Tilahun Tessema’s full interview video is available for viewing. A primary review, which will include the creation of a bio and highlighted clips with summaries, is forthcoming. Please check back for updates.
00:00:00 [Beginning of Recorded Material]
Interviewer: So November 11th 2019 the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. My name is Jongwoo Han I am the president of Korean War Legacy Foundation. We are here to conduct this interview because we want to preserve your memory first of all. But at the same time we want to honor your service and make this interview into teaching materials so that we can history teachers in Ethiopia can continue to talk about the war that you fought for
…and we are doing this especially commissioned by the ministry of patriots and veterans affair of republic of Korea for the 70th anniversary of the Korean war in 2020 which is next year this is my great pleasure and honor to meet you sir and thank you for coming. Please introduce yourself your name and spell it for the audience please.
Translator: ስለመጡ በጣም እጅግ አድርጌ አመሰግናለሁ። እኔ የመጣሁት የናንተን ታሪክ ፅፌ ለትምህርት
…የናንተን መስዋዕትነት ለኮሪያ ያደረጋችሁትን መስዋዕትነት የናንተ ልጆች እና የዚህ ጊዜ ልጆች አውቀውት
ተምረውት እንዲያድጉ በሚል ነው። ስለዚህ እራስዎን ያስተዋውቁልን ስሞትን ይንገሩኝ እና ቃል በቃል አንድ በአንድ
ይንገሩኝ። (Thank you so much for coming. I came to write your story for education let your children and the children of this age know the sacrifices you have made for Korea. They want to learn and grow. So introduce yourself, tell me your name and spell it one by one tell me.)
Tilahun Tessema: እኔ የሀምሳ አለቃ ጥላሁን ተሰማ። (I am Commander of Fifty Tilahun Tessema.)
Translator: My name is Tilahun Tessema. T I L A H U N middle name
…T E S S E M A.
Interviewer: What about last name? Family name?
Translator: የአያቶት ስም ማን ነው? (What is your grandparent name?)
Tilahun Tessema: ጋሜ። (Gamme.)
Translator: My grandfather name is Gamme. So its spell G A M M E.
Interviewer: And when were you born and where were you born?
Translator: የት እና መቼ ነበር የተወለዱት? (Where and when were you born?)
Tilahun Tessema: እኔ አመተ ምህረት የገጠር አመተ ምህረት አላቀውም። (I don’t know the rural year.)
Translator: የትስ ነበር የተወለዱት?
…የት ነበር የተወለዱት? (Where were you born?)
Tilahun Tessema: አሩሲ። (Arusi.)
Translator: I was born in the Oromo region in the Arusi state. And then I couldn’t remember the year I was born.
Interviewer: So how old are you?
Translator: ስንት አመቶት ነው ማለት ነው አሁን? (How old are you then now?
Tilahun Tessema: ዘጠና ስድስት። (Ninety six.)
Translator: I am Ninety six years old.
Interviewer: Ninety six?
Translator: ዘጠና ስድስት አይደለ? (Ninety six right?)
Tilahun Tessema: አዎ። (Yes.)
Translator: Ninety six.
Interviewer: Close to hundred?
Translator: ያማለት ወደ መቶ እየቀረቡ ነው ማለት ነው ወይ? Yeah (Does that mean you are approaching to hundred?)
Interviewer: 96 years old? I cannot you are lying to me don’t lie?
Translator: በጣም እየዋሹኝ ይመስለኛል በጣም ወጣት ነው የሚመስሉት ሲታዩ እያሎት ነው? (I think you’re lying to me. You look really young?)
Tilahun Tessema: እንግዲህ የእግዛብሔር ጉዳይ ነው። (It is a matter of God.)
Translator: Well that is about God. It’s because of God.
Tilahun Tessema: የኔ አያቴ በ160 አመታቸው ነው የሞቱት። (My grandfather died at the age of 160.)
Translator: My grandfather passed away when they were
… 160 years old.
Interviewer: Wow. So you look still very young?
Tilahun Tessema: ስለዚህ ያንን ተከትዬ ነው መሰለኝ አሁን 96 የገባሁት በለው። (So I think I followed that and that’s why now I am 96.)
Translator: I think it because of that because my grandfather passed at that year that’s because of I am going that much.
Interviewer: Wow. So you are going to live another 60 years?
Translator: ያማለት ገና 60 አመት ድጋሚ ይኖራሉ ማለት ነው? (Does that mean you are going to live 60 more years?)
Interviewer: Good. So tell me about what
…school did you go?
Translator: በዛ ጊዜ ምን ትምህርት ቤት ነበር የተማሩት? (What school did you go to at that time?)
Tilahun Tessema: የቄስ ትምህርት ቤት ነው። ዳቆን ነበርኩ የቄስ ትምህርት ነው። (It is a priest’s school. I was Deacon.)
Translator: It was a religious school at that time. I was a priest school there.
Interviewer: And did you learn anything about Korea at the time?
Translator: በዛ ሰዓት ስለ ኮሪያ ተምረው ነበረ? ስለ ኮሪያ ያውቁ ነበር በዛ ስዓት? (Did you learn about Korea at that time? Did you know about Korea at that time?)
Tilahun Tessema: ትምህርት? (Education?)
Translator: አዎ። (Yes.)
Tilahun Tessema: ወደ ኮሪያ በምዘምትበት ጊዜ ስሜን
…አልፅፍም። እረስቼዋለሁ። (I do not write my name when I went to Korea.I forgot it.)
Translator: When I was going to the military to Korea I couldn’t even write my own name at that time I forgot everything.
Interviewer: And so that you didn’t know anything about Korea and have you been back to Korea since after the war?
Translator: ያማለት ስለ ኮሪያ አያቁም ነበር ሲሄዱ እና። ከጦርነቱ በኋላ ወደ ኮሪያ ሄደው ነበር? (So that means you didn’t know about Korea, have you been back to Korea after the War?)
Tilahun Tessema: ከጦርነቱ በኋላ? (After the war?)
Translator: ከጦርነቱ በኋላ? (After the war?)
Tilahun Tessema: አዎ ሄጃለሁ በሁለት ሺህ ሦስት አመተ ምህረት ጉበኝት ሄጃለሁ። (Yes, I went on a two-thousand-three-year for visiting.)
Translator: I was there in the Korea when 2010G.C.
Tilahun Tessema: አሁንም፣ አሁንም መስከረም 17 ቀን እስከ 22 በኛ ድረስ ኮሪያ ጉበኝት ሄጃለሁ ልጄ ይዞኝ ሄዶ።(Again, I went on a tour of Korea from September 17 to 22 with my son.)
Translator: ከአንድ ወር በፊት ማለት ነው? (A month ago?)
Tilahun Tessema: አዎ። (Yes.)
Translator: I was in Korea my son took me before one month. I was there in Korea.
Interviewer: So when you went back to Korea again in 2010 how was it? How Korea changed?
Translator: ያኔ በ2003 የሄዱ ጊዜ… በ2003 የሄዱ ጊዜ ኮሪያ እንዴት ነበረች እንዴት ነበር የተቀየረችው? (When you left in 2003 … When you left in 2003, how was Korea and how did it change?)
Tilahun Tessema: ኮሪያ በጦርነቱ ጊዜ
…የጥርስ መፋቂያ እንጨት የለበትም በሀገሩ ላይ። ነገር ግን ጉብኝት በሄድንበት ጊዜ ሀገሩ ለምቶ ተራራው በሙሉበዛፍ ተሸፍኖ እጅግ በጣም የሚያስደስት ነበረ። (Korea did not even have a toothbrush wood during the war. But when we visited, the country was fertile and the whole mountain was covered with trees.)
Translator: Korea at that time when we arrive there was no stick to brush our teeth at that time. But when I go everything was changed so many skyscrapers at that time
…there were so many trees beautiful trees at that time I was excited when I see that.
Interviewer: So it was in 2010? And 2003 in Ethiopian calendar? Yes and so what did you think about that change when you, when you went back there again 2010 what did you think about it? When you left Korea after the war did you ever think that Korea would become like this?
Translator: የኮሪያ እንደዚ መለወጥ እና
…ያኔ በ2003 ተመልሰው የሄዱ ጊዜ ያዩዋት ለውጥ እና ልክ እናንተ ጥላቹ ስትመጡ ጨርሳችሁ ጦርነቱን ስትመጡኮሪያ እንደዚ ትለወጣለች ብለው አስበው ያውቃሉ በጭንቅላቶት? (Have you ever wondered if Korea is going to change like this and when you came back in 2003e.c, and when you came back after the war, did you think Korea would change like that?)
Tilahun Tessema: በጦርነቱ ጊዜ? (During the war?)
Translator: ጦርነቱን ጨርሳቹ እዚህ ስትመጡ ኮሪያ እንደዚ ታድጋለች ብላቹ አስባቹ ታውቃላቹ? (When you came here after the war, did you ever think that Korea would grow like that?)
Tilahun Tessema: እንግዲህ ምኑን እናቃለን እግዚያብሔር ነው የሚያውቀው እኛ ይሄንን በጦርነቱ ይቆዩ
…ጦርነቱ በርዶ እንዲህ ያለ ልማት ወስጥ ይሁኑ የሚያውቀው እግዚያብሔር ነው እንጂ ይሄንን አላቅም። (What can we know? God only knows this. We can’t know that they can pass this war and be changed only God knows this so I don’t know about this.)
Translator: We couldn’t even imagine but also we couldn’t even know because God knows about everything that’s why.
Interviewer: And you are wearing a beautiful uniform could you explain? What is this shoulder from here? And what are the medals? And show the Hat beautiful.
Translator: የለበሱት ዩኒፎርም በጣም ያምራል እና ያረጉት አርንጓዴ ቢጫ ቀይ ምን እንደሆነያስተዋውቁን? ያረጉት ሜዳሊያዎች ምን እንደሆኑ ያስተዋውቁን? ኮፊያዎትም በጣም ነው የሚያምረው እና እንደዚአውልቀው እንደዚ ያሳዩኛል ወይ እያለ ነው? (The uniform you are wearing is so beautiful and let us know what you are wearing green-yellow-red? Let us know what your medals are? And your hat so beautiful that can take it off and show it to me?)
Tilahun Tessema: ይሄንን? (This?)
Translator: እሱን ምን እንደሆነ ይንገሩን? አይፍቱት እሱን አይፍቱት። (Tell us what it is? Don’t untie it.)
Tilahun Tessema: ይውጣ? (Exit?)
Translator: አይውጣ፣ አይውጣ። እንደዛው ሆኖ ይንገሩት። (Don’t take it out, don’t take it out. Tell him so.)
Tilahun Tessema: ይሄ የኢትዮጲያ ባንዲራ ነው። (This is the flag of Ethiopia.)
Translator: This is the flag of Ethiopia።
Interviewer: And then is that official uniform part of the uniform?
Translator: ከውትድርናው በሚሄዱበት ጊዜ የሚያርጉት የባንዲራው ቀለም ነበር አይደል ይሄ? ይሄ ነበረየባንዲራው ቀለም ነበር ይሄ? (That was the color of the flag when you left the military, right? Was this the color of the flag?)
Tilahun Tessema: ባንዲራ? (Flag?)
Translator: ያኔ የሚያርጉት እንደዚው ነበረ?
Tilahun Tessema: መቼ? (When?)
Translator: በውትድርናው ላይ አርንጓዴ ቢጫ ቅይ እንደዚ ነበረ? (Was that green-yellow-red on the military?)
Tilahun Tessema: በውትድርና ውስጥ? አሁን ከኮሪያ ወደዚ እንጂ ውትድርና ውስጥ ምንም ነገር የለም። (In the military? Now there is nothing in the military but from Korea.)
Translator: There was no flag at that time in the military.
Tilahun Tessema: ከኮሪያ ጦርነት ወደዚህ ነው ሜዳሊያም ይሄ ሁሉ ክብር ተሸክመን
…የምንሄደው ከጦርነቱ ወደዚህ ነው። (All this medals are after the Korean War. all this honor you see carrying is after the Korean War.)
Translator: We use this flag when we came back from the war.
Translator: በጣም ያምራል። (very beautiful.)
Interviewer: So tell me when you arrived in Korea and where did you arrive and what did you do there?
Translator: መቼ ነበር ኮሪያ የደረሱት በዛ ጊዜ እና የትስ ሀገር ነበር ኮሪያ የደረሱት በዛ ሰዓት? (When did you arrive in Korea at that time and what country did you arrive in Korea at that time?)
Tilahun Tessema: መቼ? (When?)
Translator: ኮሪያ ልክ የጦርነቱ ጊዜ ሲሄዱ
…ማለት ነው? (When you went to Korean for the war?)
Tilahun Tessema: በጦርነቱ ጊዜ? (During the war?)
Translator: አዎ። ምን ሀገር ነበር ያረፉት? መቼስ ነበር ያስታውሳሉ? (Yes. What country did you arrive in? When, did you remember?)
Tilahun Tessema: በመጀመሪያ ከመርከብ ስንወርድ ቡሳን ከተማ ነው ያረፍነው። (When we first got off the ship, we landed in the city of Busan.)
Translator: It was the first time was in Busan city.
Interviewer: Where you there in first dispatchment or when did you go?
Translator: ስንተኛው ቃኘው ኖት አባባ? (Which battalion are you?)
Tilahun Tessema: ሁለተኛ። (Second.)
Translator: I was the second battalion.
Interviewer: Second battalion? And what was your specialty?
Translator: በዛ ሰዓት የርሶ
…ችሎታ ምንድን ነበረ? ተኳሽ ነበሩ ጠመንጃ ተኳሽ ነበሩ? መትረየስ ነበሩ ምንድን ነበሩ በዛ ሰዓት? (What was your ability at that time? Were you a shooter? Were you a shooter of machine gun? What were your speciality then?)
Tilahun Tessema: ተራ ወታደር ነበርኩ ያን ጊዜ። (I was an ordinary soldier at the time.)
Translator: ተኳሽ ነበሩ ጥይት ተኳሽ ጠመንጃ ተኳሽ ማለት ነው? (You were just infantry?)
Tilahun Tessema: ከዛም በኋላ ነው ማዕረግ ያገኘሁት። (After that i get title.)
Translator: I was a soldier at that time.
Interviewer: Okay. And so tell me about the battle story did you remember anything that you were in danger? And you know something.
Translator: በጦርነቱ የሚያስታውሱት ነገር ካለ ይንገሩን? የተጎዱበት ነገር ካለ ይንገሩን? (Tell us if you have any memories of the war? Tell us if you have been injured?)
Tilahun Tessema: እኔ ምንም የተጎዳሁበት ነገር የለም። (I was not harmed.)
Translator: There was no…
Tilahun Tessema: ለምሳሌ እኛ ከአስራ ዘጠኝ መቶ ሀምሳ ሦስት አመት ምህረት ወደዚህ ሰራዊቱ ከተበተነ ወዲህበርግጥ ችግር ላይ ነበርን። እኛ ችግር ላይ ነበርን። (For example, we have been in trouble from the year of Nineteen fifty three after the army dispersed.)
Translator: በዛ ሰዓት? (At that time?)
Tilahun Tessema: አዎ በዛን ስዓት ደሞዝ የለንማ ተበትነናል ሰራዊቱ በትኖናል። (Yes, at that time we were not paid and the army dispersed.)
Translator: ኢትዮጲያ ከመጡ በኋላ? (After coming to Ethiopia?)
Tilahun Tessema: ደሞዝ የለንም ነበር እንገላታ ነበር። (We didn’t have a salary, we were abused.)
Translator: እኮ ኢትዮጲያ ከመጡ በኋላ ነው ወይስ እዛ ነው? እዛ ነው ኢትዮጲያ ከመጡ በኋላ ነው? (After you came to Ethiopia or there? Is it there or after you came to Ethiopia?)
Tilahun Tessema: እዚህ ከመጣን በኋላ ነው እንጂ። እዛማ ድሎት አለው እዛ ምን ችግር አለ። በጦር ሜዳው ችግርየለም። ነገር ግን ከሀምሳ ሦስት አመት ምህረት ጀምሮ እንበል የኮሪያ መንግስት
…ሰባት መቶ ብር በሁለት ወር እንድታገኙ ተፈቅዶላቹሃል ብሎ ሲነገረን ብቻ አዕምሮዋችን ታደሰ እንጂ ከዛ በፊትአዕመሮዋችን የተበጠበጠ ነበር። የኑሮ ችግር ነበረብን። (Only after we came here. What’s wrong before that? There is no problem on the battlefield. But let’s just say that since the age of nineteen fifty-three, when the Korean government told us that you were allowed to earn seven hundred birr in two months, our minds were refreshed. We had problems living before getting paid.)
Translator: It was very difficult after the war when we come back to Ethiopia. Because there was no income that we have at that time but the Korea started to help us and after that it was very good but
…at the battle and then at the war there was no problem that I remember.
Interviewer: Any most difficult thing during his stay in Korea what made him really difficult like, weather cold weather, snow or anything?
Translator: በዛ ስዓት በጣም አስቸጋሪ የነበረቦት ነገር ምንድን ነበር? አየሩ ነው ምግቡ ነው? ምንድን ነበርበጣም ያስቸግሮት የነበረው በጦርነቱ ላይ?
Tilahun Tessema: በጦርነቱ? በጦርነቱ አንደኛ
…አስቸጋሪ በረዶ። (In the war? In the war the number one difficult thing was the snow.)
Translator: The number one difficult thing at that time was the snow at that time.
Tilahun Tessema: ችግር ያለው በረዶ ነው እንጂ ምንም ችግር የለም። (The snow is the problem there were no problem rather than that.)
Translator: The weather was very, very difficult but the other thing was very good.
Interviewer: So is there any other special battle story that he wants to tell?
Translator: ለየት ያለ ልዩ የሆነ የጦርነት ታሪክ የሚነገሩን አለ ወይም መንገር የሚፈልጉት አለ? (Do you have a unique war story or is there anything you want to say?
Tilahun Tessema: ለማን? (To whom?)
Translator: ለኛ። (For us.)
Tilahun Tessema: በጦርነቱ ጊዜ? (During the war?)
Translator: በጦርነቱ ልዩ የሆነ ታሪክ የሚነግሩን ነገር አለ? (During the war is there anything special story you want to tell?)
Tilahun Tessema: እኔ ይሄን ያህል እንግዲ እኔ መሳሪያ 57 ነው ብዙ ጊዜ መስመር አልገባም። ስለዚህ ያን ከባዱንነገር ውስጥ ይሄ ነው የምለው ነገር የለኝም። (So much so that… I am a device 57 I often do not line up. So I have nothing to say about that.)
Translator: My riffle was 57 so I used to not go deeply with the soldiers so
…I couldn’t remember and then there was no difficulty at my battle.
Interviewer: So when you come back there was communist seize the power in Ethiopia and how do they treat you?
Translator: ሲመጡ ደርግ ነበረ ገዢ የነበረው እና እንዴት ነበረ? ደርግ እናንተን ያረጋቹ የነበረው እንዴትነበር እስኪ ይንገሩን? (When you came, the Derg was the ruler and how was it? How did the Derg make you? Tell us?)
Tilahun Tessema: ደርግ? እኔ ናትናኤል
…እኔ ደርግ ይሄ ነው አደርገኝ የምለውም ነገር የማውቀው ነገር የለም ምክኒያቱም ለጊዜው እኔ የሆን ፊልድ ስራተቀጥሬ ክፍለ ሀገር ነው ያለሁት በአዲስ አበባ ውስጥ የደረሰውን የተፈጸመው ነገር ይሄን ያህል ብዬ ማስረዳትአልችልም። (Derg? I, Nathaniel, I cannot say what the Derg has done to me, because I was a field worker in the state for the time being and I cannot explain what has happened in Addis Ababa.)
Translator: When I come back to Ethiopia at that time I couldn’t remember anything that Derg have been doing or doing on me because I was outside Addis Ababa so for working
…so there was noting that Derg do to me.
Interviewer: Did you write the letter back to your grandfather who was, who might be more like hundred years old?
Translator: ደብዳቤ ይፅፉ ነበር ወይ በዛ ሰዓት ለአያቶት? ደብዳቤ ይፅፉ ነበር ወይ?
Tilahun Tessema: ሀገሬ ሄጄምም አላቅም። ብፅፍም የሚያደርስላቸው ስለሌለ አንድ ብቻዬን ነኝ እኔ ስለዚህደብዳቤ ቀርቶ
…ስማቸው የኔንም ስም የነሱንም እነሱ የኔን ስም እኔ የነሱን ስም አልሰማም አንተዋወቅም ነበር። እንዲሁእንደተለያየን ነው የቀረነው። (I have never been to my city. Even if I wrote a letter to them no one deliver the letter, and I do not know them. We are just separated.)
Translator: I never wrote any letter for my grandfather because they even forgot me and I also forgot them, they couldn’t even remember my name we never wrote or we never communicate in other anyway.
Interviewer: So now what is the relationship between
…Korea and Ethiopia? And how do you like I mean what is Korea to you now?
Translator: አሁን የኢትዮጲያ እና የኮሪያ ግንኙነት ምንድነው ብለው ያስባሉ? እና ኮሪያ ለናንተ ምንድን ናት? (What do you think is the current relationship between Ethiopia and Korea? And what does Korea mean to you?)
Tilahun Tessema: ኮሪያ ለኛ ከተበተንበት ሰብስቦ፣ ከተረሳንበት አስታውሶ፣ ከጠፋንበት ፈልጎ፣ ከወደቅንበትአንስቶ፣ ከመከራ ጉድጓድ አውጥቶ ዛሬ በአመት ሰርተን
…የማናገኘውን በወር እያገኘን በሰላም እንኖራለን። (Korea has gathered us from where we were scattered, from where we have forgotten, from where we have lost, from where we have fallen, from the pit of suffering, Today we live in peace, earning a month that we do not earn every year.)
Translator: Korea for us, Korea gathered us from the poorness from the helpless situation so Korea for us is it’s a blood for us they help us really, really greatly they gave us money they help us in every way.
Interviewer: So next year will be 70th anniversary of the Korean War. Do you want to say anything to Korean people?
Translator: በሚቀጥለው አመት 70ኛው የኮሪያ ክብረ በዓል ነው። እና ለኮሪያ ህዝብ ማለት የሚፈልጉት ነገርአለ?
Tilahun Tessema: ምን ልበል እኔ ምንም የማውቀው ነገር የለም። (I don’t know what to say.)
Translator: There is nothing I want to say.
Interviewer: Okay alright. So then again thank you very much for your fight because of your sacrifice Korea was able to reconstruct their own country and become 11th largest economy in the world and we never forget and we will
…continue to work together thank you.
Translator: አሁንም በድጋሚ በጣም እጅግ አድርጌ ላመስግኖት እፈልጋለሁ። እናንተ በተፋለማችሁላት እናደማችሁን በሰጣችኋት ምክኒያት አሁን ኮሪያ ከአለም 11ኛዋ ሀብታም ሆናለች ስለዚህ እጅግ አደርጌ ላመስግኖትእፈልጋለሁ። አሁንም አብረን ቀጥለን እንሰራለን እያለ ነው። (Once again I want to thank you very much. Korea is now the 11th richest country in the world because you fought for it and gave your blood, so I want to thank you very much. And still we will continue to work together.)
Tilahun Tessema፡ እኔም አምሰግናለሁ። የደቡብ ኮሪያ ህዝብ እና የኢትዮጲያ ለዘላለም ፀንቶ
…በደስታ በሰላም ያለሰቀቀን እንዲኖር እግዚያብሔር ይርዳን። (Thank you too. May God help the people of South Korea and Ethiopia to live forever in peace and happiness.)
Translator: I also very thankful for Korea government and I wish for the relationship with the South Korea and Ethiopia will stay stronger and then stay for longer time.
Interviewer: Sir you are 96 year old and you look like a 60 year old. So I wish you longevity and break your grandfather’s record.
Translator: በጣም፣ በጣም በሚገርም ሁኔታ የሚመስሉት የ60 አመት ወጣት ነው የሚመስሉት ስለዚህየምመኝሎት የአያቶትን እድሜ እንዲበልጡ እመኝሎታለሁ እያለ ነው። (You look really, really like 60 year old I wish you to live longer your grandfather.)
Tilahun Tessema: እሺ እግዚያብሔር ይስጥልኝ። እሺ እኔ ትንሽ የጆሮ ችግር። (Okay God bless you. Okay, I have a little ear problem that’s why.)
Interviewer: Thank you sir.
Translator: በጣም አመሰግናለሁ እያለ ነው። (He is saying thank you very much.)
Tilahun Tessema: እሺ። (Okay.)
[End of Recorded Material]