Ten years after Arrigoni’s tragic death in Gaza, his mother shares happy moments with Ossigeno and talks about the Foundation that passes on his memory

by Raffaella Della Morte –Ten years have passed since the death of Vittorio Arrigoni (Vik), the human rights activist kidnapped and killed in Gaza on April 15th 2011. Ten years is a long time. But in the memories and in the heart of Egidia Beretta, his mother, Vittorio is always there, with her, in their home in Brianza, in Bulciago, in the Province of Lecco.

“I remember – she tells Ossigeno per l’Informazione – the moments when he was here at home, our talks, and the beauty of having him around. There was a lot of empathy between us; an empathy that never stopped either when he was away or now.

Vittorio cared a lot about his roots and although he was often far from home we were his roots, his reference point. This made us very proud”.

She adds that Vittorio had devoted his entire life for others, in search of the common good, and of respect for human rights and justice. In a letter sent to a friend in 2004, Vittorio wrote about himself: “I decided to devote a lot of my time and energy to the search for hidden truths, strange interests, sifting through those places marked forever by poverty and war, tempting us to lose all hope of peace, every right to an equitable existence”.

Vik’s missions reached Croatia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa but he chose Palestine as his preferred territory, arriving there for the first work camp in 2002.

Mamma Egidia had always supported Vittorio, his passions and the mission he had chosen to fulfil. She supported him by overcoming her mother’s legitimate anxieties and fears. “His earlier trips – she says – were not risky. I began to worry when he chose Palestine as a place to bring concrete aid. In 2005, after two attempts to enter, he was beaten and jailed. My heart was not at peace, of course, but at the same time I felt satisfaction and pride for a son who had never abandoned his dreams and the search for justice. His life was driven by the battle for human rights. He fulfilled his aspirations and was able to give help and support to those who needed it. This gave me joy, it still gives me joy”.

To civic commitment, Vittorio combined passion and a natural propensity for writing. The pen was the instrument of his feelings, the weapon to recount what he saw around him. In 2008, when Israel launched the operation called “Cast Lead”, the bloody offensive to strike the Hamas administration, Vittorio was the only Italian present in the Gaza Strip.
He described those days for the Il Manifesto newspaper. The world learned what was happening thanks to his reportages written under bombardment and signed with the phrase “Let’s remain human”. Words that have become Vittorio’s hallmark and, still today, inspire those who dedicate their commitment and energy to others.

“He wrote in desperate conditions and – comments his mother – I’m sure that he said ‘Let’s remain human’ above all to himself. It is a warning that applies to everyone. It must remind us that we all belong to the same family, the human one. If we open ourselves to others, to those who are suffering, to those in need – says Egidia – if we truly believe we are one family, if we do not turn away, we have the opportunity to become human rights activists in our daily life “.

After Vittorio’s death, his human and intellectual heritage was collected and preserved by Egidia and her daughter Alessandra, Vik’s sister. They earnestly wanted the Vittorio Arrigoni “Vik Utopia” Foundation to be created. This non-profit organization, its website explains, aims to “honour Vittorio’s memory and continue his dispassionate action of civic commitment at the service of the common good, human rights and justice”. The Foundation promotes national and international humanitarian actions.

Thus Vittorio’s life, his concrete testimony, inspires new generations. Egidia often talks with pleasure about it with young people, students, and activists who invite her to talk about Vittorio. “I believe – she affirms – that my son’s story can serve as an example, of help for young persons’ facing high-minded but difficult choices. The memory of Vittorio can be a good traveling companion for those who aspire to pursue their dreams, to realize their own “Utopia”.

Egidia dedicates a final reflection to Vittorio and to all the journalists killed, who lost their lives while carrying out their work, to whom Ossigeno dedicates the web-site “Journalists Killed- They were seeking the truth”.
What can be done to prevent what happened to Vittorio and other courageous colleagues from happening to others in the future? What should be done to protect journalists and allow them to safely report on concealed truths?

“Those journalists you remember on the web-site ‘They were seeking the truth’ – replies Egidia – were so energised by the passion for their work that they would in no way have been able to ‘let it go’. Theirs was a mission, just as journalism is a mission for those who do it uprightly and in the service of society. Courageous journalists must be protected by teaming up around them, starting from their own profession. It is necessary to support them, encourage them, talk about their work and re-publish their investigations. It is vital – she concludes – not to leave them alone”.

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