Oppression - The Human Phenomenon Humanity Can Combat - Katie Byers '14


I experienced the March of Remembrance and Hope in person two years ago now, but I continue to feel the experience very tangibly in my life after that unforgettable summer. There will be words spoken that resonate with a truth that was spoken by one of my facilitators on this trip, or a visual prompt that will elicit an emotion before I cognitively understand my reaction.

One afternoon when I had returned from MRH, I was playing softball; as my bat connected with the ball I looked up to track it through the air and all of a sudden I felt as though someone had punched me in the gut. My teammates yelled for me to run to first base, and I did… all the while wondering why I had this reaction. Later, as I sat on the bench, I looked up again and I realized. The school behind the baseball pitch was an old, red brick building. It had a chimney sticking straight out the top. A red brick chimney. I was suddenly back at Majdanek camp staring from the steps of the memorial at the gas chamber several yards away… with its red brick chimney.

I tell this story because this is what made me truly, fully realize the impact of the March of Remembrance and Hope. The experience is stamped in my hippocampus. I returned a physically changed person. I not only returned with memories, and a network of people who inspire me, but I returned from this journey with lasting emotion. This emotion makes me accountable to speaking out against prejudice and oppression. This emotion empowers me to feel confidence, and solidarity, in doing so. As Pinchas said to end our journey together, “I am blessed that such wonderful people come and I am able to impart my knowledge and philosophies; you each have a part of me now, and for that I am very grateful.” I left this experience indescribably grateful to have his story as a part of me. And the stories of so many others. Oppression is a human phenomenon, and only humanity can combat it.

Katie is an MRH 2014 alum, and currently works as a resource teacher for the Calgary Board of Education where she helps students adopt healthy strategies to emotionally regulate and learn.