What Resonates with Readers?
Some readers originate from countries smashed by the West and European Eastern Bloc. Here is what resonates with them in our book Lucy’s People.
- The Derg forced patriot Tesfahun to be military advisor. This saved Ethiopia 1975–1986.
- Traditional physicians
- Invasion of countries that have never fomented strife elsewhere let alone attempted to invade: how about your own country? If you like, leave a reply below. What if you have British blood like me? I am ashamed to read the statistics at this site.
- Emperor Tewodros II and resistance to colonisation and cultural theft
- Russian communism in Ethiopia
- Brain-drain of the best and brightest from poor nations
Chapter 12 Heritage describes looting by foreigners. Sadly, this is relevant today. You would know about the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the fate of the museum collection in Baghdad. Since November 2020, the same has happened to Orthodox monasteries and museums in Ethiopia. This month, there were auctions abroad for Ethiopian treasures. Coincidence?
Lucy’s People is Mesfin Tadesse’s story. He is a brilliant storyteller in multiple languages. Because they are delicious, I included Amharic and other Ethiopian words in the published text – not here, because they would be difficult to read online.
Lucy’s People Book Extracts
From Chapter 8 “Advisor“
Patriot Tesfahun, Forced Military Advisor
The Derg sought help from a patriot. Its leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam, had tried to destroy them. For a while he took over their eight-storey building. Mum’s cousin Tesfahun was Chairman of the Patriots’ Association. He was a member of the Jerusalem Ethiopian Association. During the Italian occupation he had been a messenger for the Ethiopian resistance based in Sudan. He imported tents, ammunition and weapons. Tall and bearded like Cuba’s Fidel Castro, he had an Emperor Menelik II tattoo on the back of his hand. He resembled another relative, the late patriot Belay Zeleq. Mum and he were decorated for war service. Afterward, Tesfahun went to Yugoslavia. He studied modern military science, intelligence, and radio coding. Speaking French, Arabic and Serb, he excelled.
Back in Ethiopia, Tesfahun worked for the Ministry of Defence. In 1974, the Derg retired him. A year later, it sent a jeep to his home, where soldiers took him at gunpoint to the Ministry of Defence. Defence Minister Major Tesfay was unqualified. Tesfahun became unofficial adviser to gugmangug. This is Ge’ez for mother-of-idiots or disaster bringers. He did it to prevent the destruction of Ethiopia by invaders.
To the Defence Minister he said, ‘You people will destroy this country. We will pay with blood. Tell that to your friend Mengistu. I have a short walk to my grave. Though you may not like it, let me give you some practical advice.’
He showed Tesfay what Ethiopia had bought: spray-painted Russian guns from World War II, sold as new. Inside they were rusty. Tesfahun said, ‘The Soviet Union wants to control part of Africa, the Red Sea and the Middle East. By buying its arms, Ethiopia will be in debt for generations.’
The patriot told the Derg major about the Italian occupation. Turks sold faulty weapons to Ethiopia. Portuguese sent poisoned rations via Sudan. Only Greeks and Yugoslavs had helped. In 1975 few supported Ethiopia – only Cuba, Israel, Zambia, Yemen and the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The Ethiopian Ground Force consisted of 50,000. They were joined by 80,000 veterans with walking sticks and 34-year-old injuries. The elderly patriots went unregistered.
‘Do not count me. I am going to die for my country.’
Blocked from Arming Herself
Ethiopia was battling 1 million invaders, who had hi-tech weapons. Defence at ground level with tanks was impossible. The only option was Air Defence. It had 20 military aircraft: retired US F5 fighter jets and slow Swedish and Ethiopian jets. Somalia had modern Soviet jets: MIG25 and MIG29. The West blocked Ethiopia from arming itself. Ethiopia paid the US for guns and bombs for use with F5 fighters, then President Carter cancelled the order. The US refunded our money 5 years later, and bribed Vietnam not to sell F5 weapons to us. It was part of the coalition to destroy our country.
Tesfahun gave Major Tesfay strategical advice, which he followed.
End of Patriot Tesfahun, Forced Military Advisor
Chapter 8 “Advisor” Russian Communism in Ethiopia
Meskel Square in Addis Ababa was now Revolution Square. It was the place where the Derg fed us Stalinism. Dignitaries visited: Russia’s Brezhnev, Cuba’s Castro, Romania’s Ceausescu, and the Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot leader. Our leader Mengistu Haile Mariam hurled bottles of blood. In 1977, when Ethiopia’s population was 29 million, students joked about our president.
3 Stalinist leaders were flying over Addis Ababa…
- Fidel Castro of Cuba said, ‘If I throw 100 birr out of this aeroplane, I will make one hundred people happy.’
- Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union said, ‘If I throw 200 birr out, I will make two hundred people happy.’
- It was Mengistu’s turn. ‘If I throw out 3,000 birr, I will make three thousand happy.’
- The pilot said, ‘If I throw three of you out of my aeroplane, it will make thirty million people happy.’
End of Russian Communism in Ethiopia
Chapter 8 “Advisor” Bad Press
Uncle Tesfahun would collect me in his jeep. I drove him 85 kilometres to Sendafa Military College. One day, we discussed an article in Newsweek. It reported a protest in London against overfishing of the Amazon and Blue Nile rivers. Ethiopians did not overfish. People took what they needed. We fasted weekly, not eating meat including fish. There were also extended fasts before Easter and Ethiopian Christmas and for Ramadan. Fish were safest around us.
Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, was rich in fish. They cleansed the water of bacteria with their exhalations via gills. This kept it pure. Monks would be angry if a person took too many.
‘How many families are you feeding?’ they would say. ‘How many tummies do you have?’
Gash Tesfahun said, ‘Europeans are trying to regain control over Africa’s attractive tourism areas.’
‘Why complain so often?’
‘Our defeat of fascism in 1941 heralded the end of colonialism in Africa.’
End of Bad Press
Chapter 8 “Advisor” Bungled UN Reconstruction
During World War II, Mussolini’s forces had bombed and poisoned 250 of our rivers. They wrecked our infrastructure: roads, bridges, dams, pipelines, sub-stations, hospitals, schools and places of worship. Ethiopia claimed £184,746,023 for damage to infrastructure.  The UN ordered Italy to pay 800 million US dollars in compensation. We saw nothing of it. Using its power in the UN, the UK gave itself contracts for rebuilding. Ethiopian workers were skilled, yet the English brought in unskilled workers from colonies. They controlled the Koka Dam irrigation and hydroelectric power project: Koka ina Gifirse. The name is Orominya for bubbling sprinkler water. It was 160 kilometres from Addis Ababa, in the upper Awash River Basin.
Construction was bungled. Our engineers investigated. The UK had colonised our drinking water. The dam looked like a cup of snail soup. It contained a foreign species: a parasitic snail named alket. The snails lodged in the throats of cattle when they drank and sucked blood, growing and reproducing. Livestock could neither chew nor swallow and suffocated.
Alket also harboured waterborne diseases that killed people. The biological warfare could have destroyed our agrarian nation. Ethiopia countered with berbera and indod. Calling somebody alket was a criminal offence.
Engineers found a building not included on the Koka construction plan. It was a secret UK prison. Haile Selassie told the English not to bother. He replaced their officials with decorated patriots. As UN administrators, the UK took a decade to leave Ethiopia. They built roads into remote areas. Germans had stolen monastery books on medicine, health, herbal recipes, water systems and astronomy. Now, monks and priests were wary. UK military trucks killed them. Then the land rejected the English road builders who fell ill. They wrote off Orthodox as superstitious triflers, root diggers and star counters.
English vets injected livestock, and animals stopped bearing young. Each family had a war horse that knew its owners anywhere. One breed was an excellent guard. The brumby would roll to survive in battle fire. It could travel 200 kilometres per day on little food and water. These unique horses had no more foals.
A couple went to court. One had told the other they were English. Calling somebody that warranted prosecution and a fine.
End of Bungled Reconstruction
From Chapter 11 “The Bean“
Mum did not actively support the kebele urban dwellers’ association and communist cadre, so they refused to supply any items to us. Revolutionary guards abused her.
‘Leftover bourgeois imperialist… Adhari.’
Kebele oil was bad for the health. The Derg imported cheap, unhealthy Russian cooking oil. This harmed the arteries, heart and immune system. Ethiopia exported edible oils to the Soviet Union and eastern Europe including the GDR. When a brother studied in Prague, he found ‘Blue Nile’ linseed oil in a pharmacy.
We were spared another hazard: Soviet-made refrigerators, which Ethiopians called Lenin’s Boxes. Government workers had to buy them, with the cost deducted from their salaries. They suited Russian diets of cheese wheels, litres of bear’s milk yoghurt and kilos of ham, pork and turkey. Ethiopians ate none of that. We ate fresh vegetables and small amounts of fresh meat.
People who used the fridges got flu and diarrhoea. Motors roared when nearly empty, which was usual in Ethiopian homes. They kept children awake and made them cry. We never slammed doors or banged windows shut. Lenin’s Boxes were an affront. Annoyed families switched them off and used them as wardrobes.
On the doors, owners had to display a transcript of Mengistu’s speech about Marxist–Leninism. Revolutionary guards randomly inspected homes for compliance. They sent remiss civil servants off for political re-education.
End of Lenin’s Boxes
Chapter 11 “The Bean” Healer
In 1976, I witnessed a marvellous cure. A close friend caught the bus with me to college. His father was at the front in Asmara. Pay took 4 months to reach home. The family was as poor as mine. My friend preferred standing to sitting.
One day he asked, ‘Can you look at my lower back area? There is a lump.’
‘Have you told your Mum?’
‘No. It is in a bad place.’
He was referring to his bottom. It had a tennis-ball-size lump.
In the wider community there were monastery trained meregeta or traditional physicians. Not rabbis like my late grandfather Alemayehu, they were still highly skilled.
I said, ‘Why not see one?’ He objected to the cost.
‘Do you want to risk the Derg hospital?’ I said. ‘We will take your school report to show you are a high achiever and worthy citizen. They will not charge too much.’
Near Medhane Alem
We walked to an area near Medhane Alem. Brown sheep chewed pruned twigs. They had long legs and intelligent faces. In front of a mud house there was fragrant set akuri and a false banana tree. Around an old Volkswagen, tenadum herb sprang up. Underneath an awning, a woman’s hands wound spun cotton.
The physician’s house was scrubbed and uncluttered. We gave him my friend’s report.
He said, ‘I do not need that. If he needs help, he needs help, but he must stay overnight.’
He went to the backyard, gathered leaves, and prepared a drink. Then he dosed my friend and put him to bed.
He pulled me aside. ‘He needs to stay because he will vomit, and the lesion will bleed a lot.’
I told our mothers that we had to stay behind at college for a project. Then I collected 3 birr in savings and returned to my friend.
He vomited. That soon stopped. Next, his lesion bled. The healer tended and comforted him throughout the night. The bleeding ended before morning. I made the meregeta take the money. He killed a rooster and cooked stew. The patient ate well.
The final stage of the cure came. A white thread-like substance discharged from the lump in small balls like knitting wool.
The physician said, ‘Each ball is the beginning of a new tumour. They would have started spreading through the rest of his body.’
After another night my friend was fit enough to leave the traditional physician and return home. His life was barely interrupted by the permanent cure of a life-threatening condition. The healer carried it out without chemotherapy and invasive surgery. He handled it inexpensively, humanely and with dignity. The humble man was one of the world’s best healers.
For 40 years, such helpers of humanity would be at risk. The Derg tortured one and imprisoned him for a total of twelve years. In the 1990s, trouble would renew during the AIDS epidemic. It began again in 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. French and US embassy cars squeezed through the narrow streets of Addis Ababa’s falasha (Ethiopian Jewish) area. They stopped at the premises of a meregeta. The Europeans accused him of treating COVID-19 infections. Locals got rid of them. Foreign harassment and threats continued.
End of Healer
Chapter 11 “The Bean” Welo Region
Rebels made Ethiopia’s non-stop famine worse. To get the world’s attention, they attacked farming communities in Tigray and destroyed crops. The Derg ousted traditional land management geniuses. Fertile farming land lay fallow. The Derg exported our meat. In return for weapons from Russia, it sent goats, sheep, chickens and cattle. It held nothing back for famine victims.
In 1984, Somalia invaded Ethiopia again. Italy and Russia armed them. Anti-Ethiopian forces from Ethiopia and Eritrea joined with Somalia. These were the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Eritrean Liberation Front’s Shabiya. Ethiopian and Eritrean rebels belonged to Shabiya. They fought their own country and family members. Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party forces went along with Ethiopians. They shot militia in the back.
Old soldiers said, ‘Your enemy is at the front; your own children are behind. They are your enemies too.’
Gash Tesfahun was still advising the Defence Minister and Ethiopia repelled the invaders. Amhara youths did most of the fighting and 120,000 died. The permanent famine then worsened in their homelands. Welo (Wollo) was hit the worst with 300,000 deaths. One of our brothers worked as a surveyor in Amhara. He volunteered to take food to the people of Welo Region. My brother saw walking skeletons. People died with their pet dogs, cats and livestock. Ethiopians never ate their linat, or domestic animals. To them, oxen that pulled their ploughs were family members.
A non-government organisation provided canned meat soup because famine victims were too weak to cook raw ingredients. But Germany had donated pork and Sweden horse meat. The starving refused the canned insults.
‘Those animals are not food. We cannot eat food that has been imprisoned in cans.’
They died. Cans had to be transported and disposed of – by Ethiopians.
The UK offered seed to Ethiopia for the best sorghum and wheat crops. It was fast growing with quarterly yields. The Derg accepted four shipments, each greeted by singing children. When planted, the seed released locusts. They flew all over Welo. After the insects died, people became ill. Eyelashes and body hair fell out. They bled from the nostrils, corners of the mouth and fingernail beds. Fungus grew on tongues. Some developed stutters. Deaths from this went uncounted and unregistered. Monasteries treated many sufferers. Rains came and wiped out the pestilence.
Eastern Europeans provided powdered milk from areas affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Ethiopia accepted no food donations afterward.
Mengistu expelled Médicins sans Frontières or, Doctors Without Borders. It exposed the famine. With Derg military ascendancy, the world forgot the misery of our people.
End of Welo
Chapter 11 “The Bean” Next Generation Meat Export
Thirty-six years on, Ethiopia would export 300,000 animals each day: some live, with others already slaughtered. This was more than the combined exports of 13 other African countries. We do not eat donkey, horse, camel and pig. The TPLF would allow the weekly export of thousands of donkeys to China for meat. Organically produced meat supplied European childcare centres and hospitals. For decades, our own children would remain malnourished. 
In November 2020, after the TPLF declared war on the Addis Ababa government, farmers continued exports. They sent live bulls to China, Japan and the Middle East.
‘We send our bulls. You send the TPLF guns. We will not stop sending our cattle. You will not stop sending guns. But you will not destroy us.’
End of Next Generation Meat Export
Chapter 12 “Heritage”
Mothers to All
From 1978, the Derg sent young teenagers to battlefronts. It was the first modern government to do so. In Addis Ababa, soldiers stopped minibuses to look for conscripts. Oromo mothers would call, ‘Quick! Come here!’ They hid boys under long dresses. Countless times they saved my brothers and me. Youths ran up to them in Piassa.
‘Maye, thank you for saving me last week on the transport.’
The woman had saved so many that she could not remember each boy. The Derg took years to find out. Security forces apprehending buses said, ‘All mothers, stand.’
Unheard by Foreigners
Our high school history teacher had opposed war. ‘Cruise missiles do not distinguish fighters from the elderly, children and pregnant women.’
Of the Red Terror he said, ‘If you survive, tell of this.’
Ethiopians told foreigners about the unspeakable acts committed upon youth. They went unheard. In tolerating Mengistu, the West was waging an indirect war upon Ethiopians.
End of Teenage Conscripts
Chapter 12 “Heritage” Last Direct War with Emperor Tewodros II
Teacher Girma said our last direct war with England was the Maqdala Campaign in 1868. Emperor Tewodros II then ruled from the north where Gondar is today. He wore sheruba braids and was vibrant.
Each afternoon he said, ‘May I have my leggings.’
He ran alongside his horse, not riding him. The emperor built a sunning platform for his pet lions and groomed and fed them.
End of Last Direct War
Chapter 12 “Heritage” UK Invasion
In 1868, Queen Victoria sent more than 36,000 UK troops. General Napier put 15,000 Indian conscripts with elephants out front. England enticed 100,000 Ottoman troops.
‘Why not destroy the real Christians?’
Banda traitors showed invaders the swift way to the heart of Ethiopia. The fiercest fighting was in Moto, a farming area with water straight from the alps. Moto’s Medhane Alem Monastery had attracted the invaders. It specialised in silver and gold smelting, diamond and bluestone cutting, crown manufacture, bible production, and processing of titanium for medical equipment. Titanium pots stored herbs without USE BY dates. More than 100,000 non-UK conscripts and volunteers died around Moto.
Tewodros fought with his hide shield and gorade curved sword. The coalition overwhelmed his forces. He farewelled his wife and son and freed his lions. UK troops captured a loyal lion. It pined for Tewodros and died. A soldier shot his horse Satenaw to spare him capture. Emperor Tewodros II shot himself, dying like a man. He was 49. General Napier cut off the emperor’s sheruba braids. He removed his possessions: gold-and-diamond ring ornamented with night lightning, gold-and-diamond tool belt, and buffalo hide shoes. He stole his crown, chalice, and prayer book. Invaders defiled the corpses of Ethiopians. They removed teeth, hair and skin that had tattoos.
UK forces ransacked the area. They loaded elephants with antiquities including books, Orthodox crosses and robes. Soldiers built bonfires from what they could not carry: goatskin books and scrolls dating from AD 800 and earlier. From peasants they stole health-giving toothpicks made of titanium and silver. Those doubled as tweezers. In 2005 a UK museum displayed them in bullet proof glass cases as CHIEFS’ POSSESSIONS. Troops even stole sewing needles. England returned them 150 years later, rusted through. It kept the best stuff. The UK also looted the monarchy’s sacred text Kebra Negast or, Glory of the Kings. In 1872, Emperor Yohannes IV wrote to England asking for its return. Ethiopia would continue until today campaigning for the return of stolen heritage.
Napier removed 7-year-old Prince Alemayehu. Queen Victoria asked, ‘Where is Tewodros? I did not ask you to bring his child.’ The boy begged to go home. His mother died. Queen Victoria kept him until he died in England’s cold north aged eighteen. The UK had spent 300 million pounds on the Maqdala Campaign.
Queen Victoria said to Napier, ‘Where are the Indians with horses, donkeys and elephants? You do not know how to read what you looted. Take it to the museum.’
Scottish troops had run off with many books and scrolls.
End of UK Invasion
Chapter 12 “Heritage” 6 Stages of Colonisation
From then on, England only ever engaged indirectly with Ethiopia. Within three years Queen Victoria advocated for Italy’s presence in the area that is now Eritrea. 
One of the 88 books of the Orthodox bible foretold colonisation. This would happen to parts of Asia and most of Africa. There would be a pattern.
Emperor Tewodros II discerned it in the colonisation of India and surrounding areas. In a letter to Queen Victoria, he described what Europe had done to Hindustan Raj. It had applied a formula consisting of 6 stages.
- In Stage 1, missionaries would go to a country. Beatific and calm, they sent home weather reports. These would cover the environment, climate and economy – and when and where people did mining. Weather and wealth were important to the English. If these were attractive, the missionaries would report on religion and culture. They would list door-openers: behaviours that locals appreciated.
- Stage 2 commenced. Consuls would arrive from Europe. They would bear gifts that influential community members loved. Respectful behaviour towards elders always helped them befriend leaders. Taking their time, they would gain the leaders’ confidences.
- Stage 3 would flow from this. Consuls dropped hints. Why was the community friendly with neighbouring tribes? Those people ate weird food and had bizarre beliefs. They were not good for the consul’s friends. The consuls would remain patient. Within a year, fighting would break out between ethnic groups. Oh dear, they no longer felt safe. The consuls needed protection.
- Stage 4 would begin with, ‘We have to look after our consuls.’ Soldiers then arrived to guard them.
- Stage 5 would come with prisons. Locals would have no words to describe what was being built, nor what would be done to them underground.
- Stage 6 was enslavement. The coloniser controlled a broken people. They would serve its interests in Africa.
By 1868, Queen Victoria had amassed the people of Hindustan Raj to send as slave-soldiers to Ethiopia. With Emperor Tewodros II, Europeans did not complete Stage 1. Ethiopia’s people did not become an endangered species. We did not share the fate of the Indian tiger, South African white rhinoceros, our Simien fox or ancient girar and warka trees.
As General Napier departed Moto, an alien species of fly arrived. The fertile land became useless for many years. Farmers refused to plant on lands of blood. They would do the same 70 years later in Menz following fascist massacres during the 1936–41 Italian occupation. 
Teacher Girma said, ‘We do not know where the next war will come from – west from Sudan, north from Egypt, or east from Somalia and the Arabic nations. But we do know that the same enemies are behind each invasion and assassination.’
End of 6 Stages of Colonisation
Read more about Emperor Tewodros II
Chapter 12 “Heritage” Cultural Theft
During 1935–41, Italians stole whole structures. These included a small rural bridge, and fixtures from B’hata Mariyam Monastery in Addis Ababa. They took its golden lion statues. With a crane, the fascists also removed the monastery’s 24-carat-gold roof dome that weighed 27 kilograms. Later, they gave Ethiopia a 9-carat replacement dome. From Aksum they took the largest stele or obelisk. Later, they returned it broken. Fascists raided B’hata Mariyam for its Orthodox interior decoration. They stole Queen Zewditu’s dresses and Queen Saba’s shoes.
The French committed robberies as well. From Kidus Raguel at Entoto, they stole Emperor Menelik II’s bible. In 2018, France would return it in tatters. Thieves had ripped off its jewel-encrusted binding.
A retired lieutenant colonel documented thefts during the 1941 liberation of Ethiopia. Viceroy Badoglio robbed Ethiopia of 300 boxes of gold bars and ancient books. General Graziani stole 79 boxes of gold, silver and diamond artefacts. In April 1941, the UK gave safe passage to the war criminals. It guarded them through eastern Ethiopia and Somalia. The French did the same through Djibouti. Others escorted them across the Mediterranean. Mussolini welcomed them as heroes.
Before Haile Selassie’s homecoming, the UK blocked the border at Eritrea. It enslaved Ethiopian refugees. Soldiers forced them to dismantle infrastructure. They destroyed a bakery, telecommunications and 80 kilometres of cable car equipment. The UK transported large quantities of Ethiopian infrastructure to Sudan and Kenya. Eritrea’s brewery was too large to cart thousands of kilometres, so the English made Ethiopians throw it into the Red Sea.
In Addis Ababa, UK forces rounded up Armenians, Yemeni and Yugoslavs in the middle of the night. They coerced them into dismantling, breaking and looting infrastructure and businesses. Soldiers killed or enslaved those who resisted, especially Yugoslavs. The English dumped Italian construction vehicles in Debre Zait’s seven lakes. They broke bridges. Their Spitfire jets chased giraffes, elephants, lions and tigers into Kenya. Patriots shot down three of the jets.
In April 1941, patriots were on their way to the city. UK forces armed captive Italians. They ordered them to kill Ethiopian civilians at Triana Bar in Piassa. By the hands of others, the English murdered 150. They took the fascist soldiers to B’hata Mariyam Monastery. Years before, monks had told the English about needing to hide crowns and Stars of David from fascists. They refused to reveal the place. It was inside the grave of Emperor Menelik II. The English made the Italians shoot them all. Next, they took them to dismantle the Berhanena Selam Press printing machine. Patriots caught up with all at Ras Mekonnen Bridge and killed them. UK forces then tried to bomb B’hata Mariyam Monastery. 
Drinking English Salt
Haile Selassie returned. UK administrators of the UN said our southern borders needed securing. In Sidamo they erected a barbed-wire fence around our gold mines. These included Laga Dambi, also called Adola Gold Mine, and Saba Mine. They built a secret prison. English forces enslaved traditional miners. They made them mine for gold and imprisoned any who refused. At the end of their shifts, soldiers forced miners to drink water with ‘English salt’. This gave them diarrhoea in case they had swallowed some gold. The English did not deposit our gold into our Reserve Bank. They smuggled it out through Kenya.
At Isolo in northern Kenya, patriots shot 2 gold smugglers. The UK told the emperor they were destabilising border security. Haile Selassie investigated and removed UK forces from Sidamo. 
End of Cultural Theft
Chapter 12 “Heritage” Derg
After World War II, monks hid our cultural treasure. A cave held 10,000 Orthodox goatskin books with boxes of crowns and gold artefacts. The books were about medicine and contained herbal ratios for remedies. Others had diamond encrusted covers. In January 1976, the Derg stole part of the treasure. Mengistu sold it to Germany and the Soviet Union communist party and purchased military hardware. Wanting more, Mengistu’s soldiers beat Abun Tewflos. He refused to disclose the location of other treasuries. For 48 days he took no food or water. AbunTewflos died in Bete Mengist prison in March 1976. 
TPLF employees would sell our heritage to foreigners. At the Lalibela rock-hewn monasteries an official asked about my companion. ‘Is she looking for a gold coin? A copy of Audenegiste? We have the real one. I will give you good commission after she buys.’ He referred to the 800-year-old book The Secret of Life.
US President Clinton found a stolen copy of Audenegiste. Literate in Ge’ez and knowledgeable of Hebrew, he identified it as genuine. He returned it to Ethiopia. The text is a cypher containing our monastic healing wisdom. Germans took a copy, learned Ge’ez, and decoded some of it themselves. A pharmaceutical company used the knowledge: Behyer is Ge’ez for clean air plant. Germany later returned our book. It retained our formulae and 2 were for aspirin and surgical anaesthetic.
Banda traitors amassed profits from stolen wealth. They opened foreign bank accounts. This bought them instant citizenship in countries such as Australia.
Ethiopia lost bright people. During World War II, Italian fascists hunted down our intelligentsia and graduates.  Under Emperor Haile Selassie I, scholarship students completed their qualifications in Europe and the US. Some stayed there. A cousin of my father’s was a nuclear chemist in America. He came home to visit his mother. CIA agents injected him to make him forget secrets. This destroyed his mind. He paced Piassa endlessly. My brother looked out for him, buying him lunch and coffee.
The administration of Emperor Haile Selassie I censored the weekly magazine Kaman Anche or, I Am Not Smaller. He closed another named Amro because he did not want to provoke the muscle-heads of the West.
Dejazmach Kebede Mikael had written for Kaman Anche. He criticised English practises in Africa. The magazine poked fun at Western pride in being physically large. Author Abay Gobegn referenced that in a political satire. It featured a donkey dressed in a three-piece suit standing for election.
Amro featured articles on global politics. Contributors included Dr Haddis Alemayehu, DejazmachKebede Mikael, Paulos Gnogno, Abay Gobegn and Wegayu Nigatu. Dr Haddis wrote the column Thin Lips. The BBC never realised it was about English fascism.
The Derg closed a magazine called Menen (Manan), which covered internal affairs. It imprisoned and tortured Abay Gobegn and made him homeless. Abay had dared to write about the Red Terror. He died in his early fifties.
Ethiopian intellectuals wrote in the tradition of Q’ine. This had 2 layers of meaning.  It subtly conveyed controversial messages. Using Q’ine, a journalist wrote about the murder of Orthodox boys. The popularity of his writing drew attention to him. The Derg arrested and tortured him. He had a letter smuggled to his wife in Gojjam.
‘I will never be able to walk again. No good as a man, I am in great pain. Please help with this. I ask one other thing: do not cry for me. Be brave, for you are now both father and mother to our children.’
His wife wrote back to him in Ge’ez and Agaw Hebrew. Gaolers would not be able to read those languages. She sent him a shirt. Its collar was laced with fast-working poison. Shackled and bound, her husband sucked on it and was released from agony. His loved ones fled to Sudan, then Israel gave the widow asylum. She would have spoken textbook Amharic, which some city dwellers found difficult. Later, the Derg leader Mengistu addressed a gathering in the Amhara region.
He asked, ‘What do you fear?’
An elder raised his hand. ‘The communist revolution.’
Henchmen took a step forward, but 100,000 locals stopped them. ‘Arrest us too!’
The president posed his question again.
Another elder said, ‘Chairman Mengistu, I cannot afford to buy an ox, nor can I afford a mule. I can buy a donkey. Will it then drop big air (pass wind) like Derg officials?’
The crowd laughed, but Mengistu and his officials did not. ‘What did he say? I do not understand him. Put him in prison until I know what he said.’
The elder spent eight years in prison.
The European Eastern Bloc took our gifted youth. Soviet Brezhnev gave education passes to between 200,000 and 300,000 young Ethiopians. Some studied in the Soviet Union, in Moscow or Odessa. Others went to industrial GDR, Budapest in Hungary, Prague in Czechoslovakia, Sofia in Bulgaria, Bucharest in Romania and Tirana in Albania. They took Ethiopian yagerlibs clothing and blue jeans, exchanging them for contraband. Some returned with a bedside lamp, camera and suitcase. My wife’s brother left with 7 pairs of Ethiopian leather shoes and 5 leather jackets. He bought a jeep. Highly ranked military did the same. Students returning from the GDR had a torch, a shaver and shoes. Those who had studied in the Eastern Bloc wore the same clothes in which they had left. They had queued by shifts to get a glass of milk.
Some brought home Russian wives. I met one who was an engineer. She monitored a pipeline south of Addis Ababa. Walking 8 kilometres daily, she removed her work boots as she approached villages. Under the TPLF she would fight to stay in Ethiopia.
Ethiopians in the Eastern Bloc said, ‘How can this course be three, five or seven years long? At home it takes nine months or one year.’
An Ethiopian fighter jet pilot’s course took 27 months. After 9 months students flew by themselves on military missions. They graduated able to fly MIG27 and MIG29. Soviet helicopter pilot courses took 3 years. For months they studied HOW TO WEAR UNIFORM. Socialist political studies dragged out courses. When my brother studied in Prague, Czechs gave Ethiopians 28-day courses on using cutlery.
Ethiopians said, ‘We will do this alone, thanks,’ and learned in 20 minutes.
Then they crafted sets of hygienic wooden spoons as gifts for those who had underestimated Africans. The students were enrolled in social science, journalism and law – nothing technical.
After 2 years of study, communists would approach Ethiopian students. ‘Why not stay on?’
Military manufacturing companies in Moscow and Odessa sought them out. In return for a low wage, they gained factory experience or inside knowledge of jet or nuclear submarine technology. Ethiopians broke away from the Eastern Bloc. From Hamburg, they disappeared into the West. Soviets traced the defectors using the KGB and Stasi (the Soviet and GDR secret police forces). They killed them in West Germany or in the UK. Enemies were unknown and everywhere.
My friend Yonas studied marine engineering in Bulgaria.
Classmates said, ‘We can learn better in Ethiopia.’
Yonas arrived prematurely in Addis Ababa with four others. The Derg arrested them at the airport. It imprisoned them in Mihakelawe. A general laid down his service pistol.
‘Release these sons or I resign. Which way is this country going? Innocent citizens die each minute at the border. Outsiders designed the war with our Eritrean countrymen. The government is waging it on their behalf at the cost of countless young lives on both sides. It is killing us.’
He had been made to fight Eritreans, who were as brothers. Their families lost breadwinners and probably died too. Foreigners supporting them did not die; Ethiopians and Eritreans did. By killing the young in prisons or at the front, we lost our wealth. They were not reproducible like factory goods. It cost 20 years of family support to rear one youth.
The general said, ‘If any word I have said is wrong kill me by my own gun. To die for these young people is a privilege. I am 3 times older than those you have locked up. In dying fighting for them, I am reborn.’
Two months later the Derg released the boys. It sent the general to Moscow.
In the 1970s, both the European Eastern Bloc and West offered asylum to a major general who had commanded a force of 36,000. He chose the US because his daughter was there. The US gave the major general a job. He collected supermarket trolleys for 4.50 US dollars per hour.  In foreign countries today, Ethiopian graduates drive taxis. 
End of Derg
Chapter 13 “Calculator” Aba Samual
At Building College, each student had a vegetable garden that fed families. We landscaped and built small dams with dykes and water treatment plants. I did the pointing for a masonry wall. Brown pigment mixed with plaster made it stand out. Friends called it Mesfin’s wall.
Russians at the Dam
My water technology thesis was on Aba Samual, the 21-square-kilometre dam west of Addis Ababa. It was below a mountain. Aba Samual Monastery was at the top. The Derg made chichi guns to sell to Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Algeria. It did not build water treatment plants. Cattle drank from rivers near munitions factories and became ill. Farmers took them to Aba Samual dam. Its water cured them. The system was a lake and dam that had made its own tunnels. It filtered itself.
Part of the lake contained cyclones. People who swam there were pulled down, surfacing only when dead. Because our lakes’ shores had no snow and ice, Russians were attracted to Ethiopian deep water. They came in busloads. Generals with gold fillings, bottles of vodka and cigarettes jumped in. They climbed out and jumped again, forgetting to remove their guns first.
Soldiers from Romania and Hungary killed themselves. Priests of Aba Samual Monastery leapt in after them, golden henna robes flying. Thin, strong and healthy, they pulled the victims out of the lake. On sour mouths they performed Expired Air Resuscitation and Coronary Pulmonary Resuscitation. Gold-fillings lay down like puppies.
End of Aba Samual
Chapter 13 “Calculator” Field Trip to Bale Region
Construction engineering students went on field trips. Red Star Action projects were under way. One was the hydroelectric power dam at Milke Wakane River in the Bale region. The GDR and Czechoslovakia funded it and Ethiopians built it. The dam would supply Uganda and Kenya with electrical power. Our group shivered atop Bale Mountain. We were above the 2-kilometre-wide river, volcanic crater lake, and a modern building. It had a concrete wall and search lights. I asked a soldier about it.
‘Oh, that. It is a political ideology school.’
It was a secret prison. GDR Erich Honecker had funded the Bale hydroelectric power project as part of a deal. The GDR built torture chambers in the prison and trained the Derg there. Cadre learned to destroy evidence by chemically reducing victims into a kilogram of ash.
Bale people did not sell or trade. We asked them for water; they gave us milk. Everything was a gift. They spoke Orominya, but I understood when they urged us to drink milk, yoghurt or sorghum soup. Students were all slight. People lined up to donate food: barley, a goat, and 2 huge sheep. My friends cried at their generosity. Holding a lamb under one arm, elders felt our biceps.
‘Ah, you are skinny. You do not have a mum? No dad? How many cows do you have? Let me keep you for a fortnight. You need more muscle here.’
A naturally thin boy took to wearing 3 or 4 jackets around those people.
On our first day at Bale, a young boy as strong as 10 city youths came. He carried a wheel-sized wooden platter of kibbeh clarified butter. It was for our hair. We laughed because at home we only got to eat it. This was my country? These were my people? Life was cruel in the city. Those Oromo people were all kindness. When he was 12, I took my brother there. He slept with 4 or 5 lambs for warmth and did not want to leave.
End of Lucy’s People Book Extracts
These were based on a version of the 2nd edition of Lucy’s People: An Ethiopian Memoir.
-  Pankhurst, Ethiopia, 549. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopian Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Young Lives, “Lessons”, Findings 2. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Bahru Zewde, A History, 56-7. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Gashaw Ayferam Endaylalu, “Mustard Gas”, 508. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Ababa Welde-Tensay, Asidenyaki, 87-89. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Ababa Welde-Tensay, Asidenyaki, 108. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Ababa Welde-Tensay, Asidenyaki, 110-13. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Pankhurst, Ethiopia, 547-48. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Songs, 307. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Hussein Ahmed, Rete and Honey, 181. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
-  Cohen, “Foreign Involvement”, 9. In Mesfin Tadesse & Bastyan, Janet. “Lucy’s People Book Extracts”. Ethiopia Blog. ianetbastyan.com. March 20, 2022. https://wp.me/pdGeXg-7J
- Ababa Welde-Tensay. Asidenyaki Asigeraminya Asazagn Awinetenya Yehagerachin Tarikoch Etiopia [Amharic]. [Addis Ababa]: Mesi Matemiya Bet, 2011 E.C.
- Bahru Zewde. A History of Modern Ethiopia 1855-1991. 2nd ed. Addis Ababa: Addis Ababa University Press, 2002.
- Cohen, John M. “Foreign Involvement in the Formulation of Ethiopia’s Land Tenure Policies: Part II.” Northeast African Studies, 7, no. 3 (1985): 1-20. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43660182?read-now=1&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.
- Gashaw Ayferam Endaylalu. “Mustard Gas Massacres and Atrocities Committed by Italy in 1939 Against the Inhabitant of Menz, Merhabete, and Jamma in Amesegna Washa/Zeret Cave.” Journal of Cultural and Religious Studies, 6, no. 9 (September 2018): 501-13.
- Hussein Ahmed. Rete and Honey [Amharic]. n.p.: n.p., 2009 E.C.
- Pankhurst, Sylvia. Ethiopia: A Cultural History. Woodford Green, Essex: Lalibela House, 1955.
- Songs We Learn from Trees: An Anthology of Ethiopian Amharic Poetry, translated and edited by Beckett, Chris, and Alemu Tebeje. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2020. Kindle.
- Young Lives, Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), and Young Lives Ethiopia PDRC. “Lessons from Longitudinal Research with the Children of the Millenium.” Young Lives Ethiopia Country Report, Summary, June 2018. Oxford: University of Oxford, 2018. www.younglives.org.uk.
- Photo: Genna at Tsion Mariyam © Mesfin Tadesse 2017
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