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Was Qadhafi the son of a French pilot?

THIS may sound a bit fanciful but also an amusing story to the others, but if you happen to be in Corsica you’ll be surprised to discover everyone here has a firm conviction that the late Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Qadhafi was the son of a French pilot named Albert Preziosi who was born on this island.

The reason for the fable’s becoming the centre of discussion once again is the publication recently of the book La Chute d’Icare (The Fall of Icarus) by a well-known French writer Jean-François Roseau.

By the way, according to Greek mythology Daedalus, a master craftsman who worked for the divinities, had invented for his son Icarus a pair of artificial wings to escape the anger of the gods. The wax under his feathers melting in the heat of the sun, Icarus would finally fall into the labyrinth.

Now to come back to our own modern mythology that is the subject of the day, Preziosi who was born in 1915 in the Corsican city of Vezzani in a middle-class family, was being raised to become a farmer following the family tradition. But, with the Second World War breaking out in 1939, the young man joined the anti-Nazi Free France Movement as a pilot. An excellent flyer, by the middle of 1941, he was regularly sent across the Mediterranean Sea on daring missions in Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan skies.

Once flying over Libya, his Hawker Hurricane aircraft came under heavy German fire. Preziosi would crash-land in the desert and be rescued by the Bedouins who would leave him in the care of a youthful widow belonging to the local Senoussi tribe.

According to the Corsican legend the gravely injured pilot would stay with the Bedouin lady for a few months and, once his health fully recovered, would find himself madly in love with his guardian angel. He had to return to his Free France air force base, but he promised to come back to Libya, convert to Islam and marry her, once the war was over.

Things however don’t always happen the way human beings plan them. Following his reporting back to duty, Preziosi was honoured with the rank of a captain and was sent on a number of important missions all over the occupied parts of Europe.

Captain Preziosi’s final assignment would prove to be on July 28, 1943 over Oryol, a small city in south-western Russia that was under German occupation. This time the protagonist of our story wouldn’t survive enemy fire and would die heroically.

Preziosi’s body was recovered by the Russian troops and he was buried following a military ceremony, together with a number of Soviet soldiers, in the unoccupied section of the city. A month later he was posthumously awarded the Order of the War medal by the Soviet Union.

There is no confirmation if Preziosi was informed that the Bedouin lady, who had taken care of him, gave birth on June 19, 1942 to a son who was named Muammar Qadhafi.

Today an air force base situated in Ventiseri in the upper part of the island bears the name of the Corsican hero. When asked by a journalist if he had any documentary proof of the myth that the Arab leader was really the son of Preziosi, the mayor of the city said:

“As no letters were ever exchanged between the pilot and the Bedouin lady, and this for understandable reasons, the search for an evidence in black-and-white is not only impossible but also unnecessary.

All that you need to do is to have a look at the photographs of the two men”, he adds, “…their resemblance is striking! Do you really want any more proof?”

The writer is a journalist based in Paris.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2017

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