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Logambhini Balasubramaniam

During the Black July riots, I was 59 years old. I was living in Wellawata with my six children and husband. Though I was born in Jaffna, we had been living in Colombo for many years. My husband was working as an Engineer within the Irrigation Department and many of my children were studying in the Colombo schools.

On the first day of Black July, Sinhalese men armed with cubs and knives rampaged through the streets. I stood inside my house not knowing where to run. I knew I would not be able to run away and escape in time so I ran to my Sinhalese neighbor’s house. I did not even have time to change out my night dress or grab any important documents. She hid me in the house. Though I was protected, I waited in agony – not knowing if my family was safe.

I later learned that my husband’s manager sent him home early along with a Sinhala driver for protection. The car was stopped many times along the way however the Sinhala driver would simply state that they were both Sinhala and that he very well supported their actions. Another Sinhala family friend saw my children walking home and picked up them along the way.

Realizing my anxiety, my neighbor frequently ventured out to the front of the house and to looked out for them. Within a few hours, we were all safely reunited. However, we were not yet out of danger.

Suspicion began to grow as to whether our neighbors were hiding us in their house. The members of the mob were constantly walking around the area and questioning the whereabouts of our family. So, the neighbor’s son decided to hold a party and invited many of his friends over. He blasted the music to give off the impression that they were celebrating the occasion.

That night when the violence had subdued, he and his friends quietly escorted us to the refugee camp set up within the Ramakrishna Hall nearby. I felt humiliated walking in with my nightdress. Sadly, many others were suffering from injuries or distressed about missing family members. After all our years living in Colombo, I could not believe we were all in such a position.

I cannot recollect the events of the following days however we moved from one place to another around Colombo until we were able to able to find and afford another place of our own.

After events of the Black July, it was quite certain that we were not safe in Sri Lanka. Slowly, my children began leaving and building their families in various countries around the world.

 

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