Abdoulaye Bah (Abkodo), former correspondent of your satirist in Rome, is in mourning. His wife, Fiorella, died May 22. He paid her a moving tribute.
This is the message I am distributing to friends: “Dear friends, hello! What we dreaded it happened on May 22 at 4 a.m. After an alternation of coma and unconscious awakening that had lasted since September 29, apart from a period of respite from 12/24/22 to 01/2/22, in the best hospitals in Rome, my wife Fiorella died.
Our marriage was celebrated on 08/02/1969 in the Sainte-Anne church in the Vatican. It all started about a year earlier in a dance hall for Liberal Party youth at Camp dei Fiori. When I entered, she was already there at the back of the room with some friends. I was with a friend, Touré. My hair was long and up à la Angela Devis, my heroine, a tight double-breasted jacket, bell bottom pants, and a pearl bracelet. As soon as she saw me at the door, she told them she had never seen a black gay man. She came to invite me to dance. We never broke up again!
To marry me, Fiorella defied all the obstacles that stood in her way. The friends who claimed to reason with her for her own good, with various arguments, like maybe I’m married in my country, or at least if I was a black American but African? It was not possible and invited him to reflect. Some said that as soon as I finished my studies, I was going to give it up to go back to my country alone. They said to themselves: “She hasn’t found an Italian to marry her? However, she is beautiful!” Did you think that your children would never be accepted among blacks or among whites? They said that I was going to force her to convert to Islam and when we went to Guinea, my environment was going to make sure that she would be marginalized if she did not agree to live like Guineans.
In his own family, there were a lot of problems that I then considered to be racism. Her mother had only seen me once at a painting exhibition she was attending. She took me for one of the exhibitors, a very good Guinean painter whose paintings were bought by the Vatican, a dear friend, but too much of an exhibitionist and whom she didn’t like at all. Until she saw me, she thought it was that painter her daughter had married.
It must be said that during national holidays, it was Mussolini’s speeches that his mother and uncles listened to on 33 rpm records. Things started to change when one of his uncles, a general in the Italian army, a former aide-de-camp to the king, invited us to his home and his brother, a bank manager, told their mother that she couldn’t accept his daughter alone at home and refuse me.
When his mother accepted me, everyone welcomed me with open arms. The bonds with the mother were very strong. The words she said to me showed me that it was not racism that had caused her initial refusal. It was the fear of seeing her youngest child leave her country and her family to go to Africa. She was very close to me when my father was arrested and killed in 1971. Since I hadn’t finished college, she pushed me as much as she could.
The last time I saw her was pathetic! It was during the Easter 1989 school holidays, my family had come to spend them in Italy, leaving me in Vienna, because I had to participate in the organization of the conference of African ministers of industry organized jointly by UNIDO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
One evening, I took the car and traveled the 1,200 km separating the Austrian capital from the Holy City, to leave the next day. When I was about to leave to return to Vienna, her mother walked me up the stairs. We stayed there for a good ten minutes talking.
She explained to me the reasons for her initial opposition to my marriage to her daughter. She told me that I was a father and that I had to understand her. She told me that now that she knows me, among other things, I was her favorite son. But I think it was a slip because she adored her only son.
We never saw each other again, as she died while I was at the industry ministers conference in Harare, Zimbabwe.
But Fiorella didn’t just fight prejudice to get me accepted in Italy. She also fought to make me a man with two university degrees by doing everything for me to finish my studies. I was without a scholarship and at the time foreigners could not work in Italy. I was getting tired of my studies because of the poverty and hunger I had to endure.
I was undernourished, at the wedding I weighed 51 kg and was 170 cm tall. When we entered a restaurant, she gave me the money to pay; when she forgot to give it to me before coming in, she gave it to me under the table, a man who didn’t pay the bill was frowned upon. Not only ! She asked me questions about the subjects I had to study, especially private law.
When I got the job at the United Nations, she didn’t hesitate to pack her bags and follow me with two children, the eldest of whom was 5 years old. My first duty station was Addis Ababa where political instability was in its infancy. However, she had an excellent job at the National Institute of Insurance against Workplace Accidents (INAIL) where, thanks to internal competitions, she had managed to access the secretariat of the collegial bodies.
At INAIL, everyone knew of his rebellious character. She was the first woman to wear pants, women were forced to wear long dresses. At our wedding, the brides wore long dresses, she had a dress made that did not reach the knees.
Fiorella, you left leaving me alone. Selfish, how much would I have given for it to be the other way around, for me to be the first to go. Goodbye My Love ! »
#Dame #Fiorella #Abkodo #Bah #bowed