During the celebration of Operation Fenkil, the port city of Massawa was crowded with visitors from different parts of the country as well as from abroad. The variety of programs arranged to highlight the occasion, the revitalization of the town, availability of facilities, salubrious weather, the peace and tranquility, plus the festive mood made one’s visit exciting and unforgettable. Among the pilgrims were young Eritrean siblings who came from Canada and were impressed with the vivid commemorative event. These nationals, Ms. Hajer, Ms. Sara and Mr. Akram Mahmoud Awatta were born and raised abroad and are currently pursuing their studies in college. They shared their impressions about Eritrea, especially Operation Fenkil with Shabait. Excerpts follow:
Tell us about why you chose to visit Eritrea at this particular time?
We usually don’t have a chance to come here during winter because of school. We were only able to come in summer. This is our first winter trip and we are really proud to have participated in the commemorative event. We were lucky to witness this historic occasion personally and it would help us widen our perspective about the sacrifices made to secure independence.
Generally speaking, what are your thoughts on the Operation Fenkil?
Ms. Hajer and Ms. Sara: It is a testimony to the strength and steadfastness of the Eritrean people. These virtues of resilience and perseverance had enabled the people to overcome the hurdles they faced and get where they are today. It is hard to conjure an image of such gigantic force being crashed by people who had only limited resources. The commemoration of the event helps enlighten those who were unaware of what it took to liberate Massawa and the country as a whole.
Mr. Akram: I would have to say it is great accomplishment what the brave freedom fighters did and with the limited resources they had. It is a huge event to celebrate for it was a gateway for the liberation of the rest of the country. I am proud to be an Eritrean.
What will you tell your friends about your visit and about Eritrea?
We will tell them about the history of Operation Fenkil and its significance. It is something we keep in our memories and honor every year. Because, we wouldn’t be here today enjoying the air of freedom and stroll along the path of development if it hadn’t been for those who paid with their lives.
We have also witnessed how Eritrean people come together from all over to celebrate in harmony. The fact that the President, high government officials and the mayor jointly celebrate with public makes the event remarkable. In addition, the programs presented have wide variety so that everyone can take pleasure. It is well organized and we would definitely recommend other people and friends to come and take part in similar occasions.
What changes have you noticed since your last visit?
We haven’t been here for a while so we can see the difference in Massawa. Before there was only few hotels, but now many large establishments have been opened to serve local and foreign tourists. Ginda, used to be a small village, but is now mushrooming into big town and we have observed a lot of development there. We go to Ginda frequently because it is where our parents are from.
You were born and raised up abroad, how connected do you feel to the homeland?
Ms. Hajer and Ms.Sara: We were very fortunate to come on summer vacations to Eritrea before we even began going to school. Eritrea has been in our childhood memories since then. It feels different to see Eritrea from outside. We feel very much connected to Eritrea even though we weren’t born here.
Mr. Akram: I spent a lot of my summers here and they were the best times I have had in my live. Every time I came here I feel much more welcome here than I have ever felt in any other country.
What is your opinion about parents’ role in connecting their children to their homeland?
Education is the best way for children to learn about who they are, summer time visits to the country also are very vital. Because it is hard to feel connected to a place you have never been to. That is the reason we love Eritrea so much. We are from Ginda and our ancestors are from there. If you don’t know your past, it is difficult to strive for the future, you don’t know your future.
If you can tell us something about your future plans?
Ms. Hajer: I am looking for an opportunity to give back and contribute something with the knowledge I have acquired. It is our turn to participate in the development programs.