One Woman’s Story

By Kelly Fincham, Contributor
April / May 2001

“There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land.”

– Euripides, 431 B.C.


Cathleen* 30, is a Christian woman from Nigeria. One day last year, before she came to Ireland, she and her sister Nora were shopping in the local market. A row broke out at a nearby stall which soon developed into a scuffle. Knives were pulled and suddenly people were fleeing from the market.

There is a history of tension between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, and this day the Muslims gained the upper hand.

Cathleen and her sister were separated in the stampede and as Cathleen made her way home she passed the corpses of some of her neighbors on the road.

When she reached her family home, she found another sister, Julie, six months pregnant, lying across the entrance to the house. There was no pulse. In the hall of the house she found the bodies of her parents. Later she discovered that her sister Nora was also dead.

Cathleen’s brother joined a raiding party to attack a house they believed was sheltering some of the killers, and was shot dead in the attempt.

Stunned, traumatized and incoherent with grief, Cathleen was taken in by a woman who runs a safe house in Nigeria. From there she was whisked away by a plane to an unknown destination which turned out to be Dublin.

Cathleen has since discovered that one sister is still alive – as are her sister Julie’s two children, who were in school when the massacre took place.

Somehow, in this merciless world which tries to keep refugees buried alive at the bottom of the human food chain, Cathleen is determined that she will het her remaining family out. She would not tell me how.

Like all recent arrivals to Ireland, she had learned to distrust us.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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