I sat on a bench outside, absolutely shattered by what I had just heard.
A young man I had unexpectedly met informed me that his grandparents had been among the rebel forces that had killed my younger sibling more than fifty years earlier, destroyed my childhood home, and devastated our lives. All of the dreadful memories came flooding back: I saw the small child I had been, and the violence that child had seen, and I was overwhelmed with grief, rage, and a hatred I did not know was still so raw. The human history I had tried to suppress for so many years had come to the surface—and was now staring me in the face.
As we conversed that day, the young man had a bewildered expression as he suddenly began to realize who I was. I was born in a part of Africa that had been colonized by Europeans. A white engineer, my father had been assigned to work for a company there when rebel forces were agitating for independence from colonial rule. We were caught in the middle. When the unrest started, the rebel forces invaded and vandalized our little town, raping or slaughtering almost everyone in their path, and forcing the remaining white residents, including my family, to flee with the clothes on their back.