" I say this with no bitterness in my heart. My wish has always been that the world should know what happened. The promise I made to myself was that the memory should not die. That was my promise."
Dr. Ify Uraih, survivor of the Oct. 7 massacre
For many years, memories of the war lived on only in the community, with attempts to commemorate suppressed by the government. So it is important to survivors that the loss of their loved ones is remembered, not only by families, but by the wider world.
One of our goals was to assist in that memorialization, by disseminating the research as widely as possible, in both academic and public forums. Early in the research, we made a proposal to restore a historic building in Asaba, and create a museum to honor the history of the city and the region. It is a slow process, but progress is being made.
As a 14-year-old, Martina Osaji helped bury her father, Leo Isichei, killed on Oct. 7 along with almost 40 other relatives. Here she talks about the need to remember.
Click for full interview transcript
Formal memorial activities began in 2009, when the University of South Florida hosted an Asaba Memorial Symposium, attended by survivors, scholars, and writers. Notable speakers included Chief Philip Asiodu, the Izoma of Asaba, a member of Gen. Gowon’s wartime Cabinet; Chima J. Korieh, Marquette University, expert on Igbo history; Chimalum Nwankwo, North Carolina A and T University; Michael C. Nwanze, Howard University; Obiora Udechukwu, poet and artist, St. Lawrence University; and Dora Obiajulu Chizea, M.D. named the most Distinguished Asaba Woman in the Decade 1981-1991 by the Asaba Development Association. For a news story and photos from the event, click here.
In 2010, the first Asaba Memorial event was held in Asaba, on Oct. 7, 2010. It included a procession, speeches, and digging of a foundation for a monument at Ogbe-Osawa. Prof. EAC Nwanze, an Asaba indigene and former VIce Chancellor of the University of Benin, delivered remarks. Similar events have occurred most years since then.
The second commemoration was held in Asaba on Oct. 7, 2011; Liz Bird and Fraser Ottanelli were honored to attend. Father Patrick Isichei, who lost many family members, gave a powerful address and Dr. Louis Odogwu, President of the Asaba Development Union, presided. Click here for the event program.
Asaba's third commemoration, in 2012, was special for us, as we had the chance to display the museum quality exhibit we had prepared from our research. The exhibit consisted of 11 large (72 inches X 36 inches) panels that documented the history of the massacres, starting just before the Civil War. We focused primarily on the words of witnesses, supplemented by historic photos and contemporary art work that depicted the horror of the Oct. 7 mass killing. The exhibit was mounted in a community center, where about 200 people assembled to see it, and then watched our video. Click to view exhibit. We delivered a short message; for a copy of the event program, click here.