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Indybay Feature

Sweet Relief: The Story of Marla Ruzicka

Friday, December 01, 2006
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Event Type:
Ken Preston-Pile
Location Details:
Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St, Berkeley, CA

The against-all-odds story of how a 28-year-old woman from California took on the US government, changed thousands of lives, and made the ultimate sacrifice.
“In all the years I have lived, I do not know too many people who have made an impact the way [Marla] has in those twenty-eight short years.”
--Senator Barbara Boxer

“I count [Marla] among my heroes…” --Sean Penn

Marla Ruzicka wanted to change the world, and she succeeded. A free spirit who grew up in an idyllic small California town, Marla became an activist at an early age, and she never stopped fighting. Underneath her bubbly, blonde appearance – this was a girl who once rollerbladed down the halls of Congress -- Marla was a savvy political operator, a war-time Mother Theresa meets Erin Brokovich, who sacrificed her life to give a voice to the invisible victims of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. SWEET RELIEF: The Marla Ruzicka Story, written by journalist Jennifer Abrahamson, tells the unforgettable journey of an all-American girl on her way to becoming a hero.

In SWEET RELIEF, Abrahamson recounts Marla’s quest to improve the lives of the less fortunate. Marla’s journey starts in the San Francisco area as a grassroots activist, through her travels to Latin America and Africa, and finally ends in the war zones of Kabul and Baghdad.

Yet, despite her sunny demeanor, bright California good looks, and fierce ambition, Marla was struggling with her own personal demons. While everyone thought Marla was on top of the world, she was in fact a diagnosed manic-depressive who battled an eating disorder, and a string of peaks and valleys in her love life.

Through it all, Marla stayed dedicated to her work, as she worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for the cause closest to her heart -- the U.S. government compensation for the civilian victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Eventually, Marla was able to achieve her goal; she had a large hand in winning millions of dollars from the U.S. government to support her cause. This was the first time in history that the U.S. government had made a legislative effort to allocate funds to provide reconstruction assistance to civilians who had been directly harmed by U.S. warfare. Unfortunately, Marla would not be able to see the long-term effects of her contributions. In April 2005 Marla was killed by a suicide bomber on the infamous Airport Road in Iraq. She was likely on her way to assist a family in need. She was only twenty-eight years old.

Weeks later, President Bush signed the Appropriations bill that contained a provision for the fund that Marla’s work had inspired: The Marla Ruzicka Fund, with almost $50 million currently available to assist victims of U.S. warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, more than any amount of money, it is Marla’s life story – one of unflagging love, hope, courage, and determination – that may truly help change the world some day.

As Jennifer Abrahamson writes, “When Marla was a budding activist volunteering for Global Exchange, she seized on an idea to write a ‘how-to’ handbook for other young people who wanted to make a difference with their lives. Marla, of course, was too busy actually making a difference to see it through. In writing SWEET RELIEF, I’ve come to realize that Marla’s life is that handbook.”

tickets: $10 advance, $12 door, benefits Global Exchange.
available at many Bay Area independent bookstores:
East Bay –Cody’s, Black Oak, Diesel, Moe’s Books, Pegasus (2 stores), Pendragon, Global Exchange store, Walden Pond
San Francisco: Cody’s, Modern Times
Telephone ticket order: 415.255.7296 X253
Co-sponsored by KPFA, Black Oak Books and Hillside Club
Wheelchair accessible


About the author:
Jennifer Abrahamson was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has written for Slate, Salon, Elle, and other media, and worked as a humanitarian spokesperson for the United Nations in Africa. A job with the UN World Food Program took Jennifer to Afghanistan, where she first met Marla Ruzicka in 2002. They began collaborating on this book just before Marla lost her life. Jennifer lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Added to the calendar on Thu, Nov 30, 2006 12:00PM
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