"Sleep now guys, tomorrow we'll go dancing rock 'n roll".
The first time I saw him I thought he looked like Corto Maltese. He was wearing a blue sailor hat, he had a pipe and a calm voice. Bombing over the strip had finished ten days before, and together with some cooperants we had managed to get in from Egypt, in order to report the effects of Cast Lead, the militar action that slaughtered 1300 palestinians, most of them kids. That night we discussed longly about politics. Then, at six we woke up. "Let's go dancing rock 'n roll". And then we left, at first by car, then on a wrecked pickup.
About ten activists from Ism and a few journalists, all on the back of the pickup. VIttorio was shaking his big arms, pointing the direction while a bunch of children was waving him goodbye calling him "Vik, habibi", brother. Peasants were ready, in the al-Arahin camp, by Khan Younis, in the middle of the Gaza strip. Hopefully, with the the help of the activists they could pick up some persil to sell it at the market. The week before, on the Israeli border, a Isrealian sniper had shot and killed a 19 -years-old boy while he was loading persil bundles on his mule. Perhaps the boy got too close to the net.
The very same tight net that turns Gaza into a cage. But today there were those guys from Ism, friends from Ism, and the crop would have been plentiful for the locals. Today there was Vik shouting to the militars with his loudhailer "we're unarmed civilians, don't shoot us". But instead, a few moments later, the rock 'n roll. Burst gave us a start, and even though none of us felt to be aimed at by the militars- except for the peasants who crouched into bushes - we were all terror-stricken. But not Vittorio, who stood still yelling in the loudhailer "Shame on you, you're the israeli shame".
He was a pain in the neck, and someone, not only in Israel, would have rather got rid of him. Vittorio was the good guy of tales to be told to children before getting them to sleep " ..and then there was Vik with his loudhailer, who swept away evils with their tanks". He chose to live on the weak side, so to help those in need without asking anything in exchange. Vittorio had devolved the earnings from his book "restiamo umani" to the association he had created in order to support Gaza people. Last night I saw him he was wearing an elegant jacket, he, who didn't care most of the time. "how much did you pay for it VIk?" "they offered it to me". Like the netbook he used to report with from Gaza for Peacereporter.
Like many other things, daily use objects that people gave him to thank somehow this foreigner who was standing by their side to help them facing the siege. A siege that by the end of 2008 was already as distruptive as an earthquake. We could witness first hand the effects of Molten Lead. On the very same streets we walked in among ruins, a week before there were ambulances running up and down. in one of those streets, there was Vittorio. Tireless, brave, strong. He used to pick up corpse left on the field. And he wasn't afraid. And he used to come home, a sip of smuggled rhum and off he went, writing and reporting again and again. He was never sleeping. Sometimes he was caught by nightmares, night visions of the death and the pain he used to experience daily. Vittorio was suffering for that People he deeply loved, even thru its cruel contraddictions.
It bursts in my chest the thought of him wounded, the thought of him humiliated, blindfolded, powerless, mute, and then of him lying on a mattrass, lifeless. We can't believe he's dead. Maybe because heroes don't die. But if still today in Gaza some people can treat heroes just like flesh, then we cannot ask to whoever these people are to keep being human. And maybe, after VIk's death, it cannot be asked to us too.
Translated by Elena Mattioli