Honouring Artemis Christodulou
Artemis Christodulou authored the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission's reports on Memorials and Transitional Justice and on Amputations after months of research during her internship for Commissioner William Schabas.
In December 2003, she was asked by the Commission to launch the National Vision for Sierra Leone. As a student of comparative literature, Christodulou was focused on literature as it related to communal memory, and it was this interest that compelled her to continue her work for the TRC.
On May 23, 2004, Christodulou was in a severe car accident while travelling in upcountry Sierra Leone scouting for a new location in which to display the collected National Vision for Sierra Leone contributions. She was paralyzed and suffered severe brain damage.
As she was about to leave for Sierra Leone for the last time, Christodulou realized that everything she’d worked to collect over the past two years could disappear: all 83 pages of inmates’ essays from a Sierra Leonean prison, where many died without ever having been convicted; all 13 faces on a painting bearing a Sierra Leonean flag, looking to a future of good roads and streetlights; all of the stamps, poems, plays, and sculptures from combatants and civilians that had borne witness to the transition of a nation. She began work to establish an archive of testimonies from truth commissions across the world at Yale, contacting transitional justice experts and law school faculty. These efforts, and Christodulou’s respect for the individual stories of national tragedy, are at the root of Yale’s campaign to memorialize the global devastation of genocide, civil war, and internal oppression. Artemis Christodulou would not return to Yale, but her name, like these stories, is immortalized in the Artemis Project.
The following was written by Artemis’s family:
Artemis Christodulou was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on April 28, 1978, to Antonis “Tony” and Kalliope “Popi” Christodulou. Early on people recognized Artemis as special. Her kindergarten teacher took her father aside one day and said: “I have something to tell you: Artemis is one in a million.”
As a child, Artemis was very kind, respectable, neat, ambitious, sincere, and outgoing. She touched the lives of those around her and was very well respected by her friends.
Artemis loved the outdoors, particularly the sea, the beach, swimming, boating, waterskiing, and snorkeling. During visits to her family in Skyros, Greece, she enjoyed those activities as well as hiking in the mountains. Artemis was also an award-winning guitar player.
Artemis always excelled academically, receiving awards, special recognitions, and certificates of excellence. Upon graduation in 1996 from Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School in Massachusetts, Artemis was the sole recipient of the Mustard Seed Scholarship for $32,000.
After high school, Artemis was accepted for early admission to Yale University as a member of the Class of 2000. During a year of study abroad at Constance University in Germany, one of her professors, Dr. Karlhelnz Stierle, said of Artemis: “Analyzing another critic’s strategies and criticizing them needs a highly reflexive mind and sure knowledge. Her paper presented is of outstanding quality.” Also during her undergraduate studies, Frank Mergen, a French professor, observed Artemis’s proficiency in foreign language, knowledge of European cultures, international experience, and literary sensibilities. He predicted that Artemis would be able to pursue whatever graduate program she chose.
1999, Artemis was nominated by Yale for the Marshall and Rhodes scholarships. Her French professor, Elie Tito Cohen, PhD, who recommended her for these scholarships, stated: “In my forty years of teaching, I have not met more than three or four students of the caliber of Miss Artemis Christodulou.” Artemis graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale in 2000 with a degree in the Humanities.
Artemis continued on at Yale for her graduate work as a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature. While a graduate student, Artemis worked for the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Through her ICTJ work, Artemis discovered the beauty of the people of Sierra Leone—a country she envisioned one day to be unified, free, and at peace.
Artemis’s research took her to Sierra Leone, where she participated in the work of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including a related project: the National Vision for Sierra Leone (NVSL). On May 23, 2004, while working on the NVSL, Artemis was involved in a severe car accident in Lunsar, Sierra Leone. She was evacuated to a hospital in Paris and her parents joined her there from their home in Greece.
Artemis has always been beloved by friends and family for her generosity and selflessness. She loves her brother, Manolis, and has much love and respect for her parents. Our family is now a team dedicated to managing Artemis’s care. She needs us now more than ever. Our daily mission is to make her life as comfortable as possible, free from pain.
Artemis is confined to a wheelchair. She lives in our home in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in an annex built to fit her needs. We have a handicap accessibility van, which we use to transport Artemis to her medical appointments. Artemis is currently enrolled in a rehabilitation program called Journey Forward located in Canton, Massachusetts. There she exercises with various machines. At times during her sessions, she struggles to a stop. She blinks her eyes to let us know that she is ready to try again.
We have been trying very hard to teach Artemis how to use an electric wheelchair with the use of a switch like the one for her computer. She gets frustrated sometimes but never gives up. Hopefully one day she will be able to use a joystick chair that will give her greater freedom.
We communicate with Artemis through an alphabet card and a computer, which she operates by squeezing a switch. Artemis tells us what she wants and plays games. She likes answering questions. Although Artemis was fluent in 7 languages before the accident (Ancient Greek, Creole, native English, French, German, native Greek, Latin) she now prefers to communicate in Greek.
We remain hopeful about Artemis’s progress, and would appreciate your support. God bless.