Leaving the past behind

A student's transformative journey in Congo and Uganda leads to Algonquin


Clare Strickland

Bassam Nzovu

By Dan Fishbein

Profiles can be tough to write, but even tougher sometimes is finding a good subject. Ideally, that subject is someone with both a compelling story and the ability to tell it earnestly and insightfully. Bassam Nzovu from Algonquin Regional High School is one of those subjects, and writer Dan Fishbein has done an excellent job of capturing Bassam’s story on the page. It may be 1900 words long, but this piece has earned every one.

Algonquin sophomore Bassam Nzovu, 18, never got the chance to bury his father.

Just like every morning, on October 28, 2008, Siradji Gatanazi Nzovu went off to work at the maize flour factory he owned. But that afternoon, rebel forces rolled into Goma, a large city in eastern Congo, and changed Bassam’s life forever.

Siradji had always tried to instill strong morals into his three children. After his wife, Salam Utoni, died, he acted as a strict parent, holding Bassam and his two siblings, Ipsitam and Muntwely to tight rules. While many of Bassam’s friends walked to school, Siradji drove his son, to make sure he got there safely and on time. He did not allow his children to question his authority. In the eyes of Bassam, Siradji was a king.

On that day, though, Siradji would pay for his political allegiances to the Congolese government with his life. The rebels arrived at his factory and executed him, forcing Bassam, his two siblings, and their three cousins to flee Congo amidst the sound of gunshots.

“Suddenly you wake up in the morning and everything changes,” Bassam said, looking back. “That’s what happened that day.”

Read the full story here.