Her name is Mrs. Tadelesh Hailu. She is 68 years old and lives in Adiquala subzone and is the mother of two martyrs. Mrs. Tadelesh did not spend her life lamenting of the martyrdom of her children. She is currently engaged in agricultural activities and she has assumed the responsibility of raising her grandchildren. And she is an exemplary farmer. Our colleague from the News Room has conducted an interview with her. An excerpt of the interview follows. Could you please acquaint us with yourself?
My entire expectation was, like any parent, that my children would take the responsibility of taking care of me during my old age. This is the expectation of any parent in Eritrea. We raise our children in a way that they in return take the responsibility of assisting their parents as well as establishing their own families and raise their children. This is all about the extended family system. But the question of freedom and sovereignty came in between. And there is no match to the question of existence as a country and as a people. My first son was martyred during Operation Nadew.
How many children did you have and where are they currently?
I had five. Two were martyred during the struggle for independence and safeguarding the nation, one is serving in the national service, the two others are with me. I have also eight grandchildren and their mothers with me.
Tell us on how your two children joined the armed struggle for independence?
My elder son was 16 years old when he joined the armed struggle. After I gave birth to three of my children I was divorced and I had to go through very difficult times to raise my children.. It was during this time that my elder son left me to join the armed struggle.
As you said he was very small, 16 years of age, what motivated him to join the struggle?
I think he had the knowledge of the revolution. I used sometimes to hear him singing revolutionary songs with his younger brother.
Were you not afraid upon hearing your sons singing revolutionary song that enemy would do harm to them and you?
Who would hear them? We were under the enemy occupation and still they sing revolutionary songs. Many of the youth during those trying times were not, for a moment, afraid of the re-imprecation from singing revolutionary songs sitting on the enemy doorsteps.
When I hear my sons singing revolutionary songs, to tell you frankly, I used to get afraid of the consequence if the enemy finds out. And I used to tell them my concern. And they say “how could they hear us singing”.
Before he joined the armed struggle he had also observed the atrocities and lawlessness of the enemy. Once he went to Mendefera in search of a job. He was young and had no identification card. Because of that he was arrested and experienced the hardship in the hands of the enemy. He was rescued by some people form the surrounding who know his background, his parents and relatives. Otherwise they had taken him from Mendefera to a far place to kill him along with other innocent Eritrean convicted only of their being Eritreans.
How did your children happen to hear the revolutionary songs and memorize them for later use?
I had a combatant brother and I used to tell them about him. And through him I was very much sensitive of the political situation that was going in our country. I was participating in the revolution to my capacity like taking messages from the field to villages and vise-versa. We were also hearing the radio Voice of the Masses. That was how my sons knew about the revolution and for my elder son to join the revolution at his young age.
When your sons joined the armed struggle, were you expecting they will come back alive? What was your knowledge about martyrdom?
You know, I know about war and its end result. Hence, I was least expecting that I will see my sons alive. But as a mother you don’t easily give up. As I told you my second son joined the armed struggle in 1990. And my elder son was martyred and the other one came alive. I was happy to have my share. But later the unfortunate TPLF aggression occurred and as any Eritrean my son had to go to defend his homeland. He was martyred at Dembe Doran. That was the price we had to pay for our sovereignty and I accepted his martyrdom with dignity.
Adei Tadelesh, we have paid a big price in order to gain our independence. Have you ever thought that the TPLF aggression would happen and we pay price again?
Never! No body expected that the TPLF would pay us back that way. We were expecting that we live in peace and do our business of developing our country. Any way it was unfortunate that happened and we had to pay another price, our dear sons and daughters. I individually was also affected by the TPLF aggression. I was displaced, of course with the other people from the area, leaving behind all my property. And when I went back I found out most of my property destroyed because there was no body to attend it.
We know that you are raising your children as well as your grand children. The wives of your sons also depend from you for living. How are you managing that?
Besides my two children I have eight grandchildren under me including their mothers. As I told you two of my sons are martyred leaving behind two children. There is also another one in the national service who has also children. So the responsibility of all these is on my shoulder.
I have 72 hectares of land that I am cultivating. Currently I am engaged in cultivating vegetables, different kinds of fruits including banana, lemon, oranges, mango and others. I have also some sheep, cattle and hens that I manage to raise parallel to the horticulture and vegetables cultivation.
What motivated you to engage in such activity at this age?
I am determined not to see my sons and sons of my martyred children and the others depending from others for living. I have to support them by myself. And we are doing well. We are leading a decent life.
Any thing you want to say?
I am thankful to those who are on my side. The administrations, people from the Ministry of Agriculture and m the people from my village and others. They always encourage me and assist me in every possible way in their disposal.