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Fentu Tsega

Father's name: Meketa Tsega
Mother's name: Bete Beinsay
Year of birth: 1952
Place of birth: Beldargia, Wegera
Region in Ethiopia: Wegera
Main occupation in Ethiopia: Political activist in the Derg regime
The language of the interview: Amharic

Fentu Tsega, ministry of agriculture, explanatory activity, changes of regime, teacher, teaching, games, racism, matriculation exams, exams, politics, accounting, socialism, Red Terror, allocation of land, mandatory education, execution, fighting, rebels, weapon, distribution corporation, immigration to Israel, Derg, Emperor Haile Selassie, EDU, EHAPA, Weina, Beldargia, Wegera, Shimlaku, Dabat, Gondar, Tsohit, Addis Ababa, Humera, Sudan.

Summary of the testimony:

When she was five, Fentu and her family moved to Shimlaku. She describes the village and its residents. Her father was a teacher in the local school where Fentu studied until fourth grade. Her father saw his children’s education as his top priority. He made sure they received an education and chose not to marry his daughters off to enable them to study and advance in life.

Fentu continued studying in the nearby village of Dabat. After a short while, her family joined her there. The move to Dabat was not simple for the family. Fentu’s father was handicapped and initially, he struggled to find work. Eventually he began to work as a shoemaker and merchant. Her younger brother was not yet old enough to work, so the family could not work the land. Fentu and her siblings helped with the housework, but, as was customary in the village, the family employed a housekeeper who did most of the work, together with her mother. Fentu describes the various games she played as a child.

She studied in Dabat until eighth grade, and then went to study in the school in the city of Gondar, where she completed twelfth grade. She describes the life of poverty she had in the apartment she rented with her sisters. They had to make a fire for cooking from leaves, and studied under streetlights to save electricity. Fentu describes the syllabus and the examinations during her schooling. She only encountered racist comments about her Jewishness when she was at the school in Gondar.

Fentu did not pass the matriculation examinations. She decided to participate in a six -month course offered by the ministry of agriculture. When she finished the course, she was sent to teach in the village of Tsohit on behalf of the organization “Idget Behibarat” (in Amharic – Development and Flourishing Together). For four years, she taught local residents how to use available resources available in a more efficient manner, including how to sew with a needle, wash clothes, make food for children, and better utilize the agricultural areas.

After the Derg party revolted and deposed Emperor Haile Selassie, Fentu was given a political role as a disseminator of the party’s socialist platform. She describes her trips between the villages near the city of Gondar and the lectures she delivered.

Fentu explains the differences between the regimes of Emperor Haile Selassie and the Derg party. She describes the Derg party’s socialist platform. She notes the incongruity of how the party improved the lives of citizens by enacting universal education and allowing everyone to own land, while also carrying out the “Red Terror” and executing many people.

Fentu describes an incident in which a convoy of Jews was caught on their way to Sudan and detained in the city of Humera. The ruler of Gondar sent Fentu as the regime’s representative to persuade the members of the convoy to stay in Ethiopia. To ensure safe passage, she travelled to Humera dressed as a soldier. When she arrived, she felt that, as a Jew, she could not persuade people not to realize their desire to reach Israel. She knew that by failing to fulfill her mission she was signing her own death warrant as a traitor against the regime. However, before she reached a decision about how to act, the Jewish convoy escaped from the internee camp and disappeared into Sudan. On her way back to Gondar, her convoy was attacked by rebels from the EDU group. She was left in the desert with no food or water for three days before being rescued.

After five years in that job, she was transferred to Addis Ababa. In Addis Ababa, she worked for the party, studied, and worked as an accountant in the Ethiopian Distribution Corporation. This corporation was responsible for distribution of all imported and local products to different areas in the country. Fentu talks about her fear of the underground movements that worked to bring down the regime and to kill its representatives. She kept a gun on her at all times, even when sleeping.

When immigration to Israel via Addis Ababa began, Fentu helped the village Jews who gathered in the city, waiting for their turn to immigrate. After she immigrated to Israel, she received a certificate of recognition from the Israeli consulate for her endeavors.

Fentu Tsega

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