My father was freed when I was six and a half years old, and my family began the long, difficult journey of healing--but the past 30 years of love, laughter and learning with Dad might never have happened, if it weren't for Giandomenico Picco. Gianni served as Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs at the United Nations from 1973 to 1992. As described in his book Man Without a Gun, despite knowing that the last person who had tried to negotiate the release of Western hostages in Lebanon, Terry Waite, had been taken hostage himself, Gianni met with my father's kidnappers many times. Over the course of what must have been an excruciatingly difficult process of negotiating between parties that included not just the terrorists but also Iran, Israel and the many fractious political actors in Lebanon's civil war, Gianni managed to earn enough trust from some of the most dangerous people alive to reach the compromise that sent my father home.
A few years ago, just in his late 60s, Gianni was diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia. The process of deterioration was shockingly swift. It seemed like one minute, Gianni was his usual charismatic, suave, articulate self; the next, he was unable to finish sentences. He soon ended up in an assisted living in unfortunate conditions--until Gianni had the great fortune of meeting Teresa Norris, an angel masquerading as a nurse. She started talking to him and realized the incredible man she had found in such sad circumstances wasn't just telling tall tales or delusional--he really had done all the incredible things and met the powerful world leaders he said he had!
Since they met, Gianni has experienced a much better living situation than the one Teresa found him in. She reconnected him with old friends like my father, and he now lives in a place with amenities that make his sunset years much less uncomfortable and unpleasant. But the rent there costs $5,000 a month, which may seem like a lot. In my opinion, though, it's not too much to keep the man who brought my father home out of the abysmal conditions of a state nursing home, at a time when the coronavirus is tearing through them.
Please help us ensure Gianni lives comfortably and with dignity, the way someone of his stature should. We are hoping to raise $60,000, which will pay for another year where is is currently living. It would mean so much to me to help a man who helped me have a dad.
- Magda Ninaber van Eyben
- Ahmad Fawzi
- Bernard Miyet
- Giovanna Picco
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