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CatozzellaMrs Di Lucia Coletti’s students report on the literary event at the BF

Tommaso Turchetto: Giuseppe Catozzella, is a young Italian writer who won the 2014 “Strega” prize, the most prestigious Italian literary award for his book, Never say you are afraid, which was also awarded with the best prize for young Italian authors.

Giuseppe Catozzella is a journalist as well. He wrote lots of articles for some of the most important Italian newspapers. While he was in the African Horn, he was inspired by the news of a Somali female athlete’s death. With the help of a cultural mediator he discovered the full story of Samia Yusuf Omar, a Somali young girl that participated in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing and died in the Mediterranean Sea, trying to arrive in Italy and participate in the 2012 Olympic games in London.

Why hadn’t anyone helped the young athlete? He explained that no one wants to help Somali people, because Somalia is the most dangerous country in the world.

Of course both Italy and the EU must accept political refugees by law.

Marco Boschin: Giuseppe Catozzella told us about Samia, a Somali athlete who died in the Mediterranean Sea with a dream: the London Olympic Games.

Samia was born in March 1991 with the passion for running in her blood: her misfortune? She was born in Somalia where hate wins over love, where the wind brings only news of destruction, where her story began.

When the author heard her story he asked himself: “What can I do?” How can we win over the war?” His answer was: “I have to shout out this story to the whole world and so I’ll write about that little warrior who died following her dream”.

Elena Dallara: Giuseppe Catozzella is the author of the book Never say you are afraid.

He was introduced by Nicolò Groia, an ex student.

Samia, the protagonist, was a determined Somali girl who loved running.

She went to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and later she tried to undertake a journey to Italy with the dream of running the London Olympics of 2012 but she died in the Mediterranean Sea shortly before the Olympic Games.

Giuseppe Catozzella answered our questions and he was very nice to us.

It was a beautiful experience and I’m very happy to have met him!

Alessandra Gasparini: Giuseppe Catozzella first heard about Samia’s death on TV. He was listening to a TV program where an athlete was speaking about Samia who had died at sea.

When the author heard that story he was immediately interested and wanted to know more.

With the help of a cultural mediator he met Samia’s sister and after she told the whole story he decided he could write about it.

The story is written in the first-person as if Samia were writing it herself.

Giuseppe told us if Samia had been alive he wouldn’t have written the book.

Camilla Berto: On 1st October 2014 the Bruno conference room was packed with students. We attended a talk by Giuseppe Catozzella. He is a young writer from Milan who wrote a book inspired by the true story of Samia Yusuf Omar, a young female athlete from Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia.

In August 2012 he came across Samia’s story while watching the Al-Jazeera Channel on TV in Africa. Catozzella was immediately impressed by the story of the girl’s life and her death and he felt a big sense of responsibility realizing that he had always been silent and he had never done anything to help people like Samia, migrants who start a very expensive journey out of Africa and often die on the way to Europe.

So, with the help of a cultural mediator, Zahra Omar, he was able to get in touch with Hodan, Samia’s favourite sister, who lives in Finland. It wasn’t easy because Hodan couldn’t stop crying during the interviews.

The title of the book refers to a sentence that Samia and Hodan used to say to each other: never say you are afraid!

I recommend the book to everybody but above all to young people who want to learn something they don’t.

Beatrice Zamengo: Giuseppe Catozzella wrote the book in the first person: it is Samia who tells her own story and so reading the novel becomes even more addictive.

I found the author’s talk at school very interesting, I really liked his way of communicating: the way he opened his heart and told us about his experience.

I personally felt very strong emotions when I realized that many foreigners have a heavy past behind their existences.

Elisabetta Binettti: We attended the meeting because we had read his book with our Italian teacher Mrs Di Lucia Coletti. The book is about Samia’s story: she was a Somali girl who took part in the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. She had a dream: she wanted to go to London, to the 2012 Olympics, but in Somalia there has been a civil war since 1991 so she couldn’t train properly. She tried to move to Ethiopia but in the end she decided to come to Italy illegally. The journey took her 18 months but she died in the Mediterranean Sea not far from Italy.

The literary event was an extraordinary opportunity to meet the writer and to understand the book into depth.

I was very surprised when I heard that Samia’s family hasn’t read the book yet because it hasn’t been translated into their language; Samia is a sort of heroine now but they can’t read her story, it is so strange and sad. I hope someone will translate the book in the future!

After the talk the students and the teachers could ask the author some questions and he kindly answered.

When the talk was over he autographed our books.

Benedetta Bibiani: I had read the book one week before and I was really excited to meet the author.

The book is a true story and it talks about Samia Yusuf Omar.

Samia, the protagonist, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Mogadishu is a “ghost city” and the situation there is really difficult.

In 1991 Somalia’s dictator was overthrown. Now Somalia is a country devastated by more than 23 years of lawlessness and civil war. The area is under the control of Al Shabab’s fundamentalist militias.

Samia, who came from a very poor family, started to run in the dirt of the streets of Mogadishu when she was just 8 years old.

In the book, written by Giuseppe Catozzella, we learned that training was really difficult for her but

Samia was the type that never gave up. She started to win the first running competitions in Somalia and later she attended the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately she came bottom because she wasn’t as fit as the other athletes. However, she qualified for the London Olympics but a disaster hit her! She was 20 years old when she found herself in the hands of traffickers and corrupted police. After crossing Sudan and Libya, travelling for more than 8,000 km, spending 6,000 dollars, Samia eventually drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Fortunately 35 people, who were travelling with Samia, “conquered” the Mediterranean Sea and they safely arrived in Europe.Giuseppe Catozzella met them and he told us that most of them are still afraid of the Libyan police who wanted to imprison them. However, their journey is not over yet, because now they are waiting for identity cards, and later they’ll be waiting for a job, for a house, etc…Now Never say you are afraid is going to be translated into different languages, including Somali so also Samia’s family will read it soon!The talk was an interesting and amazing experience.I didn’t know about Samia’s story and I think that everyone should know it. 

Federica Latora: In Somalia Samia didn’t have a real coach, the food wasn’t enough for an athlete and she had to wear burqa during practice. But with the support and advice of her father, she won a lot of competitions and so she could go to Beijing Olympics. Although she came last, she was very happy and excited. After four years she wanted to participate in the London Olympics, but she realized that if she remained in Somalia she couldn’t do it. So she decided to move to Ethiopia first and later travel illegally to Europe.

On the 2nd April 2012 Samia died in the Mediterranean Sea, while she was trying to arrive in Italy, following her dream. Giuseppe Catozzella discovered Samia’s story on television news. He was impressed by this story and so he decided to write a book about Samia. To speak to Samia’s family, he was helped by Zahra Omar, a Somali interpreter. He wrote this book in the first person to give voice to Samia and to all the other people that die in the same way every day. Samia has become a heroine and for that reason a run is held in her honour every year in Mogadishu.

 Massimiliano Boccato: Samia had set off on that journey because she thought that she could win the 2012 Olympics in London and arrive before Veronica Campbell-Brown, the best woman runner. But when she almost saw safety she drowned in the sea and she died. She died because she couldn’t swim very well. Her dream was meeting Mo Farah, the best man runner on 1,500 m, but she died too soon.

Jacopo Pizzol: Giuseppe Catozella also spoke about criminal organizations in Northern Italy, a subject he knows well .At the end of his talk, he signed all our books.

Martina Mognato:  Giuseppe Catozella’s book is written the in the first person because the story was so emotionally strong that he wanted to remove the intrusive narrator.

In Somalia there has been a tribal war for 23 years. It’s a crazy war where mothers kill their children, or husbands kill their wives.

If Samia had not died Giuseppe wouldn’t had written this book

Giuseppe Catozella is also interested in the Mafia infiltration structure. When he was 14 years old, he was the witness of double murder by the Calabrian Mafia so he decided to write about Mafia.

Alessandro Parmesan: When they were very close to Italian coast Samia’s boat declared average so an Italian ship arrived there and they threw some ropes in the water to rescue the travellers. Samia tried to catch one of them but she wasn’t able to swim and she died.

Giuseppe Catozzella asked Samia’s sister for the permission to write a book about Samia and if she could help him. He also talked to other people who travelled along with Samia to understand what she went through and to make the story more faithful, so the reader can understand what she felt during her journey.

Francesco Pistilli: During the meeting Giuseppe Catozzella talked about various points: the description of Somalia and its people; the reason why Somalia is into a civil war, the description of the illegal journey that thousands of people have to travel to arrive in Italy just because they don’t have a passport since they were born in a country at war and some details of Samia’s story

Arianna De Luca: Non dirmi che hai paura talks about the real story of a girl from Somalia, Samia, who wanted to become a professional runner and, after taking part in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, dreamed of going to the 2012 Olympic Games of London. Unfortunately Samia died in April 2012 when she was trying to go to Europe.

The author told us how he got to know that story. It was really interesting and I enjoyed the experience.

Lorenzo Sancassani: Giuseppe Catozzella, revealed that he first wanted to write the book in the third person but after a while he decided to use the first person narrator and that if Samia had not died, he wouldn’t have written the story

Davide Damiani: Samia spent most of her time running and training because she wanted to win the Olympics (she took part in the Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing, where she arrived last).

Unfortunately she drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when she was trying to reach Europe and escape from the terrorists and the war between clans in Africa.

At the end of the meeting some students asked the writer for his signature on their copy of the novel.

Eleonora Giorgiutti: “The task of writer is to chew the story, digest it, and make it new”.

These are the words pronounced by Giuseppe Catozzella, author of a book titled Never say you are afraid, during a meeting with the students of the G.Bruno-R.Franchetti Secondary School in Mestre.

The book is written in the first person because the author wanted us to focus on Samia, as if she were telling her own story.

Samia is dead, but she was reborn in the pages of the book. 1mg