Student - November 7, 2019

Dairy of a caretaker - ‘I’d never seen anyone screaming and crying like that before’


Generally speaking, student apartments are happy places. But sometimes sadness is concealed within their walls, recounts Eugene van Meteren.

Eugene van Meteren works for Idealis as a caretaker. He writes about his experiences for Resource.

‘Early one morning I was registering requests for repairs in an office on the ground floor of one of the student residences. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I was aware of a commotion outside. Looking out of the window I saw a young African woman in pyjamas jumping about in the thorny bushes in a highly agitated state.

‘I ran outside and saw that her bare feet were bleeding as she stamped in the bushes. I’d never seen anyone screaming and crying like that before. I went into the bushes to try and calm her down and after a few minutes her howls turned to sobs. I asked if we could go inside and she took my arm.

‘As we walked towards the lift I asked what had happened. Still sobbing she explained that she couldn’t get the images of a terrible event out of her head. As a child she had lost her parents during the genocide in Rwanda. “My parents were killed in front of my eyes. But I survived together with my sisters. I am very happy to be alive, but being an orphan at a young age is horrifying.”

‘We soon got to her room on the eighth floor, where the floor was covered with broken glass and blood. The moment we entered the room the woman made a dash for the open window. She crawled through it onto the balcony and tried to climb over the railing. I managed to pull her back together with another resident who had heard the commotion. Meanwhile, one of my colleagues had called the police, who fortunately arrived quickly and took over in a professional way[S1] . The same day we heard that the woman had been taken to the psychiatric ward of the clinic in nearby Wolfheze.

My parents were killed in front of my eyes, but I survived together with my sisters

‘Three months later, subdued and clearly on medication, the woman came to the Idealis office accompanied by someone from the clinic, to collect her things and say goodbye. The person accompanying her said that it would help her healing process if she returned to her own country and to her sisters. After that last encounter I heard nothing more of her.’