Skip to main content

Lea Aitchek

Father's name: Trunach Yaacov
Mother's name: Ethiopia Kasahon
Year of birth: 1951
Place of birth: Sekleit, Gondar
Region in Ethiopia: Shewa
Main occupation in Ethiopia: Nurse and midwife
The language of the interview: Amharic

Lea Aitchek, house, amadim, waganakoli, dodgeball, enkashekash, games,  housework, pupil, school, Hebrew, boarding school, Yonah Bugala, fire, clinic, rent, midwife, laboratory tests, nursing school, nursing, nurse, Dr. Sefefe, Haile Selassie, Derg, communist, EHAPA, Sedad, order and security, social worker, financial department, white terror, Red Terror, Ben Gurion University, Sekleit,  Ambover, Sarmella, Gondar, Asmara, Wasaba, Teda, Wegera, Addis Ababa, Gojjam, Wollo, Desa, Tenete, Mekdala, Desa, Heyk, Dangale, Gamu Gofa, Erba Mentsi, Asala.

Summary of the testimony:

Lea describes her family tree. She explains the different names she was given and their meanings. She describes life in the village of Ambover, what her house looked like, what crops they grew, the housework she did, and the games she played.

Lea began to study in a school established at that time in Ambover by Jewish teachers from Asmara. She describes the school building and the teaching methods. She was selected as one of the students sent to study in the large school in Asmara, with the goal to eventually continue her studies in Israel.

At the age of nine, she left her family and moved to the boarding school in Asmara. She talks about parting from her family and the journey to the boarding school via Mr. Yonah Bugala’s house in Gondar. When she arrived at the boarding school, she was astonished by how neat and clean it was. She describes experiences from her school years, the teaching methods, and the syllabus.

The planned trip to Israel was cancelled, and Lea returned to her parents’ house in Ambover. From there, she moved to a boarding school in the village of Wasaba, where she studied for another year until the school was destroyed by fire. Lea and her schoolmates persuaded their parents to register them at a school in the city of Gondar. At the age of 12, she studied Gondar and lived in a rented room.

When she was 15, some Israeli doctors opened a clinic in Gondar. Lea began to work there after school as an interpreter. In the clinic, she learned how to do laboratory tests and to help deliver babies. Lea’s mother and grandmother were also midwives, so she felt an affinity to the profession. The Israeli doctors helped Lea get accepted to the nursing school in the “Chilchila” college and helped pay for her studies. When she completed her studies, she worked as a nurse for the Ministry of Health in Gondar, Teda and Wegera.

After several years, during a vacation in Addis Ababa, her Israeli friends introduced Lea to a young Ethiopian doctor named Dr. Sefefe. They married a short time later. As a doctor and nurse, the couple was sent by the Ministry of Health to work in Gojjam. Lea gave birth to her oldest son in the city of Gondar. She went back to working in the Israelis’ clinic and was sent to provide services in Ambover as well. Around the time her second son was born, the clinic in Gondar closed. Lea continued to work in a governmental position in Chilchila College.

A short while later, the government recruited her family and sent them to work in the province of Wollo. A terrible drought was causing epidemics and a serious famine there, and many medical teams from across Ethiopia and around the world came to offer assistance. The family traveled around the province before settling in a village named Tenete, where Lea worked in the nurses’ team under her husband Dr. Sefefe. She mainly worked as a midwife. Women came from throughout the region to give birth in the clinic. Lea describes the childbirths she assisted.

While she was working in the clinic, heavy battles were underway between the Derg party and the army of Emperor Haile Selassie. The Derg party seized power and installed a communist regime in the country. Lea and her family were forced to flee and hide in a mountainous area outside the village of Mekala. They then moved to the village of Desa. Lea and her husband began to work in a clinic in the nearby village of Heyk, where the couple treated a range of medical cases and performed circumcisions for the local residents. According to Christian tradition, circumcisions were done before marriage. The couple’s children lived with Lea’s parents in Ambover, to protect them from the fighting that raged in the area.

Lea and her husband were re-stationed in a village named Dangale in the province of Gojjam. Dr. Sefefe was then sent to southern Ethiopia and Lea remained alone. Most of her work in the clinic was connected to injuries sustained in political feuds. The Derg regime launched operations to crack down on seven rebel organizations. Life in the country became chaotic and violent. Many people informed on each other. Lea and the clinic staff were also sent to treat prisoners in jail.

After two years, at her request, Lea was transferred to her husband’s clinic in southern Ethiopia, in the village of Gamu Gofa in the province of Erba Mentsi. She was elected in absentia to be the regime’s field representative for order and security. People feared her and worried that she could have them imprisoned. In the next round of appointments, she was transferred to the legal department, and then to the role of social worker. During the time she lived in Gamu Gofa she gave birth to two daughters.

Her husband was re-stationed in a village named Asala, so the family moved once again. Lea worked as a midwife in the local hospital. The “Red Terror” of the Derg regime reached their area. Kidnappings, imprisonment, and violence became routine. Lea was appointed as chairman of the hospital’s financial department.

After living for a while in Asala, Lea’s relatives in Israel helped her receive a scholarship to study computer science at Ben Gurion University. This enabled Lea to immigrate to Israel with her children, but without her husband.

Lea Aitchek

Close Menu