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The life in his years: Giorgio Ungania
By Dubai Abulhoul December 30, 2014
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As I sat in front of my laptop’s screen to write this article, I found myself at a loss of words. How do you describe a person who has touched the lives of many, including yourself, in a few paragraphs? What do you say, in limited lines, about a life that has influenced, supported, and nurtured countless individuals?

Giorgio Ungania was a senior manager at the Expo 2020 team, a visiting instructor of New Media at the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University, and the curator of TEDxDubai. He was a teacher to his students, and an inspiration to the teams he worked with. To me, he was a mentor, and more importantly, he was a friend.

I was thirteen years old when I first met Giorgio. I was a huge fan of TED before I met him, and I was ecstatic to hear that he will be the person behind bringing the first TEDx event to Dubai. I was nervous when I was first asked to attend the meeting to discuss the possibility of becoming a speaker at TEDxDubai. I walked into the meeting room, expecting to meet yet another adult who would underestimate my ideas and my abilities because of my age. Giorgio was the exact opposite of that. I spoke to him about my goals, and how our society needs to stop underestimating the youth because of factors like age and academic performance. I told him about a manuscript that I was writing, and of my plans to turn it into a novel one day.

I also told him about my dream to turn the manuscript into a film, which will hopefully one day win me an Oscar. He didn’t doubt my seriousness or my ambition, not even for a second. A day after the meeting, he sent me an e-mail saying that I was chosen to speak at the first TEDxDubai in 2009.

A few years later, I finally finished writing my novel, which was published in the March of 2012. Giorgio was one of the first people I went to with the news, and he was thrilled. I met him, along with my brother, at The Pavilion in Downtown Dubai, and we discussed how we wanted to market the novel online and introduce it through social media.

He worked with me on the novel’s website, and created multiple book trailers. He promoted the novel tirelessly through social media, and provided me with a clear vision on the next steps I was going to take.

He was one of the first people to attend the launch of the novel at the Emirates Literature Festival, and he smiled as I talked to the readers about how the manuscript started as a dream on the TEDxDubai stage just a few years ago.

The last time I saw Giorgio was at the 2014 TEDxSalon. The event brought together the community to discuss issues like sustainability and gender equality around the globe. “So, did you get your Oscar yet?” Giorgio asked, as soon as we found a few minutes to talk before the event started. “I’m still working on that!” I replied, as I tried to find my way to my seat. There were so many projects I was planning to work on, and I knew I would have to tell Giorgio about them. We promised to catch up soon, and he headed towards the stage to start the event.

The months passed, a little too fast, and the meetings never happened.

Giorgio, at the age of 46, passed away last Wednesday after going into cardiac arrest.

Giorgio gave me, along with the students he taught, and the community that he inspired, the motivation needed to take ambition to the next level. He believed in our power as the youth, and he showed us that there was no such thing as thinking too big. He believed in me, and in my generation, and that is one of the most valuable gifts I have received.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “In the end, it is not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.”

Giorgio’s years, as limited as they were, and as limited as all of ours will be, played a huge role in influencing countless individuals whilst helping them realise their goals and to full potential. Giorgio has left us not only with memories that we’ll cherish forever, but also, and more importantly, with a tireless and ambitious spirit that will help guide us towards a more creative future.

We can only hope, as his friends, family, colleagues, and students, to make him proud. After all, he already was.

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The author is an Emirati novelist-writer

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