-Well come sir, glad to have you here with us.
It is my pleasure.
-What is the history behind your nick name “John Carlo”?
A lot of people call me “John Carlo”, but my real and original nick name is “Gian Carlo”. Our battalion commander: Martyred Mekonen Tekle, came up with that nick name back when we were young, meaning in 1979. It all started in Durfo at that moment I was a bare foot doctor so for some reasons I stayed behind my unit and while everyone reached the top hill I was trying to join my comrades, as I was young (I was 19 at that time), very light skinned and my hair is really soft, looking from the above I looked like a white man so our battalion commander noticed and named me after that name. It was an Italian name that came up to his head at my sight.
-Interesting! Now, how about we talk a bit about you?
My full name is Mebrahtu Yosief Ghebre. I was born in 1960 in Asmara, specifically in Godaif. Then when I was in the seventh grade my family moved to Massawa and we stayed there for a while and then moved again to Keren as it was time of instability under the Derg regime. My dad remained in Massawa and he got captured because he was a member of the clandestine movement of the EPLF, he was arrested and tortured for a long period and then he was killed, while we were in hiding in Keren. Every family back then was in pain: a member would get shoot or raped or atrociously killed. Houses burning, kids in blood… it was a disaster. Just like many I had to have part in the process of putting an end to the nightmare we were living so I joined the EPLF in 1978. Soon after me three of my brothers joined and two of us made it alive while the other two were martyred. In 1978, I had just turned 18, I was young but excited to join my brothers and sisters, I think we all had some feeling of revenge that had to be based upon our own sacrifice. We were ready to fight for our people, death didn’t really matter… we knew we were going in to.
-How was the general situation at that moment?
Well, around 1977 most parts of Eritrea were in the hands of E.P.L.F, so many young people were encouraged to join the revolurion. It was beautiful; it was all about a pure innocence founded on the love for our country and most of all our people. There was way too much pain for young people to just walk by and pretend like everything was normal. When I sometimes remember those days all I can say is that it was truly epic.
-You joined it, and then what happened?
My fellow partners and I got the basic military trainings in a place called Mahimet, for like a month and a half and then we were assigned as combatants with big dreams and immense sense of hope and pride. Even though we are now peacefully living in our country, to think of now our children doing the basic military training for six months… it’s quite funny. Now is more elaborated and more studied and it involves a lot more knowledge rather than political and military acquaintance, back then one had to know how to use the gun and fight with the heart. Man power was the hardest core of the whole armed struggle.
-You were also part of cultural troupe …
Yeah. As we all know, it was not all about war. The revolution was really well organized; we had hospitals, schools, a place in which our children were growing in, a radio station and so many things. We were fighters but we were not some kind of savages living in the mountains. As a part of it was the cultural troupe: which had a great importance in different aspects. There are a lot of songs, for example, that reflected the emotions of the youth back then and used to and still do move our people. I joined this troupe quite soon after I joined the revolution and I was working as an actor and a bare foot doctor of my unit.
-What could you tell us about “Gian Carlo” the actor?
(Lough) Well, I mean… everyone was doing a lot back then. So the whole lot was a result of a joined work. I participated in many theatrical dramas.
-Like what for example? The most famous drama that you took part in.
There is one. That really took every one by storm as it left some deep feelings and even though it was a flick of back then it still makes sense now as per it reflects the inner soul of the Eritrean Youth. It is called “a hero does not live but his history” (Harbegna ainebirin iu Tariku eiu ziwires). This was back in 1989 and we were trying to draw out the heroism of our brothers and sisters. Back then we were young folks madly in love with our people and country. What we presented in an artistic form was pure and truthful. As I said before youth is the roots that’s holding our country firm, till this day young people are what’s functioning our country and the heroic actions done by young folks never seems to disappoint the expectations of our nation. When I got back home after the liberation I noticed that a lot of young people knew the verses to the sonnets of the melodrama, they obviously heard it in the radio. I was happy to see how we as Eritreans were attached to each other; naturally what we were feeling in the arm struggle was felt by our people… it was truly amazing.
-You also were a member of Dmtsi Hafash: the national radio.
Yes! But that was in 1992 I started working as journalist. But I dropped it soon because I wanted to know more about medicine because I was once a bare foot doctor so I studied in the med school ever since 1993, for three years.
-What about now. What are you doing?
I am currently working in the office of Information and Education at the Ministry of Health.
-And your family?
As I told you before my dad and two of my brothers gave their lives to the nation and people of Eritrea and my other brother who had the chance of seeing independence paid his life to his country during the TPLF invasion along with my youngest sisters. So it’s just me and my mom now. But the melodrama itself states it; “a hero/heroine does not live for ever; his/hers history survives for eternity”.
-That’s definitely true! Anything you want to add before we finish our interview.
I want to dedicate the melodrama we’ve been talking about to all of the Eritreans out there. I am truly proud to be one of us.
-Thanks for being with us today.