Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Genocide in Rwanda

Elena Maria Vidal has a searing post about the horrific holocaust in Rwanda, a former Belgian mandate, in 1994.

I cannot resist sharing a story of Princess Lilian's kindness to a family of Rwandan refugees, told by Michel Verwilghen, professor of law at the Catholic University of Louvain, in Le mythe d'Argenteuil. Although his book is not a memoir, but a historical study of the domain of Argenteuil, Verwilghen departs, on this occasion, from his usual impersonal tone, to give a direct testimony of Lilian's generosity and tact. Shortly after the Rwandan genocide, he relates, he was invited to Argenteuil to settle some matter involving the Fondation Cardiologique Princesse Lilian. The conversation turned to the tragedy in the heart of Africa, a region which Lilian's late husband, King Leopold III, had visited and loved. Verwilghen told his hostess how several professors of law from Belgian universities had managed to rescue a Rwandan colleague and transport him to Belgium, with his wife and their four children, a few weeks after the beginning of the slaughter. Upon hearing that the parents were preparing to celebrate their eldest child's First Communion and Confirmation with a simple party, the princess took her cheque book out of her purse and handed it to her guest, asking him to fill a cheque for the unfortunate couple: "I would like to help them and make sure that their family party is beautiful, after what they have lived through there". Startled, the professor asked the princess what to write; she specified an ample sum. After filling the cheque as requested, Verwilghen returned it to Lilian to sign. As she did so, she graciously continued the conversation, as if to close the financial transaction discreetly. I am reminded of the description of Lilian de Réthy given by Madame Carton de Wiart, a lady-in-waiting of Queen Elisabeth: A true princess in the full sense of the term!

No comments: