EARLY YEARS

EarI was born in July 1973 in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, where at that time my parents worked/studied for a couple of years at Philips Electronics and Addis Abeba University. They moved to Ethiopia in 1971 in a relatively calm period during the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia (1961-1991). In 1975 my parents returned to Asmara, Eritrea, where they became members of the Eritrean resistance which was by then actively engaged in liberating Eritrea from the Ethiopian regime of Mengistu Hailemariam. Faced with a life treathing situation and imprisonment my parents decided to flee out of the country with my two sisters and me at the height of the war in 1979.

 

That was the beginning of long journey through the harsh landscape of Eritrea to Sudan by foot, camels and jeeps. A journey from which I mostly remember that we always wore camouflaged clothes and mostly traveled by night to hide from MIGS that flew over frequently. I also recall the tension and danger whenever we came along one of the fronts of the Ethiopian army. After a stay of three months in Sudan we fled to Italy, where we stayed for another three months. Then we moved to the Netherlands, being the home country of Philips.

 

My first words in Dutch were: "thank you". And what was imprinted in my brain in those first weeks in the Netherlands, beside the cold wether, was the affective nature of the human-animal relations. Having experienced dogs as  guard against unwanted or unexpected people or animals, it was mind-blowing to see people hugging and kissing theirs dogs, and even eating and sleeping with theirs pets. Another image imprinted in my brain: the never ending requests to touch my Afro. Somethings never changed

 

The story of our journey, which undoubtedly matches the story of many other Eritreans who fled at that time, almost made it to a book. The author, unfortunately, died unexpectedly. See here for a short summary of the journey.

Sahel, Eritrea, 1979. Photo taken by American researcher, writer and photographer Dan Connell.
Schiedam,Netherlands, 1980

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Informatics Institute UvA

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Tel: +31-20-5258844