To Your Living Soul, Vittorio Arrigoni

Dear Vittorio,

Up and down, this is me in the time since you passed away Vittorio. Moments of shock won’t leave me alone. It’s the fifth day since you were killed. When I heard about you being kidnapped on the 14th of April, we were just welcoming Majed, my brother, home. We were happy that Majed had come back after 10 months of absence around Europe. Our happiness didn’t last as dad received a call informing him that you were kidnapped around one hour after Majed’s arrival. I didn’t want to believe this and I yelled sarcastically, turning my face to my family, “impossible! And if so, he would be joking with his kidnappers saying his famous word ‘mushkili!’” I laughed trying to hide my worries in order not to spoil everyone’s happiness for Majed. I called you and I found that your mobile was turned off. Then my heartbeats started getting faster and faster.

I’d previously been calling your mobile during the day of the 14th as I received a message from you in the evening of the 13th saying that you would be free at 16:00 so we can meet and so I could paint your portrait face to face. It was turned off. I’m sorry dear that I was planning to fight with you when I caught you or when you would turn your mobile on again thinking that you had forgotten about me. I’m also sorry that it didn’t come to my mind that there was any chance you could be kidnapped here in Gaza. Anyway dear, I’m happy with you that you remembered me and you remembered to bring me chocolate as I told you once about my addiction to chocolate. What I am happiest about is that you wanted my painting until the last day of your life.


Four days after Vik has gone, I drew the portrait that he always wanted

Shahd Abusalama

I’ve now made the painting my dear and I know you are smiling up there in paradise because I did as I promised. However, this painting that you always wanted brings tears to me every time I think that you weren’t able to see it. I wish I made it for you the moment you asked me to do it. I have to say that part of it was your fault. To be honest, it was your humanity. You sometimes canceled appointments with me so you can go visit families of martyrs who fell victims to the latest Israeli attack on Gaza. I remember when you called me on the 7th of April on Friday and you told me that you delayed your leaving because of the expectation of a new Israeli Cast Lead attack on Gaza, so I wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to draw you before you leave . I sometimes think silently “maybe if you weren’t so true a human, and you didn’t care so much about the people of Gaza, this wouldn’t have happened to you, and you would now be in Italy breathing.”

I know that it is destiny and that I can’t think in this way but it’s only because I have lived unspeakable shock with your loss. I went to your funeral trying to believe this fact. I tried to be strong for you, because for a great hero like you, I shouldn’t sigh, but I should celebrate your wonderful life, so full of achievement and courage. However, sometimes my tears betray me. But, I promise you to be strong and do all that you would want me to do. On the third day of your funeral, your mother made a live call with us, I translated her message to Arabic. Your mother is as great as you. You made Palestinian united with our sorrow for your loss, and she managed to make Italy and Gaza united singing in one voice your favorite Italian song “Bella Ciao.”

After we finished singing this song together, I spoke to your mother, assuring her that, “as much as your son Vittorio cared so much about the Palestinian cause, I know his thoughts were always with his family through thick and thin.” I remember when I was excited to celebrate your birthday on the 4th of February and I bought you a cake and went to your home. I then saw you in a situation that I’ve never seen you before because you knew that your dad was ill. You were always strong and happy. You were all the time making everybody around you happy with your beautiful smiles. Therefore, it was so hard seeing your tears. I hugged you and you cried on my shoulder. I told your mum that you were having these sad times because you wished you could be there with your family to support them and to take care of your dad.

My dear Vik, I want you to know that you just left us in body but your soul will be living forever. I want you to be sure that everybody who believes in you and in the Palestinian cause will keep taking your path. I want you to know that you are our hero; you define humanity for us because you are the humanity. Stay human, this is how you were all the time with every step you took. Vittorio, you are the winner, you are the dreamer who never gives up, so my dear friend rest in peace. Stay Human!I ’

P.S: I wrote this letter 5 days after his body left us.





Beautiful sentiments captured in such a divinely essence. Vittorio no doubt smiles from Paradize upon you, his true friend, for you capture the meaning of his words, "Stay Human" like no other! In solidarity for the Palestinian cause of freedom and justice. Thank you for sharing what always helps us "stay human" in the resistance to the cruelties of the occupation. A lovely portrait & tender memories! Peace and love to you my sister from a friend in Colorado USA. Long Live Palestine! Long Live Gaza! Long Live Vittorio!


Well done, honest, sincere and beautiful....
You are very correct, Palestinians will never forget this Human named Vittorio..
Palestinians will always be gratefulll that Vik chose to live with them in Gaza, and take up our honorable fight, but somcowardsrs take Vik from us early. Our promise to Vittorio is that Palestinians will continue the fight as he would, till victory, and Vittorio will be in our hearts as well as in our fight to the end of Israel's hateful and heinous Occupation....We will stay Human regardless of Israel's inhumanity.

Shahd Abusalama

Shahd Abusalama's picture

Shahd Abusalama is a Palestinian artist from Gaza and the author of Palestine from My Eyes blog. She is a PhD student at Sheffield Hallam University, exploring Palestinian cinema. She can be followed at @shahdabusalama.