Oprah Talks to Paul Rusesabagina
Paul: That's difficult to do after you've been terrorized. In Rwanda we were like a bird's nest near a passageway. Each time someone passed the nest, we wondered whether we'd survive. Every moment was a threat.
When I arrived in Belgium, my friends at Sabena Hotels offered me a job, but not as a general manager. They offered me a lesser job. I've never liked to beg. So I instead chose to raise enough money to buy a taxicab in Brussels. A year later, I bought a second car. Three years after that, I opened a trucking company, which is based in Zambia. I love it. And since 1999, I've had a Belgian passport.
Oprah: Do you miss Rwanda?
Paul: Every day.
Oprah: Will you ever be able to go back?
Paul: I believe.
Oprah: Couldn't you go back with protection?
Paul: With some GI's around me! [Laughs.]
Oprah: How is your life now?
Paul: It's completely different from what it once was. Now I deliver speeches all over the world. In Boston I've started a foundation to care for orphans of the genocide, as well as AIDS orphans. Did you know that the genocide and its aftermath left Rwanda with half a million orphans? AIDS added to that figure. All these people need medical care, psychological follow-up, tuition for the kids.
Oprah: In the movie, you reunited with your orphaned nieces in a refugee camp.
Paul: Right—and my wife and I waited until they were 7 and 8 to tell them that their parents had been murdered. They didn't believe it. They'd been only 2 years old and 9 months old when they lost their mother and father. We told them before the movie came out. They cried and said, "No, no, no. We do not have any other parents." The first time my wife saw the movie, she couldn't finish it—nor could she finish it the second or third time. Always in tears. She finally finished it the fourth time.
Oprah: How did you react the first time you saw it?
Paul: I was able to finish it because I'd been involved in the filming in Johannesburg. I met the actor who played my role.
Oprah: Don Cheadle.
Paul: He didn't really understand me until we met, sat down, shared wine, and spent almost a week together. He'd expected me to be a shell-shocked man who hid in alcohol after all I went through. But when he met me, a real person, he noticed that I was different from his preconception.