[i] Hello [name] .

[r] Hello.

[i] Do you want to introduce yourself to tell us who you are?

[r] So I am [name] , my name, here in Italy they call me, for over 40 years now. I’ve been living in Turin since 1976, I’m from Eritrea and I was born in Asmara, the capital. In short, my story is that, in practice, I was, one might say, passing through, in transit from Rome. I come from Eritrea, I arrived in Sudan for reasons … Bad situation broke out the war in 75, I did not have to leave, but unfortunately I was forced to leave. In short, from Asmara or Addis Ababa, from Ethiopia. I had to go to the United States, because of the situation I could not. I had to continue my trips from Asmara, Eritrea Sudan, 11 days’ walk. From Sudan, for what reason you don’t know, I had this. seen for Italy, it was a fortune like that, I found a friend who could do this visa, I entered Italy, in Rome. From Rome I went to the Embassy of America because I had a regular visa for them. United States, I wanted to study in New York, continue 4 years of university, for reasons of teaching, I could not because. I had to stay a month in Rome. But I found some friends who lived in Busto near Milan, Busto/Varese. They proposed to me, instead of staying 2/3 weeks in Rome, “come to us and spend at least a few weeks with us”. From there, I was a boy, 20 years old, I lost my head among friends, right, left, I lost my plane ticket and visa, etc. … I stayed in Italy, it’s a long story to tell, however from Busto we came to Turin, we had a compatriot who was lucky enough to be hired as a manager in a small factory. His name is Leo s.r.l, he used to make slicers. So he as manager and us as students / workers, me and my friend came to Turin and after a few days, not even months I met an Italian girl. Head of a boy, we fell in love, after a couple of years we got married, we had a son. I became a merchant, because my in-laws were itinerant merchants.

[i] Dealer of what?

[r] Of clothing, I then acquired from them this business and went on. Now for over 40 years almost 41 years I do…

[i] Is this clothing business in a shop or where do you do it?

[r] I started out in practice, I started at the cross market in the golden years, good you could say that they were not like now, after 12 years I moved to Piazza Benefica in short, as a job I have always done for 41 years this type of business.

And 40 years ago, in Turin, in a market, what was it like to enter a young boy of Eritrean origin?

[r] Well, it was an unthinkable speech, it’s a very quoted profession, it was quoted, in short, foreigners were not there to count with their fingers. There, at the Crocetta market, the only one was me, for example. Even now also Piazza Benefica, now, lately, some foreigners has arrived but as a street trader I was there. there were 4/5, you could say all over Turin. In short, I got in because… you can see that I loved myself, I went on like this.

[i] And the impact with customers, the impact with the population of Turin in the 70s for a foreigner who arrived at that time as it was, how did you perceive and how did you live?

[r] Well, at the time it was a strange thing to see a foreigner being a trader, but I never had any difficulty getting into it easily with my colleagues, with my customers. Over time, over the years, I have acquired some credibility and I am moving forward.

[i] And the bond with Eritrea, has remained, there is still… since your departure no? what is left?

[r] For my part, even on behalf of all the Eritreans like me, we have never left the country because then we supported the revolution, the armed struggle not from there, from here we supported, in practice physically, I do not mean physically, there were those who did instead we were very close, so far.

[i] What were you doing? In what sense did you say who was down? What were your actions?

[r] Then in practice, the Eritreans were very organized, not only in Italy but all over the world. We had a very compact society linked with the revolutionary groups in Eritrea. So we supported by doing something I don’t know, exhibitions, by also supporting materially…

[i] Photographic exhibitions?

[r] Photographs, shows, to make Eritrea known to the Western world.

[i] What is your role in the community in Turin?

[r] My role was… not as a representative president but there were things to do, for example… in short, activist. Now I don’t want to tell you what I was. All I’m saying is that afterwards, alongside this, in 1987, we also created a solidarity committee called the “Turin Solidarity Committee”. We were a group of Italians, like Eritreans I was there and another girl who then gave up and left for the United States. It was very organized and we made plans towards Eritrea, immediately after independence. The government indicated to us the projects we could carry out…

[i] Which government?

[r] The Eritrean government, yes.  With the help we have had here per hour, it was in 93, we managed to build two hospitals, two schools, wells, school supplies, in short, we’ve got to work, we’ve also started distance adoption, it didn’t go well, but he also made this speech here, this one on the part of Turin.

[i] What about your personal bond with the physical earth, with Asmara and Eritrea, did you come back after your departure?

[r] I came back and I also came back almost every year, now it’s been a while since I came back for various reasons. I have a lot of ties, I have parents, Dad, Mom and sisters are there. There are no shortage of ties, even if I’ve been here for 42 years, a bit of … I have something.

[i] And what do you remember about yourself as a child, as a boy in your life down in Asmara? Why this sense of community? What did you explain to me, the bond that there is between the Eritreans, as it was when you were down as a boy? How did you grow up?

[r] In practice, I grew up in a family that could be said to be quite “good”. Unfortunately I had no intention, no reason to go out if this war between Ethiopia and Eritrea didn’t break out we grew up well we also had many Italians, our neighbours were Italians, the Italian community was very close to the Eritreans in short we were fine, I don’t say how good it was at European level but for us it was. So I have good memories of them.

[i] What were your parents doing in Eritrea?

[r] My father was one of the biggest grain traders, at the level of wholesalers, distributed to small traders, in short, I’m the son of a trader.

[i] So you inherited…

[r] I inherited from them, yes.

[i] And here in your daily life with your family, your wife, etc… How do you continue the link with Eritrea? Can you transmit it to everyday life and live it?

[r] To live it, unfortunately a small part, because now I have 4 children. I try to teach my children, but they were born and raised in Europe, they were born in Sweden because their mother lived there, during the birth she went there but she came to Italy for me. I try to transmit them too, but they are practically all Italian and European, they can listen to me but a small part.

[i] In what sense, I’m sorry, is your wife Swedish?

[r] My wife is originally from Eritrea, but she lived in Sweden. Somehow we met, the story is a bit long: I was on holiday in Eritrea, she came to Eritrea by combination, we found ourselves at the home of the godmother who was the sister of a friend of mine who lived in Holland and then we found ourselves at a dinner we made friends, this bond, after a year and a half, two years has matured, then I went to visit her in Sweden, she came to Turin. In short, the relationship became solid, the first child was born, we got married. Then we had four children.

[i] It’s a beautiful story because you are both Eritreans, your children were born in Italy.

[r] I was born in Sweden.

[i] They were born in Sweden, so they have Swedish citizenship.

[r] And Italian.

[i] And Italian. Crazy…

[r] So they preferred it anyway, it’s okay that my wife came for me, my children grew up, they studied and are still studying here, even if they are Swedish citizens their motherland has become Italy. They don’t want to know to leave Italy.

[i] Do you occasionally think about going back to living in Eritrea?

[r] I think about it and if I didn’t have a family, I’d like to have a wife, but starting from scratch would be a bit heavy for me too, because after 42 years in Italy, you can say that I grew up here even if it’s my homeland Eritrea, I don’t know if… I can’t tell you. All I’m saying is that when I was traveling I went to the United States I went around a little bit. After a week I missed Italy, going back to Turin. It means that there is something that binds me.

[i] You are an adopted Turinese…

At least that, I think that…

[i] You’ve been living in Torlino for many years, haven’t you? How did you see the change from a social point of view towards people, say, Eritreans, or at least people who come to this city, how did you perceive it?

[r] On our part, nothing has changed in the Eritrean community, it has remained as it was 40 years ago, but all this flow of immigration, unfortunately, has maybe not been wanted and has changed totally. So when we arrived, we counted foreigners with our fingers. We even searched when we saw one of the colors, one black, around after two three months we approached to ask him, now it is not so. Even on the part of Italian society there is distrust, at the time there was not. Now with what’s happening now, they were perhaps phenomena that did not exist, the situation has changed, I’m not saying from my side but all in general. If you ask me if I’ve ever had problems, I can’t tell lies, I’ve never had problems. Maybe because I’m a good user of healthy environments, maybe if I go to other places it could happen but until now I have never had any kind of difficulty, even my children.

[i] And in the Eritrean community what do you do? How are you connected? What are the practices and things you do together to continue to maintain this bond here?

[r] Then, in practice, the Eritrean community has tied it to the revolutionary group that was born in 73/72 since then. Even now, it has become a bit weak but at the moment it was very active because we supporting our struggle, that there was armed struggle. Every Sunday we met, we had meetings, in short, we did our duties to Eritrea, still is so, has not changed.

[i] Are you always there every Sunday?

[r] Every Sunday maybe not, at the time even in 76/77 in those years there were even meetings on Thursday and Sunday, then it became Sunday, now maybe once a month. And then we did the Eritrean festival in Bologna from ’74 until ’91, every year organized by the entire Eritrean society, all those who are in the world, starting with Italy, Sweden, Germany, Holland, America, Australia all came together over 10,000 people.

[i] What happened at this festival?

[r] At the festival there were shows, there were… for example every stand had, there was the stand of Turin, Milan, Bologna, Rome, various stands were able to welcome all these guests. We did it for 17 years.

[i] Wow, and today the situation in Eritrea has changed, hasn’t it? Compared to the time?

[r] Of course.

[i] And how do you perceive your connection with the current Eritrea?

[r] The bond has not changed, from how it was before until now. Now, little by little, it has been three months since Eritrea-Ethiopia made peace, for now it has remained so, but little by little there will be some changes.

[i] Today the young people of Eritrea, compared to when you were young, what difference do you find?

[r] The difference is that we had another kind of culture, another kind of mentality. The young people of now have arrived with their way of thinking, I don’t know now I don’t have so much contact but with those few I have seen they don’t have a great bond with us, with what we have experienced.

[i] What do you mean? What connection?

[r] They have a different way of thinking, I don’t know how to point you out one by one, it’s a bit long, but maybe they had problems coming out, as we see these phenomena, from Libya, Sudan, Chad a bit of massacre, a bit of… . and therefore their way of thinking is different.

[i] And did you learn the Italian language down in Eritrea or here in Italy?

[r] But think about the funny thing is that I never went to Italian school, I spoke something and then when I came here standing in the middle of the people, being with my ex-wife who was Italian, even if they taught me so much Sicilian, because they spoke in dialect, her parents didn’t, however, staying here I managed to learn something. In short, I had enrolled at the beginning also at university, but I didn’t… starting the work then I stopped and I didn’t go on.

[i] And I’ll ask you a question, if you want to answer: How were you welcomed into the family of your wife, Sicilian family by…

[r] As a foreigner?  Think, now telling it seems like a joke, but they wanted me and welcomed me as a son, like everything. In fact, when I told you I was working in the factory, I was invited to the home of an Eritrean friend who lived in Ponte Sassi, at lunch, combination he was a friend of my in-laws, so they were there with their daughter, we had lunch there and then, I do not know for what reason, in the evening they invited us to their house and then the next day they invited me to their house, you see that they understood that the daughter was interested, there was a bit of… In short, from there, this friend of mine as a friend remained a little behind, they, my father-in-law, came every day I finished work, at 5 pm he waited for me in front of the factory, he took me home. So, as I made this connection with my daughter, we became engaged. But I always had in mind to go away from Italy to the United States, I had to continue my travels, my studies. After a year and something was talking to them, we could say this is foreign, our daughter, however, no, they were looking for this link. I used to say “but how strange” we would go to our friends, to our relatives, we would talk about marriage, I never decided to marry, but they talk about marriage… in the end after a year and a half I said “getting married doesn’t mean dying” since there is a lot of connection with them why not do it? So we got married, a great Sicilian party, after two years we had a son.

[i] You were chosen by your in-laws even…

[r] Yes, from my in-laws, the thing was very heavy, I could not leave because I was now tied up. So my dreams and my travels vanished, they remained in Italy.

[i] How is a traditional wedding ceremony?

[r] It lasts days and days, three days of celebration, three days of marriage. In fact I had forgotten, for me it was strange, it’s exhausting but the custom is that, the tradition…

[i] How do they take place? I’m not Eritrea and so I don’t know how it works, how does it work? These three days what if it does?

[r] Then in the preparation there are some small celebrations and then the important day would be Sunday, they make this big tent, or now there are big clubs, but many as tradition do close the road and make the tent because, for example at my wedding there were 1500 people Then to accommodate 1500 people for both lunch and dinner is a lot, so they block the road and make tents. The people of the area do it themselves, they look for companies for these occasions…

[i] The whole neighborhood

[r] So the landlord only has to prepare the raw material and everything else is done by the others.

[i] What does the landlord prepare? What is the traditional food of a typical wedding? There is music…

[r] Music, music is there at full strength, that’s the thing that lasts three days as I told you and then there… There are foods, for example, we have bread that is called “ingera” is not a piadina but like piadina. They have to prepare it for 1500 people, even the types of dishes are 5/6 types, vegetable and meat-based. You have to kill ante sheep chickens, lots of cows, lots of meat. All this stuff here is the people of the area or the relatives who make it…

[i] So the whole community helps the young couple?

[r] Yes, exactly, you’re being broadcast.

[i] How do you get help? In the organization, from the economic point of view… I ask you why here in Italy a wedding guest comes, if he sits he eats and leaves. While for Eritrea the guest has a role? Does the community have a role? Because in Eritrea, if I understand correctly, the whole neighbourhood participates actively, contributing with food.

[r] Maybe with food, it depends on the family, there are those who want to be helped even materially, that is, even at the economic level, but many say 80%, only physically …

[i] Is there something you want to tell us, something else we forgot to say?

[r] But look at me, I have so many things to tell, but right now this is not… For example, I’m happy with the situation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, what’s happening after 20 years of massacre, we’ve had the embargo, the country hasn’t gone ahead, in economic terms, in terms of tourism, in terms of everything. We have been very massacred by the Western world, the United States, etc..

[i] In what sense?

[r] Because Eritrea was blamed for futile reasons that didn’t exist, I don’t know how to define it now, I can’t say it. At this moment here making peace with Ethiopia, in practice he was right about the 20 years of war, indeed embargo that we had, it was not because of Eritrea but for someone who wanted it. They have recognised this at the moment, we are free. On the part of the European community, too, I hope that it will be decided as soon as possible, in short. .

[i] So this peace has enormous importance for Eritrea and for the Eritrean community. . .

[r] Very much so, because we have dreamed up to now of this moment here and development has not taken place, we too had our hands tied, even if we wanted to do something we couldn’t do anything. Before 30 years of war, that ended, in ’91 the independence that lasted only 6 years, from ’91 to ’98 was unleashed this famous war that served no purpose, they unleashed it, someone wanted it. For 20 years we have been penalized, the embargo… now everything is going smoothly.

[i] Good.

[r] For our part we will see little, our children, hopefully…

[i] Do you think your children will return to Eritrea one day?

[r] My children, today as well as today, for how they think no, but a tomorrow never say never.

[i] Have they ever been to Eritrea?

[r] Twice, but they were small. At first my second child was one year old, I even had two children and then after ten years they came back, now they are over 20 years old. We are a caravan, I could not bring them all, we are 4 children, husband and wife, we need a charter!

[i] Thank you, thank you very much [name] .

[r] Sure.