Happy Birthday, Dear Vittorio (RIP)
As I realized today’s date, the 4th of February, a stream of memories flooded into my mind. Today, last year, marked my dear friend Vittorio Arrigoni’s last birthday I spent with him.
I remember it was a nice, rainy Friday. I felt happy to be rich, having just gotten my $1,000 share from YouthSchool for my work on the Gaza 2011 calendar “All I Want Is Peace”. My best friend Adie Mormech, an English activist who spent a year in Gaza working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), reminded me that it was Vik’s birthday. That day, Vik missed the Friday lunch, to which he always looked forward. I knew about Vik’s stress regarding his father’s deteriorating health, and that it was a reason he didn’t join us for lunch. He would always say “Zaki”, delicious, as his gentle but funny way of thanking Mum for the food that was fondly ranked by “his majesty” as the best in Gaza.
Having not seen him, and being worried about him, I decided to surprise him by going to the ISM office where he and the other ISMers (Adie, Inge, Vera, and Silvia) were gathering. It was already night when I left home for Mazaj, the cake shop Vik preferred, and it was raining heavily. But it was worth getting wet for the sake of Vik’s smile and the fun I expected to have when I arrived at the office. I got the cake and hurried with excitement to meet Vik and my other friends. I couldn’t wait to tell him about the greetings that his friends from Italy had told me to send him, and to put the smile on his face that always sent warmth and happiness to everyone around him.
Vera, an ISM activist from Germany, welcomed me as I knocked on the door. When she saw the excitement on my face and the cake I carried, she whispered, “It’s not the right time for a party now. Vik is sad.”
My happy features turned sad. I left the bag by the entrance and went to look for Vik. He sat in the living room alone as Vera had told me. The curtain that separated the two sitting rooms, which were open to each other, was pulled down. I felt like even the house looked sad. I wanted to check on Vik, though. After asking him if I could come in, I sat next to him on the purple couch for a couple of minutes of silence. “I hope you’re OK,” I said while pressing his hand. “I’m worried for my father,” he said. “He’s going to have an operation that might reveal a terminal illness.”
He knew that if it did not go well, his father would not have long to live. As I remember this, I think of how ridiculous and unpredictable this life is. Back then, who would have ever expected that Vik would die before his father did?
Vittorio was torn between two concerns at the center of his life: his attachment to Palestine, and his father and family’s need for his support. Each thought was more pressing than the other. Then suddenly, “Strong Vik” could no longer control his tears. I couldn’t believe that I was seeing Vik cry. Vik has been always a symbol of strength, humanity, and inspiration for me. He always will be. At the time, I felt confused and didn’t know how to act. With spontaneity, I hugged him, as I thought getting a hug in such difficult times might help more than my words. I cried along with him, too.
Then Vik learned about the cake I brought. He didn’t want to disappoint me and all my plans. He reached deep inside himself for strength to bring smiles back to the faces of his friends, smiled at me, then shouted to all the others, “Yalla, let’s have some cake”. That’s how caring Vik was; he always wanted to be a reason for everyone to smile, but never for anyone to cry. He could easily shift the atmosphere from gloomy to so happy, so much that I didn’t want to go back home.
I remember my memories from your birthday last year and oh, dear Vittorio, you can’t imagine how much I wish I could tell you how much I miss you and joke with you like we used to do. I miss you even though I strongly feel your presence with me, like you never left us. Every Friday that has passed without you, I’ve wished you would come for lunch, your smile lighting the room as you walked through the door.
I wish you could see my drawing that’s dearest to me. It’s your portrait that you always nagged me to make, but never got to see. I am certain that no matter how many more drawing I have produced and will produce, yours will be my favorite. Not only because of my skill, and the love that I put into it, but because, somehow, part of your beautiful soul attached itself to this painting.
As you look down from paradise, on all of us here, I offer you this drawing. I hope it brings you as much joy as you always brought us. I miss you Vittorio. I love you, Vittorio. You will live forever in my heart and in the hearts of all Palestinians, who owe you so much. We’ll keep celebrating your birthday every year and you’ll continue to inspire us, adding more humanity to the world. Rest in Peace, dear Vik. Stay human!
Palestinians’ tribute to Vittorio Arrigoni , Onadekom ( Calling You ) – DARG Team
Pingback: Happy Birthday Vittorio Arrigoni (RIP)
That’s a beautiful story about Vik, Shahd. I was not lucky enough to know Vik, not even on FB. But there is something about Palestine that draws you in, it’s not just the people or the suffering you endure, I don’t really know what it is but my heart is in Palestine. I have never been there or met any of my amazing Palestinian friends in person, but I will come, and Palestine will be free and I’m sure Vik is smiling as he looks at your portrait of him. <3
February 4, 2012 at 10:39 pm
You’re just AWESOME Robby! I can’t wait to meet you in person!
February 5, 2012 at 12:40 am
Loved this story! Lucky you got to meet him. God bless you and we will all keep his memory alive some how. Happy birthday vittorio and we promise to stay human.
February 5, 2012 at 3:04 am
Seriously brought tears to my eyes! ;(
February 5, 2012 at 6:53 am
I wrote it with tears falling out of control!
February 6, 2012 at 5:18 am
a very touchy article, you made me cry eventough I have never met you nor Vittorio,, and a beautiful drawing as well..
February 5, 2012 at 8:41 pm
Thanks! I’m glad you like it :)
February 6, 2012 at 5:18 am
Thanks for the memories
February 6, 2012 at 12:27 am
Post reblog :
February 6, 2012 at 12:37 am
Thanks for reblogging it :)
February 6, 2012 at 5:07 am
you are very lucky to have known him.
R-I-P, Vittorio Arrigoni :(
February 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm
Pingback: Justice for Vittorio in Gaza, but Israeli impunity continues « PALESTINE FROM MY EYES