of Oregon as a Software Architect, mostly supporting the Public Health division. He is a strong advocate for immigrant and minority rights. For many years he worked as a volunteer teacher at the BECO organization, teaching Bosnian language, history and culture to children born to Bosnian immigrants. He currently lives in Portland. He is married with two children.

Bonus Kayumba was raised and grew up in Rwanda. He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He moved to Portland in 2005. Mr. Kayumba attended PSU and ITT Tech. He currently lives in Beaverton and is married with two children. Mr. Kayumba works as a CNC Programmer at Pentagon EMS in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Sponsors for the event include the Oregon Historical Society, Never Again Coalition, World Oregon, Americans for Rohingya, Friends of Rohingya USA, Muslim Educational Trust, KBOO, The Immigrant Story, Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, Portland State University’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Lewis and Clark Law School’s Crime Victims’ Rights Alliance, American Jewish World Service, and RAIN International. With support from Eric and Alia Breon.