Autobiography of an Italian-Eritrean family
Edited and with an afterword by Angelica Alemanno

first english edition novembre 2023
pages 268
illustration 50
formato ebook epub
ISBN  9791280551061

COD: 9791280551061 Categoria: Tag: , , , , , ,


Drawn from the memories of daily life, from a childhood spent in Asmara in an Italian-Eritrean family, Mama Demmechesc reveals episodes of racism, segregation and adversity, but also joy and discovery – all of which left a mark on the author. Enzo Mazzola, now a lively octogenarian, had a dramatic yet happy upbringing. The story he recounts – while set in a time of unrest and strife – is profoundly heartwarming.

Gently, and with a childlike gaze, Enzo tells us about his own life and about that of his Eritrean mother, who lived for ten years and had seven children with an Italian settler.

Enzo’s testimony is particularly valuable because it offers the opportunity to embark on a historical journey: the reader sees the era of Italian colonialism and Fascism from the perspective of a unique family. The story unfolds as if in a movie: through Enzo’s eyes we try to understand Salvatore – engineer, inventor, family man, Fascist – who, despite everything, is clearly fond of the young Demmechesc, Enzo’s beloved mother. Colonial exploitation is rife: Asmara’s “mixed-race” ghetto, illegal work (even child labor) and hidden relations are all experienced first-hand by Enzo. We learn about the good and the bad through the eyes of the protagonist, a bright, strong, affectionate child.

The forgotten crises, the drama, the violence and the cruelty of that era are smoothed over by the optimism of the child. That resilience and goodwill is still evident in the man today. Indeed, as a grown-up, Enzo achieved a good measure of social redemption, along with his mother and his many siblings.

In the afterword here, Angelica (who gathered and edited Enzo’s tales) retraces the historical contours of the colonial era. She investigates the setting and the context of Enzo’s youth, in a period that saw racial laws, violence against women and slavery. Angelica touches on the collective denial of the whole experience and laments the impunity granted to those responsible.

This book helps us to understand human values and the importance of communities. It reminds us that behind the narrative of every war, behind all the tales of persecution and depravity, there lies the very human story of individual children, women and men.

Today, mothers like Demmeschesc live and persevere in Afghanistan, in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and in far too many other places still ravaged by war.


Demmechesc was a petite Eritrean woman who in the 1930s left her remote village, on foot, to go to Asmara – a bright, booming city full of goods, dreams and projects for il Duce’s colonial empire.

There, she will meet an Italian engineer who will change her life forever: Salvatore Mazzola, an eclectic and creative man, embodied all the contradictions of that African adventure.

After fathering seven children, and adventurously moving homes across town several times, he abandoned Demmechesc to her own destiny in 1949. Salvatore Mazzola returned to Italy, along with many others, leaving his family in Africa, in the midst of an economic boom and a civil war.

At the time, Enzo was ten years old. This book retraces his childhood and youth: from his carefree adventures up to the day of his father’s abandonment, and from his first encounter with his future wife, Adriana, up to their arrival in Rome.

Photo on the cover:

Mama Demmechesc with Alberto next to her and baby Enzo in her arms, in the apartment in Via Abruzzo, in Asmara, 1941, from author’s collection.



knows as Enzo, was born on the first of May 1939 in Asmara, when Eritrea was part of the Italian East Africa colony. During his long and eventful life – driven by strong determination and ambition, and by a profound love for his family – Enzo lived in Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia and, finally, Italy. Thanks to his expertise as a technician specialized in the maintenance of grounds operations vehicles and in power plants installations, he worked in several countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Mexico, Chile and Canada, as well as in Eritrea. He speaks fluent Tigrinya, English, Arabic and Italian and gets by in Russian too. This is his first book, a tribute to the lives of his mother Demmechesc and of his beloved wife Adriana, who passed away in 2014.


Angelica Alemanno gathered Enzo’s stories, wrote them down, and put them together, to create this book. An author in her own right, she has a degree in literature, with a thesis in Cinema Aesthetics. She has studied screenwriting, been a film critic and ghost writer, and is an assiduous radio listener. In 2023 she entered the wonderful world of podcasts, and is working on a variety of programs. Angelica is passionate about communications and media and currently teaches “audiovisual language” in a Roman high school. She loves cinema, travel, animals, friends and unexpected adventures. She lives with two turbulent and brilliant children, with whom she communicates freely, at least in theory.


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