June 2016 / August 2019
The ex MOI was an housing occupation of Turin born on March 30, 2013 inside the buildings of the Olympic Village built for the 2006 Winter Games and then abandoned and left unused. Considered the biggest occupation of migrants and asylum seekers in Europe, it has hosted more than 1400 refugees from 28 different countries in Africa. Many of them, who arrived in Italy because of the war that broke out in Libya in 2011, following the end of Piano Emergenza Nord Africa found themselves on the street without future prospects and the impossibility of leaving the country.
During the six years of occupation, this community has equipped itself to live with dignity by opening various activities inside the buildings. Small emporiums selling basic necessities, restaurants, a bike repair shop, a tailor’s shop, two barbers. Within the spaces, a group of volunteers: “Comitato Solidarietà Rifugiati e Migranti”, has also opened a series of counters to support the inhabitants. A legal counter, a warehouse for collecting and distributing clothes, a school and a health counter operating twice a week and managed by Doctors Without Borders.
Ex MOI was a city within a city. A place animated by a form of self subsistence and mutual help, where the inhabitants have lived a life in a purgatory searching for a job and a bureaucratic regularization for some of them never arrived.
I spent just over three years in this place that has become my home. I went from being a photographer to being a volunteer and then again a witness of this huge, complex, wonderful community. Many times I’ve just waited patiently for a picture or just a word. I’ve listened to the silence many times. Many times I’ve filled my eyes with long tales of life. Sometimes tragically and disorderly, sometimes tales that spoke of redemption, of desires and that ended with a happy ending. In every word I heard I found an infinite greatness and boundless prayer. A determination that has often been difficult for me to understand. The ability to resist in an exhausting wait. For the first time in my life, in this colorful city that many people have preferred to forget, I met in person the meaning of the word: resilience.
At dawn on July 30, 2019, hundreds of people arrived in that courtyard to direct the last operations of the evacuation plan. Some of us, volunteers, spent the whole night with the inhabitants. I closed my eyes for a moment in that courtyard full of doubts and voices. Of all the words, those of a friend have hit my heart harder: “I’m on that boat. I’ve never been down. I’m still on that boat.”