Fessehtsion Beyene was born in Keren, Eritrea in 1890.
He spoke Tigre, Tigrigna, Arabic, Italian and Amharic.
He moved to Asmara after working as a cook in Keren.
In Asmara he became a driver for an Italian official in the early 1920’s. It is believed that there were only 4 or 5 Eritreans who had driving licenses at that time.
In 1921, Fessehatsion went to Italy as a driver for the Montenero family.
He went back to Eritrea on December 1923 (it is not clear if this was by choice or a necessity imposed on him).
His son, Claudio, the product of a relationship with an Italian woman, was born in March 1924. One could imagine the scandal that ensued from public knowledge about this union.
Fesshatsion went back to Italy in 1927 as a translator for Yemeni army pilot-trainees. This aviation connection was unclear to me until my good friend, Dr. Massimo Zaccaria , explained to me that it was the new policy of Jacopo Gasparini, the Italian governor of Eritrea of the time, who masterminded a regional policy based on good relations with Yemen, hence, the presence of the army-pilot trainees in Italy.
In 1928, Fessehatsion obtained his pilot’s license.
n 1929 he was sent to Somalia (though not as a pilot, but rather as a foot soldier) and remained there until 1936. By this time his son Claudio was 12 and, by virtue of his mother, an Italian citizen. Fessehatsion in the meantime had also married a Somalian lady in Somalia and had two sons with her.
In 1937, he managed to have his son Claudio with him in Somalia, though he could not acknowledge him as his son (a colonial 'subject' could not acknowledge an Italian citizen).
Fessehatsion was able to obtain residency for his son, but at the same time Fessehatsion was forbidden to go back to Italy forever.
This seemed to be due to the embarrassment the Fascist government had in dealing with the fact of a black man having a son with an Italian lady. In fact, the military records of Fessehatsion do not mention any misdeed and, on the contrary, kept stressing his unusual skills, cleverness, etc.
At a certain point, official records became silent on the fate of the two. But it seems that the colonial administration found it unacceptable for an Italian citizen (Claudio Ricucci) to live together, in a father-son relation, with an African man.
This would explain why Claudio ended up in a boarding school, whose costs were paid for by Fessehastion.
He was kicked out of Somalia and settled in southern Ethiopia where he died in the early 1960's.