counterUkupno posjetitelja4763123
Trip to Kigali and the Salesians
Monday, 25 July 2011 Written by Ksenija & Petar Zečević

Trip to Kigali and the SalesiansOn the second day of our stay in Rwanda, we decided to visit Kigali and the Croatian Salesian missionaries. After Mass and Oswaldi’s excellent breakfast (coffee, poached eggs, Rwandan cheese, and the inevitable pili-pili), we left for Kigali.

Today we decided to try the local transportation all by ourselves, as we  didn’t want to burden fra Ivica too much because he had enough work in the school and elsewhere. We first went to the local bus station in Gitarama, which in actually in the opposite direction, but it is the place where the regular line to Kigali begins and which doesn’t stop in the little village of Kivumu.

We felt like an endangered species because of the attention we were given, but soon we relaxed. We even saw a guy in Hajduk’s jersey (a Croatian soccer club; perhaps he got it from fra Ivica?), and we took photos of him.

By the way, here are some very useful phrases in Rwanda, which are not difficult to learn: muraho (hello!), murakoze (thanks!), amakuru (how are you?), ni meza (I’m fine), maramutze (Good morning!), mirwe (Good evening!)... But it’s not easy to progress further from that, because they say that Kinyarwanda is one of the ten most difficult languages to master.

Let us get back to our trip: we waited for the taxi (a small bus that traverses the local lines) for about half an hour. We got on the third one, because the first two were completely full. In the bus everybody touches each other’s shoulders, and because even the aisle of the minibus is filled with collapsible seats, everything is occupied. It took us about 10 minutes to reach Gitarama (the accent is on the second syllable). Once there we had to wait again for the bus to leave for Kigali, which always leaves at a certain time. This one was bit more comfortable and bigger than the taxi, but was still far from what an average umuzungu (white person) would expect from a bus that travels between larger towns.

While we were waiting for the departure, we were offered juice, biscuits, some kind of roasted doughnuts filled with meat (which every guidebook would likely advise not to be consumed, although they have a really nice smell), boiled eggs and salted peanuts etc. Apart from that, there are a lot of beggars (some of those with really severe handicaps). It was all very, very interesting to us, and in a way charming because of the simplicity and poverty. The trip to Kigali lasts around 45 minutes, and the ticket costs about 9 kuna or $1.75 USD (the local one to Gitarama about 3 kuna or 60 cents American).

In Kigali we got off the bus one stop too early, and so we ended up in the middle of a very poor and very crowded neighbourhood. The whole street was some kind of a market with local stores (we later found out that the market’s name was Nyabugogo): clothing-repair stores (sewing machines right next to the road), a hair salon of a kind we’d never seen before, a boutique (guys standing and holding jeans in their hands), etc. The street is very steep (like most of the streets in Kigali, I guess), so we gave up walking very soon and rented a motorbike taxi. Fra Ivica warned us that there could be God-knows-what in those helmets, but we had no choice... :) Two bikes cost a total of 3 kuna to take us to the center, where we were supposed to meet don Danko Litrić, a Salesian priest who has been living in Rwanda for 31 years.

Don Danko was in Rwanda during the genocide and he survived the horrors that took place here. In the church where he was the parish priest a terrible massacre took place, and he was forced to listen to the screams, cries for help, scraping of the machetes on the road, gunshots... Nowadays, he’s the “economo” of the Salesian province.

He drove us to the opposite hill, where the new Salesian Provincial Headquarters (for Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, if I’m not mistaken) is situated. In this part of the city there are some nice houses surrounded by tall walls (therefore, a little wealthier neighbourhood). Next to the new Salesian headquarters, whose construction is coming to its end these days, there is a big secondary school managed for years by the Salesians. Compared to the one in Kivumu, this one is really huge, with a big playground but no grass at all.

Don Danko has raised, baptized and married thousands and thousands of Rwandans. He himself admits that on the streets, he is often greeted by policemen, workers, and even cleaners that he doesn’t know. It’s impossible to remember all those faces and names.

There is another Croat Salesian here – don Sebastijan Marković. He, too, with a few short interruptions, has been living in Rwanda for more than twenty years. He took us to the place where fra Vjeko was assassinated. He showed us the pole his car hit and which is still distorted. Fra Vjeko was driving down the road from a nearby hill with two men. The one who was sitting behind him grabbed him by the neck, and the other one shot him six to seven times in the stomach. One of the bullets hit his spinal cord. He was instantly dead. There is a modest monument on that location, and his tomb is in the Kivumu parish church.

They also tried to shoot don Sebastijan Marković, while he was the parish priest of the Kicukiro parish in Kigali, and only by a miracle (and his friends’ courage) did he survive. It was the time after the war, when Rwanda was still dangerous - the same period in which fra Vjeko Ćurić lost his life.

Don Danko and don Sebastijan received us very nicely, and after breakfast they introduced us to Jean Pierre, a Rwandan who received sponsorship by one of their friends from Croatia. Jean Pierre lost both his parents and was taken in by the Salesians. Thanks to the Croatian sponsorship, he finished secondary school, which is a big deal in Rwanda. But currently he has no job. After we had said our goodbyes to the Salesians, Jean Pierre took us through downtown Kigali. He told us that he can hardly believe how lucky he was, having someone to take care of him and making it possible for him to go to school, and how every day he prays for his Croatian “godfather”.

Translated by: Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

Photo Gallery

Father Vjeko Center

copyright © 2005-2024 • All Rights Reserved • Web concept, development and maintenance by Edvard Skejić