Tuesday 3 June 2008
Never look back
It took my dad 52 years to return to his home land; his place of birth, the place he grew up, went to school and spent his entire child hood.
I really cannot imagine being gone from Melbourne for 52 years. I will have been gone 2 years at the end of the year and bel ragazzo and I are planning to go back for a (hot) Christmas.
I often asked dad why he never went back. His answer was that he had no time. Perhaps as the years pass the urge to return gets less and less until your 'old' home is all but a distant memory. Chi lo sa? All I know is that it took him 52 years to return, and if it hadn't been for my mum forcing him to come and visit me this year then I am sure he would have put off the trip 'home' for quite some time.
My dad's eldest brother, the one who was 28 years old when he migrated has never been back, and has told everyone that he never will. Since moving to Italy I have held these romantic notions that my dad (and all my Italian relatives) spend their time thinking fond thoughts of the bel paese they left behind. I love living in Italy so much that I like to think that they all miss Italy too. I have to remember however that the Italy they left behind is not the Italy in which I now live. My dad was happy in Italy but as soon as that boat set sail for the other side of the world he never, not even for a moment looked back.
He never once missed Policastrello and the village life. Don't forget he was only 14 years old and he went from a town of 1000 people to a giant city full of millions. He was put straight into school and within months had learnt the language and fitted right in. Gone were the days when Italians were called 'daygo's' there were so many Italians in Melbourne that dad felt right at home. The city had so much to offer, there was so much to do, places to go, friends to be made...from day one he was happy in his new home and never once thought of his 'old' life.
This was not the case with all of Italian immigrants. A lot of them could not cope in Australia - sure there were plenty of jobs, but the older people in particular missed the village life, missed their friends, missed how social Italy was. Australia to them was a cold land where no one gathered in the piazza's to gossip the night away. They did there work then either went to the pub or home.
Not my family though, once they came they all decided to stay. My dad and his brothers and sisters have never felt regret or sadness over leaving Italy behind. In fact they are happy. They all settled into Australia and were successful in life, found wives and husbands, had families of their own, opened businesses, bought houses, established a new, profitable life in this new land of opportunities.
All but two of dads siblings have yet to return to Policastrello. I know that dad is happy he came back, happy that the village is just like he remembers, happy that he wants to return and explore as much of Calabria and Italy as he can. I know however that when he looks at Policastrello he does not think 'home' as Australia is his home, it is his past, present and his future and the Italy that he left behind 52 years ago is all but a distant memory.