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Maria Arulanandam

My name is Maria Aulanandam, and I am a Black July survivor. Before 1983, I was teaching in Trincomalee, and my husband was working at Overseas Telecom Service. I was transferred to work in Colombo only one month before the riots. At that time, my husband and I had been married for about one year, and I was 9 months pregnant.

On the 25th of July, my husband went to work and told me to stay home because problems were starting there. Around 12 pm I got more phone calls about the situation, and people started coming home from work. My husband took some time, but finally arrived home by bus. We were having our lunch and that is when we began to here people screaming. We immediately headed to the back, through a corridor, to the kitchen. In particular, everyone was scared for me because I was pregnant. I had just gone to the doctor the previous day and the doctor had informed me that everything was fine.

As we sat in the kitchen, my husband and a few people were holding the front door because thugs were banging on it continuously. They felt a huge bang, and my husband had no choice but to open it. He begged them not harm us, and told them he would give everything he had. Even though the thugs were carrying kerosene, they did not harm my husband. The previous day was salary day and our money was in the room along with the jewelry. The thugs had taken everything and damaged many things in our house. My husband had also kept our engagement ring in his sarong, and even that had fallen out.

Apparently, the thugs had gone to another apartment before arriving at our place, and they told us to go and stay there. My husband went over there first and saw that everything was gone except for a big whisky bottle under the table. When he gave the thugs the whisky bottle, they were very happy and left the area.

My husband told us to go to that apartment, but I was very scared and did not want leave. As we were walking over to the apartment, there were blood droppings on the steps and I became very fearful. That day I felt that the baby’s movements had reduced significantly. We stayed at the apartment for the next six days and the people there provided us with food. We wanted to visit the doctor due to the reduced movement but we were too scared to leave.

On the 31st of July, we left on a ship to Jaffna. At the hospital, we were given very sad news; our baby was stillborn. After that we felt like we were starting a new life because we had lost everything including our baby.

My husband got a temporary transfer to work at Jaffna Telecom, and he worked there for about one year. The situation was still bad in Colombo and our house was destroyed, but we had to go back. I found out that I had lost my old teaching job, but I eventually got a new job.

My husband and I came to Canada by self-sponsor. We chose to come here because we could not find peace back home, and we still feared going to work and coming home. While in Canada, I still think about the people back home and the problems they are facing, and some day I hope to go back. I feel the most important aspect of living in Canada is the freedom.

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