SHU Student Sam Dowd to Intern in Paris Exploring Eastern Europe’s ‘Holocaust by Bullets’

News Story: May 1, 2009
Sam Dowd

Sacred Heart University student Sam Dowd has been racking up the “frequent flyer” miles this year. He spent spring break in Central America, and will be heading to Paris for six weeks beginning May 27. Lest it all sound a bit too glamorous, it should be explained that spring break was a decidedly alternative version with the long-standing Sacred Heart mission in El Salvador, and his time in Paris will be spent working with Father Patrick Desbois exploring Eastern Europe’s “Holocaust by Bullets", the village-by-village execution of as many as two million Jews in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

A native of Holliston, Massachusetts, Dowd first took up the study of French in kindergarten in a unique immersion program where every class was fully in French. This went on till third grade when the classes were taught half in English and half in French. After that, there were French “classes,” the way most students would know them. As the result, he speaks French like a native -- with no accent.
His linguistic skills will be put to good use in France, where he will translate research documents from French to English. And his University education – he is a Media Studies major with a minor in Theology and Religious Studies – will also be put to the test as he works on a documentary and helps prepare for a symposium at the Sorbonne. Dowd will be continuing his course work during the summer, receiving three credits for the internship from the Media Studies department.
A French Catholic priest, Father Desbois spoke at the University in early March about his life’s work. The special presentation on campus was sponsored by the University’s Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding and the Anti-Defamation League. Father Desbois and his small team have explored hundreds of execution and burial sites in Eastern Europe in a race against time: most of the eye-witnesses to the Holocaust by Bullets, in which the local Jewish population was targeted and systematically gunned down by Nazi gangs, are in their 80s and 90s.
While he has visited Paris before, this will be Dowd’s first extended stay. He hopes to be able to take a number of side trips, visiting Centro Aletti in Rome, for example, the home base of Father Marko Rupnik, S.J., who has designed the interior artwork for the new University Chapel.
Although El Salvador and Paris are his biggest travel experiences this year, he also made an arduous journey from Sacred Heart University’s main campus in Fairfield to New Haven – arduous because it was made entirely on foot while carrying a 60-pound wood cross. He and Paul Carrier are both leaders of the University’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus whose world headquarters are in New Haven, and they began their pilgrimage in chilly rain on the Monday of Holy Week to imitate the Way of the Cross. 

Follow Sam's internship blog by clicking here.