The Men on the Mountain – Gibril’s story

Gibril* – Nigeria (West Africa)

Gibril was a builder and small shop owner in Nigeria before his world completely changed. He has 6 brothers and sisters and rather young, hardly in his twenties. He tells us he was living well in his country and doing okay. There he was, one day helping with building projects and managing a local shop and the next fleeing a notoriously violent militant group seeking to overthrow the government. Before he knew it, he was in Italy trying to establish a new life.

“I lost everything. I had to start over here,” he says. You can feel and clearly see that Gibril at this moment is tense at the resurfacing of memories of home and the life he planned to have but lost. The sadness he carries is palpable. “I don’t like talking about this story because it’s very difficult.” He begins to think about how many years of his life have been wasted in his opinion.

Despite this, he says, “God gives me the strength to carry-on. That is the most important thing.”

Looking forward, Gibril hopes to find work as a builder, as he was taught these skills by his uncle. This is why he finds joy as a worker in Manarola through the help of Caritas and the Manarola Foundation. “It’s an amazing job. In my country, I was a builder and I like constructing the dry walls here. I love it.”

Gibril didn’t realize how much this work would impact the local community since he feels he was just doing his job. “A man told me some days ago that this place has been here for more than 1,000 years. They inherited it from their forefathers.” This man offered his thanks and appreciation to Gibril for the time spent to help the village and made Gibril realize his important role in the project.

As Gibril tries to adapt to work and Italian life, he understands that it might not be permanent. Someone in his position has to rely on the political climate and government approval to work and live freely in this country. When he speaks to his mother on the phone, she encourages him to keep moving forward and to forget about life in Nigeria and Africa. “As long as she hears my voice, she knows that I am okay.”

Gibril is still waiting like his fellow workers to hear about the progress and pending approval of his documents. He is eager to know what his status in Italy will be. “The most important thing is how we can get our documents here and live free like normal human beings. That’s the only thing that can give me joy.” He knows he’s done everything properly yet waiting is all he can do. “If the government decides tomorrow that all immigrants should leave the country, then I will have to find another way…That is life, that is nature.”

For now, Gibril enjoys his job and tries not to worry too much about the future. He says he gives thanks to God and is grateful for friends in Beverino who help him and provide their friendship is this new country.

The most important thing is life. When you have your life, you can live how you want.” What Gibril tries to tell us is that he feels as though his life is in limbo at the moment. The approval of these documents are the only thing that can provide him the freedom he seeks to work and build a life like any other human being.



*Names have been changed by request of the interviewee for privacy purposes
**Interviews were held by Manarola Foundation volunteers Erica Zwieg and Sara Zoppi