Most of us would agree that the best time of a human life is childhood. We evoke those days with happy smiles and sometimes drops of tears escaping the eyes.
We talk today to members of the Asmarini Reunion Club; more than four decades ago they were adolescents. And like the other typical Asmarinos, Massawinos, Kerenites and the rest of the glorious Eritrean youth of then, they shared the love despite the harsh conditions of colonization.
In those days the Eritrean and the world’s youth in general saw its maximum glories in being young, fresh, democratic and just. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if we actually dare to identify them as the best the world has ever seen.
Generations of these beautiful minded men and women were students, revolutionary souls, DJs, troublemakers, clandestine independence insurgents, campaigners, mutineers… In few words Eritrean youth of INSPIRING GENERATIONS of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
The men we talk to in this edition of Q&A remember those days not only in memories but also by organizing several activities which include reunions all over the world. Asmarini Reunion Club is a social network group, harboring THE COOL BOYS FROM THE ASMARINO BLOCKS OF BACK THE DAYS. It must be a blessing to be in touch and hangout again!
- -SEMERE KAHSAY
I was born and raised in Asmara until I left for Europe. Those days were dark days; days of war and destruction. Derg soldiers would come and kill anyone on spot, sort of as if killing was a leisure activity. Despite the horrible reality, and despite our older brothers and sisters flocking to the fields to join the struggle for independence, we were happy kids. I mean a child born in an era of war and suppressions that would be his or her happy reality.
Although we had decreed curfews by the regime we made sure that at least until the curfew we would make the best out of time; enjoy the company of our friends at school, rejoice in the warmth of our poor and divested families, hide and listen to Radio Dimtsi Hafash, participate in some clandestine insurgent groups and more.
However, no matter how happy we were the endings would be rather bitter sweet; many of our friends joined the armed struggle for independence and never came back, many others left the country to go abroad, many we don’t know where they are… we got separated in the quest of survival and safety. And for reminders, survival and safety at that time meant dying and gladly give up your youth for the people’s wellbeing. When we were younger our way of standing against the war and Ethiopian soldiers was rejoicing in the sense of fraternity and nationality. We were extremely proud young Eritreans who’d refuse to go to Amharic classes; we refused to learn the language. We would normally skip Amharic language classes and get picked by the police and get tortured for it. The Eritrean war for independence was not solely fought in the fields with guns and bullets; every one joined, tons of clandestine insurgent groups would assist the revolution and we, as young students, did our part by committing to the principle of free Eritrea and free people.
So, this is us in few words and now that we are not kids any more, we are aged men that simply rejoice in the glory and legacy of our generation. We reminisce a lot; we miss our country and our people every second of our lives.
- -Asmarini Reunion Club; making contacts through social networks
In 2012 my friend and I decided to search for our friends and neighbors of decades back on Facebook and Twitter. We then decided to make a group on Facebook: the Asmarini Reunion Club and create a page for all Asmrinos of those days to be in touch. It was a definite success because many joined and it was an emotional reunion. Who knew that ‘old us’ would be able to talk and see each other once again after so many, many years? We felt like kids again. Once the numbers of groups were growing was the day we started contemplating a real reunion. And we made it! What we do is choose top destination, group members get to vote on their most preferable destination and we all go visit our friends in that place –we have been to Amsterdam and Toronto, for example, then friends in those places do their best to organize a reunion and host hundreds of Asmarinos. This year our friends in Asmara invited us and here we are.
Every time we come together we do more than just dancing and talking about our recollections. We visit, hold seminars and meetings and discuss objective matters of our homeland. We talk on how to strengthen our nationalism and do more as a union. We also get to learn a lot about our country and people.
- -2017 reunion destination: Asmara
We are in Asmara! Then again it is a lucky coincidence because we worked hard in collecting petitions for the UNESCO cultural heritage, we were overly thrilled when the city we call home got recognized by the world. Besides collecting petitions we also posted pictures of our childhood in Asmara and attached pieces of our memories. Since social network is accessible and everyone can retrieve any information from it, we wanted to share with the world that Asmara is more than just the beautiful architectural buildings. These beautiful buildings and avenues have hidden in them our stories; the story of our tough and beautiful childhoods. These buildings are silent testimonies of who Eritreans really are: our civilization and our refinement as a society.
- -And the next step is
The next stop for the group is to expand in size and quality. Moreover we want to make it a hub for us and the younger generations to come together and share experiences and ideas. We want to help young talents and be of help to our young Eritreans.
- -SOLOMON KIDANE
- -The trouble maker
I was literally on fire; a trouble maker insurgent. I would lay on the roads and scream to the Derg soldiers saying: “hey you Dergs, you slaughter people right? So slaughter me too!” Once with an Italian Eritrean friend of mine called Ettore, we were about to lit a truck on fire. As kids we would walk the whole day, next to any girls and pretended to be their brother so the Ethiopian soldiers wouldnt set eye on them. Some sort of their personal little guards. I remember Asmara in a way that doesn’t seem to ever fade. My memories are very vivid and naïve.
Asmara of my days and Asmara nowadays is the two extreme of one pole. Back in our days we thought it smelled like fruits. It was very clean, the sidewalks used to be washed! We didn’t have access to all of the avenues because some were reserved for the colonizers but we still managed to sneak in and enjoy the beauty; and then, of course, get in trouble for it.
- -Dyeing: living the dream.
I remember when we had to leave Asmara and seek safety in villages. In freed villages there were Tegadeliti, we loved our freedom fighters; they were our icons. I remember my own siblings joining the struggle for independence; you wake up in the morning and one family member goes missing, our parents and the children we’d take pride in the fact that our brother and sisters left to fight and die for a common cause. Joining the war was like living the dream. Some of my siblings never returned home. I learned half of my education in Bet Timirti Sewra the school of the freedom fighters, it was probably the most memorable time of my life.
- -Cheerishing Asmarini Reunion Club
I was introduced to the club through a friend; Yodit. I joined later but what a delight?! Being in the club means being able to be young again. I have love and respect for my fellow Asmarino brothers and sisters. Our club’s aim is simply not only to rejoice while organizing and gathering for reunions but also to travel and see parts of the National Development Drive. We have scheduled a visit to strategic dams of our country. We want to express our gratitude to the actual youth who are making everything possible. Look at how Eritrea is transforming a dry land to an ocean? … Making this possible in one of the arid areas of Africa is miraculous.
- -Dear Asmarinos…
A city’s hygiene is not the government’s job alone, it is actually the public’s work too. And especially now that Asmara has been enlisted in the UESCO World Heritage list we should be very careful to keep the beauty of this beautiful city which raised us like a real mother. Please, please, please Asmara belongs to every one, so let’s do history a favor!
- -MESFUN KAHSAY
- -Asmarini club means relating with the youth
In one of our tours, this time around, we had headed to the port citty of Massawa –which by the way was home to part of my adolescence. We went to a restaurant for a night out and there was a young DJ I thought maybe he had the sound intonations wrong. I went to him and asked if I could help he said yes; and there I was rejuvenating while showing some of the oldies DJing tips. He gladly accepted my tips and even appreciated me.
So for me the club means a medium of having the old and new generation share ideas and experiences. I say this because every time we travel we travel, to meet young people who are eager to connect with us.
- -Supply,supply and supply again
I left when I was 16 because my teammates and I were hunted by Ethiopian soldiers. The clandestine group’s, of which I was a part, main task was delivering supplies. We had older Tegadeltis instructing us what and from who to get things like Congos and Natselas (plastic sandals and scarfs typical of Tegadelti). At times, we would put out pamphlets and run errands for other clandestine insurgency groups.
- -Disco DJ
Before I left, though, I was a DJ, and the music and dancing styles shuffle in my memories vividly every day. I used to play Italian and English oldies, youngsters of back then swayed twisting the night away. So what not to admire about Eritrean artist of then? All of the songs were purely designed to metaphorically cry the people’s desire for liberty. They had to hide their meanings in simple traditional metaphors so that the colonizers wouldn’t understand… if you get caught the penalty could mean torture or death. Yet again we loved our songs and we listened to them even if it meant being incarcerated.
- -It takes a town to raise a kid
I miss the social and moral values of those days. I miss how every elder gets to take on the role of a parent if they saw a youngster do wrong. I miss everything about then, yes I had a family, but my city was family to my friends and I. It takes a city to raise a kid… and I was raised by Asmara.