Mother of reported killed in Gaza: I trembled when he was there but I’m proud of him

Ten years after the tragic death of Vittorio Arrigoni she shares happy recollections with Ossigeno per l’Informazione and talks about the Foundation that passes on his memory

OSSIGENO April 18th 2021 – 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 says to Ossigeno per l ‘Information – the moments when he was here at home, our conversations 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 we, although he was often far from home, were his roots, his point of reference. This made us very proud”.

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

Vik’s missions reached Croatia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, but the territory he prioritised was Palestine where for the first work camp he arrived in 2002.

Mamma Egidia has always supported Vittorio, his passions, the mission he had chosen to fulfil. She supported him by overcoming a mother’s legitimate worries and fears. “His first 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 tranquil, of course, but at the same time I felt satisfaction and pride for the son who never abandoned his dreams and the search for justice. His life was moved by the battle for human rights. He fulfilled his aspirations and was able to give help and support to those who needed it. That gave me joy, it still gives me joy”.

To civil commitment, Vittorio combined his passion with a natural propensity for writing. The pen was the instrument of his feelings, the weapon to tell what he saw around him. In 2008, when Israel launched the operation called “Cast Lead”, the bloody military offensive to hit the Hamas administration, Vittorio was the only Italian present in the Gaza Strip. He recounted those days for the newspaper Il Manifesto. The world learned about what was happening thanks to his reports written under the bombs and signed with the phrase “Let’s remain human”. Words that have become Vittorio’s trademark 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 an admonition 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 advocates  in the our daily life “. 

After Vittorio’s death, his material and intellectual heritage was collected and preserved by Egidia and her daughter Alessandra, Vik’s sister. They strongly wanted the creation of the Vittorio Arrigoni “Vik Utopia” Foundation. This non-profit organization, as the website states, aims to “honour Vittorio’s memory and continue his selfless action of civil commitment at the service of the common good, human rights and justice”. The Foundation promotes national and international humanitarian interventions.

Thus Vittorio’s life, his tangible testimony, inspires new generations. Egidia often talks about it, and with pleasure, with young people, students, and activists who invite her to talk about Vittorio. “I believe – she maintains – that my son’s story can be an example, a help for young people in the face of difficult but noble 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 journalists killed, who lost their lives while doing their job, to whom Ossigeno per   l ‘Information dedicates the web site “Killed journalists – They were looking for 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 enable them to safely tell concealed truths?

“Those journalists you remember on the web site ‘They were looking for the truth’ – replies Egidia – were so driven by the passion for their work that they would in no way be able to ‘let it go’. Theirs was a mission, just as journalism is a mission for those who do it in an upright way and in the service of society. Courageous journalists must be protected by lining up around them, starting with their own professional group. It is necessary to support them, encourage them, talk about their work and republish their investigations. It is essential – she concludes – not to leave them isolated”.

Read the story of Vittorio Arrigoni on the Ossigeno website – “They were looking for the truth”.


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