PHOTO: Kilson Bernardo/MARTA OCCHIPINTI
PHOTO: Kilson Bernardo/MARTA OCCHIPINTI

This is the story of Kilson, a young Angolan who is blocked in Italy due to the coronavirus, following a theatre workshop in Palermo, where he arrived in March. "Now I find myself with an expired tourist visa and continually calling the embassy to know what my future will be if the quarantine continues for a long time," he said.

Kilson Bernardo's first trip to Italy was a terrible misadventure. The 21-year-old from Angola didn't even manage to cross the Ethiopian border, after being robbed of all his money and documents in the country's capital city, Addis Ababa. The failed attempt sent him back home. 

However, Bernardo, a young theatre enthusiast, never gave up. 

And now that he's managed to reach Palermo, Sicily, he can only see from his window the Italy he always wanted to see. He has been staying in lockdown at a home there for over a month due to the coronavirus emergency. 

Kilson is an actor who was born in Luanda, the capital of Angola. He studied for years at art school in his home country. "I grew up dreaming of seeing the works of the Renaissance, the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, and going on the great Italian stages, but I never would have imagined I'd get stuck," he said. 

Kilson Bernardo arrived in Palermo in March to participate in a theatre workshop that was to take place for just a few days before he would return to Angola. But, after rehearsals finished, all flights for Africa were already grounded. 

The journey to Sicily 

"I travelled for a week," Kilson said. "I arrived in Rome from Ethiopia, and then by train to Sicily. But the journey has been prolonged beyond all my expectations. On March 9, I was already supposed to be back in Angola to embrace my father again; instead I find myself with an expired tourist visa and continually calling the embassy to know what my future will be if the quarantine continues for a long time," he said. 

Thanks to the solidarity of an Italian actor colleague named Adriano Di Carlo, a student at the school directed by Emma Dante, Kilson is spending his quarantine in a house near the Palermo courthouse. He has a room where he studies and works out every day. 

"I owe Adriano a lot -- he's hosting me and making this suspended time of mine less sad," Kilson said.

"Unfortunately here in Italy I've gotten a terrible case of arthritis; my hands swelled up due to the cold. I never had anything like it before in Africa," he said. 

His "limbo" is a prison of anxieties, fears, and small daily entertainments. Kilson reads, dances, and studies Dante's Divine Comedy in Portoghese. 

"I realized that we are all migrants; there are other young Italians who, like me, are unable to return home. Far from their loved ones, and keeping alive dreams still to accomplish. I've never left mine for one moment," he said.

A glance at the future 

Kilson wants to stay in Italy. His dream to become one of the best black actors in theatre. "I would like this country to recognize the many efforts I've made to become an actor. I'd also like to help the many Angolans my age back in Africa, many who didn't have the fortune that I've had. Such as being able to say at least once in your life: I made it," he said. 

In fact, Kilson has made it twice: the first time when he managed to arrive in Sicily, and the second time when he met with the unlimited humanity of his travel companion. "Every day, I get up and I thank him for what he does for me every day. In his home, this quarantine has turned into a school of life," he said. 
 

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