You Alone May Live is the 2010 memoir of Mary K. Blewitt OBE, founder of Survivors Fund SURF, a charity that works to improve the lives of survivors of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.  By recounting her experiences that led her to be at the heart of assisting survivors in the aftermath of the genocide, Mary Blewitt reveals both the extraordinary suffering of those who survived genocide and how she was compelled to help them.

Mary Kayitesi was born in Burundi to a Rwandan family in exile following the 1959 revolution in Rwanda.  Her family moved to Uganda and she spent most of her childhood here.  Whilst she grew up with her mother and some of her siblings, she was separated from one brother and sister who remained in Rwanda.  Like many other Rwandans, Mary suffered from persecution as a refugee in Uganda under the regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin.  Although she was able to visit her brother and sister within Rwanda once as a child, Mary remained largely in exile and moved to the UK in the 1980s.  Following her marriage to Richard Blewitt, Mary moved to Ethiopia where in April 1994 she heard of the outbreak of genocide in Rwanda.  Within several weeks she learned that her brother Jean-Baptiste had been killed by Interahamwe militiamen.

Desperate to help those who had survived the genocide, Mary returned to Rwanda and became immersed in the suffering of those who had been attacked, raped and left to die.  By listening to the stories of those who survived, Mary was inspired to help them try and rebuild their lives.    

About the author

Mary Blewitt is the founder and former Director of Survivors Fund.  Following the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 she worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of survivors and improve their lives.  In 2008 her work was recognised by the award of an OBE.

Discussion Questions

Please note that some of these questions will act as spoilers for the book.

  1. the title of the book comes from a Hutu killer’s statement to a woman whose family he has just killed.  The full statement is ‘you alone may live only so that you will die of sadness.’  Why does Mary Blewitt only use the first half in the book’s title?
  1. how do Mary’s childhood experiences as a Rwandan refugee in Uganda inform her adult life?
  1. what do you think compels Mary to become so involved with the stories of survivors?
  1. why does Mary set up SURF, instead of looking to work with an existing charity?
  1. what are the issues that Mary mentions which make reconciliation in Rwanda so difficult after the Genocide?

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