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Sivapakkiam Sinnadurai

My name is Sivapakkiam Sinnadurai and I was 43 years old. My husband’s name is Murugesu Sinnadurai and he was 54 years in 1983. We have been living in 410 Galle Road, Wellawatta for 24 years. Wellawatta was known as "Little Jaffna" and there was a lot of Tamils who lived there. At the time, two of my daughters who were 21 and 15, were living with us.

On the morning of July 25th, my husband got a call from his office

about the riots, so he left the car at home and took the bus to work. I was home with my two daughters. Around 10am, we heard loud noises outside. About 15-20 thugs armed with sticks, batons and hatchets broke the door down and came inside the house. We were hiding in one of the bedrooms with the doors locked. They smashed everything and were about to leave. Suddenly, one of them said loudly that people were hiding in the bedroom and they should kill us. We were so scared. After a minute of bone chilling silence, they broke the bedroom door down and dragged us outside. They beat us and told us to leave. We were so afraid and didn't know where to go. They told us to walk straight to the sea and kill ourselves. We left with what ever we were wearing. We started to walk down Vivakananda road. A Tamil Christian family saw us and called us into their house. From there, we could see our home being looted and then set on fire. There was a lot of police, army jeeps and helicopters flying above but none of them attempted to stop the thugs from maiming Tamils publicly, looting and burning their homes.

About two hours later, the family dropped us at Ramakrishna Mission Hall, which was on the next road. When we went there, we saw that the Sinhala thugs already vandalized the mission. There we stayed with many others just like us. Most people were injured and there was blood everywhere. Around 10pm, a bus came and picked us up. It took us to Hindu College, which was converted into a huge camp. A lot of people, who were doing well before the riots, were suffering without any food or proper clothing in the camp. People were fighting to get pieces of bread. It was very heartbreaking to see. While we were there, there was a rumor that the Hindu college was going to be the next target. We were so afraid and didn't know what to do.

Meanwhile, my husband had been looking for us the whole day without any luck. He came close to being killed a few times in the process. Later, he told us the gas station next to our house was giving away free gasoline to the thugs to burn down the Tamil homes and businesses. When he went home looking for us, he saw the house in flames and our neighbour, a Sinhalese man, had took our hose and was watering his house to prevent the flames. Eventually, he found us after midnight. All of us stayed in the camp for 25 days.

On the last day, we left on a ship called "Sithamparam" to Point Pedro. We stayed in our home town Karainagar there after. Three months later, my husband went back to Colombo. He took pictures of our ruined house and sent it to us.

We lost everything in Black July. We thought we were safe in our home town. But, not for long. In 1990, a big navel base appeared in our village and every one had to move due to the constant fighting in the area. We kept moving like gypsies and eventually came to Canada in 1995.

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