I was an 8-year-old boy growing up in Cape Town in the shadow of Table Mountain when Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was found guilty of treason in the winter of 1964, and escaping the gallows, was sentenced to life in prison.
As a privileged white child, I was unaware of the significance of what had happened and of the injustice the iron fist of apartheid wielded.
Nelson Mandela, together with his voice, his words and his image, vanished with his incarceration on Robben Island, an arid, inhospitable piece of land jutting out of Table Bay within sight of the city.
Mandela would spend 27 years of his life in prison. I spent just 22 of mine in the country.
In 1977, within days of becoming a college graduate, I left, leaving behind iniquitous repression and an uncertain future. I took with me memories of a great man — by then a national symbol of the struggle for equality — whom I would never meet.
Three decades have passed since I was last in South Africa, but I will always be grateful for the sacrifices Mandela made to dispel the cruelty of a country I once called home, forever giving it the brightest of futures.
— Jerome Adamstein