Haddis Alemayehou:His Seven Years of Exile
In the 1930’s during the Italian war, Haddis Alemayehu fought at the front in the northern Ethiopia and later as a guerrilla fighter in the south-west of the country. Captured in 1936, Haddis was shipped to detention in Italy and stayed there in exile for seven years. In this article, published on the December 11, 1943 edition of the then weekly paper, The Ethiopian Herald, Haddis recounts those terrible years in his own words.
When we express the most profound gratitude to the glorious Allied Armies for our delivery from our long and cruel confinement by the Italians, I am bound to mention the cause of this long exile. The whole world knows that the Italian, under the name of civilizing a backward people, bombed and destroyed our churches, towns and even small villages; maimed women and children, and gassed the peaceful civilians (an insult to civilization and a very disgraceful memory for our century.)
The whole world knows the story of the bloody Friday, that is the day on which Marshal Grazini, the true personification of Fascism, massacred nearly a quarter of the population of Addis Ababa and thousands of youths from different cities and towns and even villages.
That cowardly act of the Italians was and remains, an insurmountable barrier between the two nations, that disgustingly horrible act of theirs was and remains the deepest abyss which separates hell from heaven.
It is as the result of that event that tens of thousands of the remaining Ethiopians were exiled in different camps and islands, mostly in Italy.
Many died there homesick and desperate, others fell ill and miserable. It was after years of suffering that the survivors were repatriated because of the huge expense which Italy had to make support that great number of exiles. Even then, they didn’t repatriate all the survivors. For example, we were left behind, in a mountainous country called Lungobucco which means “long hole” in Southern Italy in Calabria. Lungobucco is surrounded by chains of hills, in winter snow is heaped up to a height of one meter, from November to the end of May. During that period the country becomes dreary and desolate, the inhabitants shut their houses and go down to the shores.
But we, poor devils, only we had to stay there, we had to suffer that terrible cold. Oh! It was really terrible.
Our hope, I should say our only hope, was Italy’s participation in the war; because we knew that In the Italian State itself, there were two different peoples with two different ways of living and different outlooks-the Fascists and the non-Fascists.
The first, oppressing, despising and exploiting the second, body and soul. The second, subjugated, oppressed and tortured by the first; the second hating, considering the first as colonizers, not as compatriots.
In short there was an air of animosity and discordance between these two classes which was visible to every body.
Well, seeing all this internal trouble on one side, and the extreme poverty of the country on the other, seeing these opposing forces working simultaneously in opposite direction it was easy to judge that, participation in the actual war meant an end of the Italian State.
Now it didn’t take us long to see the realization of our dream. Italy’ became belligerent on Germany side, but, alas! the result was not as we had expected it to be. The Fascists and the non-Fascists seemed to collaborate, that animosity which was so deep and mortal seemed to have been eliminated. The devil seemed to have got the upper hand, and that destruction force which is the production of the materialism of the present century (that is Fascism) seemed to triumph over justice and humanity, and we were in a very great anxiety. Our anxious spirit was expanding and recoiling with the ebb and flow of that tremendous wave-the struggle of the Libyan desert. Our state of mind rose and fell with the rise and fall of the temperature of that terrific clash.
But this did not last long, things took their right course and the temperature became constant. There came El Alamien, then followed the downfall of Fascism, the landing on the Italian mainland itself, and the armistice; the irresistible advance of the victorious Allied armies and our liberation by the AMGOT, and then our freedom.
We are free again; after 7 years of confinement, after 7 years of insult and humiliation, after 7 years of physical and moral suffering we are free, thanks to the victories Allied Armies, which have broken the back-bone of that monstrous brute-Fascism, we are free and have seen the free land of Ethiopia.