September 2019

Rand and Vialet: from Damascus to Italy to learn the art of restoration

“For us, being here is a privilege, a unique opportunity that very few of our peers can have right now, so thank you so much.” Speaking is Rand, 25, visiting Italy with Vialet, a few years younger. They are Syrians and come from what, according to a recent ranking of the Economist, is the most unlivable city in the world: Damascus. Here, in fact, despite the fact that there have been no more fighting in progress for some time, things are not going well at all.

There is hunger in Damascus, and a great deal of poverty; because of the long years of war certainly, but above all because of the economic sanctions imposed from abroad. Given the precarious situation in which the country is still concerned, it is very difficult to enter or exit and participate in initiatives such as the one in which Rand and Vialet participate in Italy this month.

The initiative is part of a project supported by the Association pro Terra Sancta and carried out by some members of the Association of Restorers Without Borders (RSF), which since 2011 have been following some restorations of artistic works inside the Franciscan convent of Bab Touma in Damascus. The restorers have already made two expeditions to Syria with the intention of carrying out restorations with the involvement of some local university students.

Among these were Rand and Vialet, who were invited to take part in some restoration sessions carried out by RSF in Rome and Rapallo this summer. And between one session and another, they had the opportunity to visit the main Italian cities and see the most important artistic works.

“Today I work as a graphic designer for a telephone company in Syria – Rand says – but I have a degree in Cultural Heritage and for me it was really exciting to see the Colosseum, the Tower of Pisa and many other archaeological and artistic testimonies … all things I had seen only on books and I could only imagine! “.

Even for Vialet it was an indescribable experience. She is still studying, she is enrolled in the second year of Archeology. “For me – he says – this is a very precious occasion, which will give me many opportunities in the future. Few students in my course have opportunities to leave the country and see what I saw at the moment, and also from a professional point of view it is a great advantage ”.

Vialet can’t wait to finish his studies and get to work. “In Syria – he says – we have a huge archaeological heritage that was largely destroyed or damaged by the conflict, and it is a pity because for me archeology is the study of the past in an attempt to go back to our origin. Destroying it means losing the way that our origin reminds us. We will have to recover this memory and I can’t wait to get started. My studies, the experience with RSF and all the training work on damaged works and this trip to Italy, are elements that will help me to carry out this work in the best possible way. This is why I am immensely grateful for the opportunity “.

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