Rebecca Kiil (2018)

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Rebecca is thrilled to be part of this year’s OHMA cohort. She comes to Columbia OHMA from a writing/editing background, having worked at various points in her career in both non-profit and for-profit organizations, and most recently in the healthcare industry. Throughout, and often outside of her career, she has pursued the skills that would eventually bring her to OHMA: taking photography classes and workshops; attending the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies twice—first for a semester of graduate documentary photography field studies, and later for a weeklong multimedia intensive for digital audio, video, and photography; and honing her listening skills within a family where stories were told for, and about, survival. For the past few years, Rebecca has been working with her 101-year-old grandmother to document the story of her escape during World War II from her tiny home country of Estonia – which sits across the Baltic Sea from Finland and shares a border with Russia. In 1944, at the age of 26, Rebecca’s grandmother fled the Russian occupation and brutality of Stalin’s army, which had already claimed her father and brother and would soon claim her husband. This work led Rebecca to the realization that many Estonians of her grandmother’s generation have stories yet to be told. She wants to find those stories and document them. 

Rebecca joined this year’s OHMA cohort to go even deeper into this work and collaborate with, and be inspired by, both new and experienced storytellers and oral history innovators at OHMA. Rebecca is in the process of creating an online portal, the RAHU Peace Through Storytelling Project (rahu means peace in Estonian), to make these interviews available to a wider audience while she continues to collect as many first-hand accounts as possible, as quickly as possible. Rebecca recently received GSAS/OHMA Student Research Funding, which will enable her to go live with the website even sooner.