He got here to Kenya in 1973 to assist set up the United Nations Setting Programme (Unep) headquarters in Nairobi and fell in love with the nation.
Forty-five years later, Aldo Manos lives in Nairobi in a home he purchased in 1976, and has been documenting hitherto-ignored particulars of 50,000 Italians who sojourned within the nation as prisoners of struggle.
Aldo, an Italian nationwide, believes he’s the one one residing in Kenya among the many preliminary 25 officers who have been transferred from Stockholm, Sweden, to Nairobi to work on the then newly-designated Unep headquarters.
Unep was based in 1972 and was based mostly in Stockholm. Through the seek for its headquarters, Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta performed a diplomatic marketing campaign on the United Nations (UN) Basic Meeting in New York and received towards a lot of opponents, together with India.
As such, Unep grew to become the primary worldwide organisation to be situated in a growing nation.
Aldo, 86, says he was current when the 1972 Stockholm declaration that gave beginning to Unep was made.
He says he was later transferred from his preliminary engagement within the UN to Unep. When Nairobi was granted the headquarters standing, he was transferred there.
“I got here as one of many 25 officers despatched to Nairobi to begin the brand new organisation. Initially, we have been housed at Electrical energy Home, then in 4 flooring of Kenyatta Worldwide Conference Centre whereas the primary set of modest buildings have been being erected on a former espresso plantation at Gigiri. Two extra units of buildings that have been extra trendy and spacious have been added later,” he remembers fondly.
“But it’s solely final yr when the spokesman of the group of 77 growing international locations requested the UN secretary-general to supply funds for modernisation of those ageing amenities,” he provides.
Aldo’s life story begins in Europe, the place he was born in April 1933 throughout turbulent instances. His birthplace is the small island of Zlarin on the Dalmatian coast.
On the time, Dalmatia was a part of the Venetian empire that was later taken over by the Astro-Hungarian Empire till 1919, when the state of Yugoslavia was created.
Since his household didn’t need to take up any new nationality, they lived as foreigners in their very own nation and finally fled to Italy in 1945 seeking security.
In Italy, Aldo pursued a level in regulation and a second diploma in political science on the College of Genoa. He then labored within the non-public sector for 5 years.
His first job was at Piaggio, makers of the ever-present Ape tuk-tuks in Nairobi, then later with Ingersoll-Rand, the agency which dug a tunnel that connects France and Italy.
Aldo met and married his spouse, Elena, in 1959. In March 1962, Aldo joined the United Nations in New York, the place he labored within the technical help discipline.
In 1967, he was transferred to Bangkok, the seat of the UN Financial Fee for Asia, to co-ordinate regional initiatives such because the Asian Freeway, the precursor of at present’s New Silk Route.
“Our solely son was born in Bangkok, Gaspare,” he says with a smile.
After he was transferred to Nairobi, he purchased a home in 1976, the place he lives along with his spouse and their son, who typically oscillates between Italy and the UK.
Regardless of their lengthy keep in Kenya, the Aldos are nonetheless ready for a everlasting resident standing. They preserve renewing their residence papers every year.
At Unep, he was in control of the Setting Fund, which is made up of voluntary contributions.
The fund supported initiatives worldwide, initially via the UN’s specialised companies and later with governments instantly.
After a short stint in Geneva, Switzerland, as performing director of the Unep workplace for Europe, Aldo moved to Athens in 1982 as the primary co-ordinator of the Mediterranean Motion Plan, then the most important Unep endeavor involving all of the 20 coastal states and the European Union.
“It gave me nice satisfaction to have the ability to supervise a marine monitoring programme during which over 70 marine analysis laboratories participated, to have stopped the dumping of polluting substances into the Mediterranean Sea and incineration at sea, and to have witnessed the constructing of sewage therapy vegetation within the main coastal cities,” he says proudly.
“Sadly, that spirit of Mediterranean co-operation has been vastly endangered by political upheavals, civil wars, amongst others, in Lebanon, Syria, and Libya,” he provides.
In 1991, Aldo took early retirement from the UN after 29 years of service. He moved to Venice, Italy, the place he pursued a instructing profession on the College of Trieste.
Right here, he taught Environmental Diplomacy alongside doing consulting jobs for the UN, the EU, and the Italian authorities.
He later returned to Nairobi a number of instances as a member of the Italian delegation to Unep governing councils.
His profession because the keeper of recollections of the Italian prisoners of struggle (PoWs) within the Second World Conflict (WWII) began by likelihood in 2007 at Limuru Gun Membership, the place he shoots clay targets each different Sunday.
“Mike Harries, a pal, talked about the camp at Ndarugu located between Thika and Juja cities, the place his mom was the secretary to the commanding officer. This made me uncover the Italian church and the monument.
I used to be shocked that nobody had ever talked about the prisoners or the camps to me in all of the years we had been in Kenya. Their reminiscence had been erased. However it’s stated that recollections by no means die; they go to sleep. My spouse Elena and I took it as our mission to reawaken them,” he says.
Aldo badgered the Kenyan and Italian authorities till the Italian church — the prisoners of struggle pillar at Ndarugu and the primary brick kiln constructed by the prisoners at Thika — have been declared as “monuments of historic curiosity to Kenya” via Gazette Discover No. 11252 dated September 6, 2011.
Despite the gazetting, which makes tampering with a monument an offence punishable with a jail time period and a wonderful, the Italian pillar was destroyed by unknown individuals early final yr.
“We have been shocked to seek out it mendacity down 100 metres from its base once we took an Italian tv crew to the spot. On October 12, 2019, the Italian tv aired a programme on Ndarugu camp and the destruction of the monument as a part of a well-liked sequence known as Rai2 Storie.”
“Because of the Italian Embassy’s immediate intervention and financing from the Italian Affiliation in Kenya, the principle adorned block weighing over 12 tonnes was moved from Ndarugu to the Italian Memorial Church close to Nyeri with the authorisation of Kenyan authorities,” he explains.
For over 10 years, he has been researching on the web for publications, memoirs, pictures and any point out he can discover of the 55,000 Italian PoWs who have been in Kenya between 1941 and 1947.
Aldo has been in a position to identify and find all of the 15 PoW camps, doc occasions that came about there and place them right into a digital museum on www.prigionierinkenia.org.
“I had the e book Campo 360 Ndarugu printed in Italy early final yr. It’s obtainable via Amazon at round $20 a duplicate and is within the means of being translated into English,” he explains.
Final yr, Aldo spoke at numerous conferences on this topic in 4 Italian cities — Parma, Padova, Trieste and Brescia — and met many descendants of the prisoners, who contributed anecdotes and memorabilia.
“I had the honour to fulfill in individual a former prisoner, who’s now 100 years outdated,” he says.
Aldo has uncovered wonderful tales in regards to the Italian prisoners of struggle and offered insights into the church buildings and lots of different monuments that they constructed.
He found that the Italian prisoners of struggle camps have been only one,500 metres huge.
“Being a prisoner was not straightforward …” he explains. “They have been humiliated and crushed up. Nonetheless, life was simpler in Kenya than these in Soviet Russia, India, and Burma.”
Prisoners of struggle have been fighters or civilians captured by an enemy and, moderately than be killed, they have been taken hostage and subjected to harsh circumstances.
The prisoners of WWII wrote letters to their households overseas from Kenya.
The letters are an affidavit of the struggling skilled by the prisoners and their households in the course of the lengthy years of separation.
The information of the imprisonment of their family members arrived to households in Italy with a lot delay.
Many prisoners tried to flee; some succeeded whereas others failed and the escapes resulted in tragedy.
In virtually all armies, navy prisoners are obliged to strive by any means to flee from captivity to return to their very own traces.
Regardless of the large distance that separated Kenya from the colonies of impartial states corresponding to Mozambique, a Portuguese colony, there have been quite a few escape makes an attempt from the camps.
“Essentially the most well-known escape is from Nanyuki camp 354 narrated in Felice Benuzzi’s e book Fuga Sul Kenya: 17 Giorni di Libertà (which interprets to No Picnic on Mt Kenya: 17 Days of Liberty) from which two movies have been shot.
Three prisoners, Felice Benuzzi, Dr Giovanni Balletto and Enzo Barsotti climbed Mt Kenya and planted the tricolour flag on Lenana tip at four,895 meters.
They returned to the sphere alone, the place they suffered a 28-day punishment within the cell.
“Along with the flag, British climbers additionally discovered a bottle with a message left by Benuzzi,” he explains.
From discipline 356 of Eldoret, Prince Vanni Corsini, who spoke English, managed to impersonate a British officer, take possession of a truck and flee with 4 companions, reaching Mozambique, which was 2,800 kilometres away.
Their journey is informed within the e book Lengthy Flight to the South: The Unimaginable Escape of 5 Italian Prisoners.
“Aside from their escapes, Italian PoWs proved to be very resilient and resourceful. As an alternative of turning into determined and downtrodden, they organised themselves in such a means that they grew to become sustainable and self-sufficient,” he says.
They arrange orchards and farms and even faculties contained in the camps, the place many Italian prisoners learnt how you can learn and write.
“This was uncommon,” he explains, “as a result of somewhere else of the world, prisoners weren’t allowed to do the identical. And in Eldoret, two prisoners opened a college.”
Aldo offers many different findings of the Italian prisoners of struggle and explains how they vastly contributed to the expansion and improvement of Kenya.
“From mid-1943 onwards, these prisoners got the selection of signing a collaboration settlement with the authorities as a result of Italy had eliminated itself from World Conflict II,” he explains.
“Many refused to signal and wished to stay as prisoners due to their allegiance to their nation. Nonetheless, a big quantity signed and have been allowed to work and stay outdoors the camp.
They continued dwelling in Kenya and even began working right here.
They have been paid in shillings and the wage price was fastened by the governor — Sh1 a day for certified personnel whereas unqualified personnel have been paid six pence, which was double the speed of the native African unskilled labour,” he says.
Kenya hosted greater than 50,000 prisoners, who have been wealthy and various of their professions.
They have been masons, architects, engineers and musicians amongst others, and thus many native expatriates took benefit of this and employed them. They constructed a lot of non-public homes and different buildings.
“They even constructed irrigation canals for Grogan, who began Gertrude’s Hospital in Taveta,” he says.
“Louis Leakey employed them to assist him in his discoveries, and so they even repaired aeroplanes and engines at Eastleigh aerodrome with a bunch of Polish refugees.”
Italian PoW scientists labored on the Nationwide Museums of Kenya and found two new species. The prisoners constructed dams to retailer water in Mt Kenya and roads down escarpments. In addition they constructed the well-known church there.”
Aldo goes on to provide a curious perception into the church and its documentation in Kenya.
“The work contained in the chapel have been achieved by an Italian prisoner of struggle, who signed his preliminary “A” on the backside of every portray with the phrase ‘pintori’ proper subsequent to it. Many Kenyan journalists thought “A Pintori” was the painter’s identify and have been questioning why they didn’t get well every other work by this identify. However they have been improper, his identify is unknown!” he says, laughing.
Virtually all of the prisoners have been repatriated by August 1948. On their return to Italy, they typically encountered indifference, if not hostility.
They discovered that the cash that they had saved by working in captivity was price little or no.
Aldo’s subsequent ambition is to have his e book translated and printed in English in order to succeed in the Kenyan public, and to see a memorandum of understanding signed between Trieste College (a public analysis college in Italy) and a Kenyan college to advertise research and exchanges on the contribution the prisoners made to the constructing of recent Kenya.
The PoWs constructed roads, bridges, dams, irrigation canals, non-public houses, small church buildings and the Wajir hospital.
In addition they rebuilt St Andrew’s Faculty, Turi, after its buildings have been razed by hearth.
Greater than 50 localities in Kenya have a connection to the prisoners’ work. Many returned to Kenya after WWII, received married and began companies right here.
“I hope that some youthful individuals will take over and proceed the hunt. That is my message to your readers: if in case you have any info, images or objects made by the Italian PoWs, please let me have a duplicate. They’ll enrich the digital museum that I’ve began. The deal with is [email protected],” urges Aldo.
“In Italy, I ended all my conferences with this line: ‘once they returned to Italy, the prisoners of struggle wished to overlook, however they didn’t need to be forgotten.’ And each time their kinfolk nodded in settlement and applauded,” he says.