It is with great pleasure I welcome my first Guest Blogger, for the Year 2013, Josephine Masciantonio. This Essay, written whilst Josie was studying with the University of South Australia, also won 2nd Prize for:
The Italian Embassy in Canberra: Italy Award 2011
“The Italian Risorgimento and Australia”
Titled “Our history, our future“, Josie’s Family History is also that of my three eldest Grandchildren, Edan, Mia and Jonah, for she is their Auntie… the sister of my beloved daughter-in-love, Sylvia.I am greatly honoured to have permission for the publishing of Nonno Giuseppe’s beautifully written recollections, translated from Italian for this purpose. Thankyou far more than I can ever say… so over to you Josie
EDITORIAL NOTE: Please be aware that Josie intends to correct this rather poor “automatic internet translation” very soon. Thanks Josie. Readers may like to check back once it has been updated. Cheers, Catherine … 7 Jan 2013.
Usually, stories start from the beginning, but this story will start from the end. This is the story of my history, my family history and the story of how I got to this point. A new beginning: the unity and hope. These are the ideals of my history and the ideals of the Risorgimento. The history of a nation, of a family and the ties that bind us together.
I come from this new beginning, a life linked to hope for improvement in the future. I am writing this essay as to what Italy was, is and will become. I have been studying precisely the language that is the result of this unit to improve my Italian, so I can speak the language of our ancestors with my children. Without the Risorgimento characters who have dedicated their lives to the cause of Italian unity, I would not be here to tell my story.
Mine is the story of a family in Italy which barely overcame many difficulties and eventually emigrated to Australia. My grandfather liked to tell stories to anyone who would listen. Especially on his feast day he liked to boast that of all men, the most famous and capable, were called ‘Joseph’, like him and claimed with pride that opinion.Thanks to my grandfather Joseph, who shared the story of its history and its hardships, these events have become an integral part of me and my family. It was through the stories of my grandfather that I knew of the Italian unification. He told me that his grandfather had told him:
“Giosina-beautiful, you’d think that after the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy has always been fragmented. At the time of my grandfather, ‘Italy’ existed only as a geographical term. “
“Our ancestors suffered and had a great desire for certainty for the future. Giuseppe Garibaldi, Giuseppe Mazzini and Cavour – even though it was a Joseph – they offered the hope of this certainty and prospects for the future. “
Grandfather Joseph told me again:
“They were difficult times, when my loved ones could not speak aloud about their feelings of the Risorgimento. My great-grandfather was a member of Young Italy. He, like many Italians, aspired to a united Italy and dreamed without fragmentation. Times were lovers because people had a common hope. “
He explained that:
“Mazzini was the father and founder of Young Italy. And it was truly a visionary! Mazzini also predicted the United States of Europe, a precursor of the ‘European Union. My grandfather was a very religious man and the slogan of Mazzini ‘God and the people’ was very important to him, my great-grandparents and grandparents could not imagine a life without a homeland and Catholicism. “
Another of the heroes of my grandfather was Garibaldi. He loved what he symbolized, and that for which he fought. He admired the fact that Garibaldi had gone as far away as Australia. “Just like me!” exclaimed my grandfather.
The link of my family with Australia began during the Second World War my grandfather – Joseph Masciantonio – and my maternal great-uncle – Cosmo Fardone – fought side by side in the same regiment in North Africa and later were taken as prisoners to Australia. They became close friends.
Grandfather told me stories of the war:
“Fifty years after the Risorgimento, Italy, directed by Giolitti, invaded Libya. And here we were, in 1941 the Italians back into Libya. We did not lose hope, even in the most serious times. I saw my fellow soldiers suffer and die. I had to overcome the wounds, and often we were thirsty or hungry, but we forged ahead with the knowledge that so many great Italian men had walked the same path and had suffered much more than we do.
On January 4, 1941 my grandfather and my uncle were captured by the Allies during the Battle of Bardia, Libya. They were then sent to Australia as prisoners of war. My grandfather and my great-uncle spent three years in a prison camp in Hay before being sent to work on farms and in other remote places in Australia. My grandfather was sent to work as a beekeeper in Mount Barker district, around Adelaide, until 1946 when he was repatriated to Italy.
Back in Italy, grandfather Joseph, found that the dream of his grandfather and his great-grandfather had been made and that the ideals of Mazzini had become reality. He returned to the Republican and an Italy united with Rome as its capital. It was then that he met, for the first time, his youngest son – my father – who was six years old.
After the war, however, life was very hard. At the end my paternal grandfather decided to leave his homeland, in 1961, just as his admired countryman Garibaldi had. So it was that he came to Australia with his entire family. The choice was obvious enough. He knew Adelaide, although he had been a prisoner and had such terrible memories of his years there. The ship crossed the Suez Canal, the channel for which he and his companions had risked their lives many years ago.
He told me:
“For centuries we Italians have left our homeland either by choice or by necessity. We spread our work ethic, spirit and hope for a better future in all countries that we have reached, including Australia. If we had not sacrificed all emigrants leaving our home, in your opinion, Giosina-bella, would Italy have become what it is today? “
The family Masciantonio were safe and happy and he worked tirelessly for years, in Adelaide, for their future.
On a hot summer’s day in 1966, an extraordinary event happened in the central market of Adelaide. Joseph Masciantonio was struck by a vision – a man ran up to him – copious tears came from his eyes and he hugged him. His friend was moved. His comrade, Cosmo Fardone, stood before him.
Unbeknowns to each other, the Fardone and Masciantonio families had emigrated to Australia. They organized a big party to celebrate that they had found each other and honoured the life and destiny. So it was, at this party, that my father and mother met and then married the following year.
I feel fortunate because my grandfather made me proud to be Italian, speaking proudly of his origins. He told me of artists, composers, musicians and inventors, such as Giuseppe Meucci-another! – The inventor of the telephone, instilled within me a strong and lasting feeling of being Italian.
For me it is a wonder that the Italo-Australian of the second, third and fourth generation still feel ‘Italian’. This Italianità is deeply rooted even in those who have never been to Italy or even speak the language.
My grandfather was a singer and musician and did not spend a day in which he was not heard singing his usual hymn. When reflecting on the war, and feeling sad and melancholy, he would sing:
“The Piave whispered” foreigner shall not pass! ‘”
And other times, his favorite composer, Verdi, Va’ pensiero:
“Go, thought, on golden wings …. O my country, so lovely and lost!”
Grandfather Joseph explained to me:
“In the days of my grandfather, Green symbolized the patriotism and nationalism. People shouted “Viva Verdi!” To sympathize secretly with the king, Vittorio Emanuele II, and for Italian unification.”
It would be impossible for anyone not to be moved to the tune of this song. My grandfather explained that he, his parents and grandparents always were moved to tears when they sang “Va’ pensiero”, imagining and remembering the suffering of the Italians.
I will never forget his voice and his words:
“Giosina, do not forget that you’re like me, Giuseppe, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Giuseppe Mazzini and Joseph as Verdi!”
I am proud that the spirit of the Renaissance – and that of all the great ‘Giuseppe’-is still alive in me.
Copyright © 2011. Josephine Masciantonio
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