July 23. The date has an awful significance for some, and has been blotted out by time for others. On that date, in 1983, a group of LTTE militants killed 13 Army soldiers. The attack brought simmering tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamils bubbling to the surface. The result: mobs of Sinhalese set upon and brutally attacked hundreds of Tamil civilians, and set fire to their property.

Groundviews has consistently recorded the deep impact that Black July had on Sri Lankans. While the very phrase conjures up images of burning tyres, smoke and fear, there remains a counter-narrative. Stories of everyday heroes, men and women who risked their lives to save their Tamil neighbours, from giving them sanctuary in their own homes to saving their valuables and even standing up to the rampaging mobs.

Building on the ‘Sanctuary‘ series, each of the stories is tied to a specific area; from Wasala road in Kotahena to De Fonseka Place and the flower shops in Dean’s Road. Groundviews revisited these spaces, in order to record what they look like today, juxtaposed with the stories of how residents of the area banded together to help those in fear for their lives. We spoke to those who received help from Sinhalese neighbours, as well as Sinhalese who extended a helping hand.

View the story, compiled using StoryMap here, or below: