On meeting Fiori and hearing her speak about her life, she epitomises authenticity, dignity and grace. It is hard to believe this beautiful and eloquent woman, has experienced every type of trauma imaginable and continues to thrive.
West African dance troupe performing at 'Defy Your Destiny' book launch
Fiori grew up in Eritrea which is in the Horn of Africa and lies between Sudan and Ethiopia, bordered by the Red Sea. Unfortunately, these three countries are known for war, political unrest, refugees and famine, and this is the landscape in which Fiori's life story begins.
From a young age,Fiori managed her parents' grocery business and refused child marriage which is customary for girls in Eritrea. Fiori took great lengths to escape marrying an older man whom she did not know, or love and ran away to a monastery to become a nun. However, the structure and servitude of this lifestyle did not satisfy her, and Fiori returned to school to pursue her education despite, experiencing extreme forms of torture and punishment daily for asking too many questions. Fiori's curious nature was both her strength and her curse.
As the war in Eritrea heightened Fiori was recruited as a child soldier which separated her from her parents, her childhood and her brother Amanuel. However, the book is not focused on her life as a child soldier, but more about how Fiori summoned all her resources and intuition to survive and eventual escape to Sudan, where she found work in Khartoum, and her first love Yonas. Sudan has a very different culture to Eritrea, and at this time Sharia Law caused Fiori to be incarcerated on many occasions for kissing friends on the cheek in the street, which is an Eritrean custom. Fiori also learnt to speak Arabic in Sudan, and eventually raised enough funds to organise an escape through the Libyan desert to Italy. As an Eritrean unmarried woman Fiori was constantly under threat of rape and murder, and as a 'stateless' person this journey would risk her life – however Fiori was focused on freedom.
Fiori Giovanni launching her book 'Defy Your Destiny'
How does a person survive this kind of experience?
What keeps them motivated to keep going, despite all odds?
After reading 'Defy Your Destiny' it is evident, Fiori has incredible resilience and mental stamina. There are few moments in Fiori's story where she rests – she is constantly planning, working, making friends and connections and open to learning about the place where she lives.
Throughout her escape journey, Fiori learns Arabic, Italian, Dutch and English in addition to Tigrinya her native language. It is clear Fiori is not one to 'rest on her laurels' and continues to seek and make opportunities, through sheer grit and determination.
Fiori as a child - photo courtesy of Fiori Giovanni
Despite Fiori's trauma and grief, experiencing displacement and domestic violence, she does not appear to carry bitterness. In fact, throughout reading her book I experienced a deep sense of compassion, kindness and tolerance.
Fiori's story also has amazing 'miracle' moments where she is flown to China, India and Ireland for job and work opportunities, before settling in Australia. Warning: this is not a 'light' read, it is a solid and well-written narrative.
Defy Your Destiny by Fiori Giovanni
Today Fiori is a public speaker, runs her own business as a successful life coach, and is also a partner and a mother. There is so much more to 'Defy Your Destiny' which I cannot disclose. You will simply have to read this book for yourself. Simply head to www.fiorigiovanni.com and grab yourself a copy, in fact, grab two copies – one for yourself and one for a friend.
This book is hard to put down, as it provides a solid reality check and a deeply personal account about confronting fears, taking the reins, and forging your own path, whilst recognising and appreciating the people who helped you get there.