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I choose to believe my inner truth,
instead of the illusive realities displayed by others…


Why do I return?
Half of my life was spent in a refugee camp. I was fed by people every day; my very life depended on the good will of others – I was raised on donations. The Red Cross was my God!
As a child I remember lining up in long queue, under a harsh sun, for a plate of food. I was given a mark on my forehead or had my ears painted so it could be seen that I had received a plate of food and was not to eat again. For God’s sake I was a child! I didn’t know what cheating was. In a way these people and the depth of poverty taught me how to remove the mark, how to erase the paint. I learned to cheat for another plate.

Five kilograms of wheat, one litre of oil for a family of four – what is that? For a whole week? What nutrition did that contain for my infant brother? What kind of economics should my mom have done to sustain us all with that? You do the maths; it doesn’t last for three days! We were in a vicious cycle of donation, hunger, fear and mistrust. The world didn’t know what to do with us.

We were a hot item on the news for a month. Then we were forgotten. It was as if we were no longer there and as an end result a few months of empathy from the world crippled us. The depth of the hopelessness turned us from immigrants in to a collective of beggars; hopeless, criminal, aggressive, disappointed. Of all the ceremonies of life, the only one left for us to cherish was the burial ceremony! We attended so many of those ceremonies; they were good opportunities for us all to weep for the inner pain. Death was just a relief; it was an escape to the unknown from a well-known pain. This was a huge drop from the lives we had previously lived. My mom used to tell me how rich we were. We had everything – we even had a dad! We lost everything at once. From peace to war, from having a home we become homeless, from being citizens we become immigrants. And boom! We were stuck.
To be a refugee is to be stuck at a point between your original identity and the new one to come. I was stuck there for 14 dreadful years. I grew up there. Between Ethiopia and Eretria, we were a remnant of a war, a display of its horror. We were just neglected, left standing at a point of not knowing where we belonged; abandoned. It’s like trying to solve a problem which has been caused by the whole world alone. This war made one country into two, one peoples into two; one nation into two. Looking back to it now, it was a whole process of making a division. Like I said, seeking refuge is a point at which you leave your origins and jump into something new. You might land somewhere frirm and you might float. We floated!

I took me just over 10 years to heal the wound. I only remember pain. I am free now, I am healed. It’s just memory; it’s not a pain anymore. My mom pays most of the price, carries most of the burden. I am standing on her shoulder as I describe this.

So why do I return? Specially now, when 5 of my life time best friends left me in a middle of nowhere, August 20, in Madrid, seeking for asylum. It just never crossed my mind, one of them holds a Master’s degree, others are professional architects, marketing managers. The question that comes most strongly to me is, why would best friends do that unless there is indeed a better life? I remember a moment where I had the question, ‘what about me?’ A short moment where the power of the majority, the weakness of loneliness and the financial reality at home took over. For once in my life I asked myself “what if they are right in their pursuit of a better life?” I was so close to believing in the illusion, to falling for the collective stupidity.

Then I woke up to realize that they were going to a refugee camp. To the place which I won’t dare to go again because I was there, and I hate it and it’s ugly. Now if you can simply imagine that war-driven immigration is as ugly as I have told – and my description doesn’t come close to the depth of the reality of it. Now take a step back and think of those young, beautiful people who were deceived by the false information delivered by the media, fleeing in search of something better, risking their precious lives. What is better by itself? If it costs your life, if it costs your peace, dignity, if it costs you every positive virtue you have? Life is far more that financial success! Some of you might think that there is very little in common between refugees in Africa and in Europe. I believe they might be different on many levels, but their essence is the same; the loss of self.

The world is a free place if you have a free mind. I don’t need to be an immigrant in my native world. I understand my birthright and the way to achieve it. In the past three years I have seen more than 12 countries in different parts of the world on very little money; I just freed my mind, became a global self, and am its citizen. That is why I return. Places don’t change me, I change me!

A tribal proverb tells that “a local lizard won’t become a crocodile abroad.”.

I choose to believe my inner truth, instead of the illusive realities displayed by others. That is why I return. My life makes my success. It is not my success which makes my life, I am clear on that.

A wise man once said “you are not rich unless you have something money can’t buy”.

The Bible tells it in a different way,
“... the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, selflessness, gentleness, goodness, faith, humbleness, self-control”. ( From the book of Galatians 5:22 )

I have a few of those fruits of the spirit and with this I am really rich because they are freely given, and with those I don’t have to return I am always home.

Filimon Tesfasilassie.

Addis Ababa Ethiopia


  1. I have read this article 3 times now. I am moved each time – by the raw facts of your experience and the strength of your logic, your commitment and your faith. Thank you.

  2. Thankyou Phili for such inspiration. I have similar experience ” life is like a box of checolete” you never know what is in it unless you open it. Imagine what you would miss. Am really proud on you Phili keep up we need more such courageous pple for our church& for our world. Bless you

  3. Thank you Filimon!
    Your words are very moving. Thank you for not giving up! Also after such a situation where your best friends leaving you and theire home. Thank you for sharing your life with us in such an intimate way. For me you are standing on the side of Life itself. I hope that this is what nourishes you, also in the challenges that this time brings. I want that you know, that I and your friends in Tamera, stand at your side. We are here whenever you need our helping hand!!!
    With Love Mara

  4. As you quote, “you are not rich unless you have something money can’t buy”. You are a rich man who has taught all of us an important truth today. You are staying focused on the wealth you have that money cannot buy – something we all need to do. The planet, it seems, will more and more become a place of refugees on the move, seeking some sort of wealth, perhaps the wealth of safety and survival, perhaps the wealth of adventurous discovery (e.g. discovering our global family), perhaps other forms of real wealth – but sometimes illusions from a world of disinformation. Thank you for the reminder for us all to pause and reflect on what is the greatest wealth in our lives. It will vary – because we all vary – and that is OK. Bob

  5. Thank you Filimon, for your courage, your inner strength and truth speaking! You are a Lightpillar. Stand and Shine, where you are. It’s so needed there- as everywhere. We are all connected and Internet helps to give each other strength to hold on and keep radiating this inner richness, and shine- not matter what.. Much Love to you, and to Addis Ababa, the city of the Flower that I love so much<3

  6. Wow! What a story…i wish people would all wake up from their nonsignificant persiut of money and look around, open their eyes and really the what’s happening! Thank you for sharing you story and thoughts! Love eddie

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