Stories of the past will help build a better future for all

TOO many stories about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides remain untold.

But today, Holocaust Memorial Day, it is hoped that will be addressed.

Since its inception in 2001, the annual event has always been held on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945 and each year a different theme has been chosen.

This year, that theme will be Untold Stories.

It is easy to talk about numbers, literally millions murdered and persecuted but it is more difficult to appreciate what the figures mean, the people behind the statistics - a mother, a father, a child, somebody's friend, a colleague, a neighbour.

It is their stories that will now be heard - stories it is hoped the world will not just listen to, but learn from.

In Calderdale a line-up of speakers will share their stories of danger, pain and suffering at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax.

Roben Mutwira is a passionate campaigner and speaker on numerous refugee and asylum seeker issues in the UK.

His heart-rending story of fleeing his home-land of Zimbabwe makes compulsive listening even though Roben has already shared his story before.

Roben is a university-educated father with a 15-year teaching career but a combination of family tragedy and Mugabe's brutal regime brought him to Britain and to Bradford eventually, where he has now lived since 2004.

He first came to Britain after receiving a phone call to say his student daughter had brain cancer. Roben's plan was to take her home but she became too ill and tragically died aged just 22.

With no support here, he slept rough.

"I remember sitting on a park bench one day and someone asking me if I was a tramp. I wondered what I had become," he recalls.

He lived in hostels crowded with asylum seekers, many of them lawyers, doctors and teachers, before beginning the procedure of claiming asylum.

Eventually he made good friends and became active in churches and now he is actively involved with projects helping refugees, including working as a volunteer at the Taylor Partnership which provides legal support for those seeking refugee status.

"I have learned a lot in the last few years and I realise I have been very lucky to have had the support of many wonderful organisations. I miss my own country naturally but I know it is not safe to go back there. I still have daughters there and it is painful when I think of the regime and the violence. I have lost relatives and friends to it."

Other speakers this evening will include Iby Knill, a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Iby, now 87, was just 18 when she began working as a resistance fighter in Hungary before she was arrested and eventually sent to the death camp. She recalls stepping off the train to be confronted by Dr Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death.

She now spends her days, committed to keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust in the hope that history will never repeat itself.

Iby has now written her life story which was published last year.

Eugene Black was also transported to Auschwitz as a schoolboy, along with members of his family.

He was forced into slave labour and endured a number of camps but he managed to survive until liberated by the Allies.

Eugene is now a revered speaker, regularly giving talks to schools, prisons and numerous community organisations.

A fourth story will be told by Kongosi Mussanzi, a Congolese activist who had to flee her home-land because of her human rights work including speaking out about the rape of women.

As a peacemaker she had spent years campaigning and advocating for peace in the Congo, but had to be evacuated when her life became in danger.

She is now a revered peace campaigner, working at a global level moving across the UK giving talks in collaboration with Tearfund and Amnesty International.

"I long for the day I can return home and continue with the peace building process," she says.

The Victoria Theatre event gets under way at 7pm, admission is free and everyone is welcome. Tickets can be collected at the theatre or reserved by ringing 351158.