03-07-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
You have to believe me, there are monuments that seem as delicate as roses but actually have the centuries-old solidity of cedar trees.
They are human and human monuments, but flowers preserve the scent and trees the respectability.
When we find ourselves in the presence of a symbol of eternity, we should not ask ourselves where it comes from or how old it is, but simply breathe its wisdom, its true and timeless spirit because it is what comes closest to the very meaning of existence.
Behind every human monument, however, there is a story, which is worth telling.
The scent of rose that the writer has breathed in a sober villa in Nairobi surrounded by equatorial vegetation, comes from Italy.
If for half a century the children of Italians in Kenya have been able to study or perfect their mother tongue, they owe it to her: Giuliana Mollea Moretti, who in a year will be a hundred years old.
The rose really existed. It was kept in a small vase, the only relic that the young letter teacher from the hinterland of Savona brought with her to Africa, on a banana boat ready to set sail from the port of Genoa, in 1955.
"Duve tei, bella figgeua?" (Where are you going, beautiful girl?) the sailors asked her in ligurian dialect, amidst the curiosity and excitement of having her on board.
That brave and at the same time jaunty woman went to Mombasa, embraced black Africa to get married.
She had met her future husband, Domenico Moretti, a former Italian prisoner of war in East Africa, who had been visiting her brother in Kenya the year before.
Galeotta was a holiday in the Tsavo.
Her first lodging, as noted in a very precious diary, was composed of: "a lantern and thousands of insects, a table in a hut of palm leaves, a hard bed but excellent for listening with your eyes closed the rhythms beaten by blacks at the fires on their rudimentary instruments.
Giuliana and Domenico got married and moved north, to a green and immense farm in the Highlands. Unpublished scenarios, people so different to compare with, a new language to learn, the kiswahili. Far from being a teacher, you have to face the first difficulties.
"I have always been guided by a natural enthusiasm for things - says malindikenya.net - and by an incurable optimism that has allowed me to always see the positive side of African adventures and vicissitudes. In addition, I have always had the predisposition to socialize and the comfort that Italians are loved all over the world.
In those years Kenya was fighting ferociously to obtain independence from the British Kingdom, the revolt of the Mau Mau had broken out in the mountains around Nairobi, the Italians were often neutral spectators but the farms were often the scene of assaults and raids and Giuliana Mollea Moretti attended indifferently expatriates of all nationalities and the natives of the area.
"The British made fun of us, they said that we Italians were African means because we spoke the language of Kenya more easily than English. So when I met them, I would smile and greet them with a jambo!
Domenico Moretti would go to work in the morning and leave his wife, who had just given birth to a little girl, Dianella (who now works for the European Union in Nairobi) a gun on her bedside table.
"I already knew that I had never used it - reveals the teacher - one day on my way out I met a strange character with long braids. I shared with him a good stretch of road, conversing amiably with him. I then learned that he was one of the leaders of the Mau Mau rebellion.
Despite the Moretti's positive attitude and soul, when the situation in Kenya deteriorated at the beginning of the 'sixties, the family moved to nearby Uganda, where Giuliana was able to perfect her English.
During her stay in Kampala Giuliana also met her Father of the Fatherland, Jomo Kenyatta, who complimented her on her "typically Italian" elegance.
The teacher and the first President of the country would meet again a few years later, when the Moretti returned to Nairobi.
With the Independence of Kenya, many Italians became useful if not necessary to build a new nation, working side by side with the new local ruling class.
This was how Giuliana realized her desire to return to giving Italian lessons.
Since 1964, dozens and dozens of fellow countrymen stationed in Kenya, from the children of the prisoners to the employees of Agip and Alitalia, had their "prof". Just as Indians, English and Kenyans were able to learn a language important to their work.
"I could not avoid a look at the less fortunate - he admits - so often at the end of regular classes, I entertained with the poorest students and Kenyans who could not afford to attend secondary schools.
He also taught Latin to students with university ambitions, and made others love the classics of our literature and the Divine Comedy.
Giuliana saw the current President of Kenya grow, who attended the same college where she taught Italian. Still today when Uhuru Kenyatta meets her, she bows respectfully in front of her and thanks her for her work, for which two years ago she was also awarded by the President of the Republic Mattarella.
In fact, every Italian in the world should bow respectfully to this wonderful rose-scented tree, whose deeply Italian roots have harmoniously branched off into the land of Africa, making it fertile with culture and maintaining the link with the traditions, beauty and best customs of our country.
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