Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Salvatore's writings

Fabrizia, where I was born in 1953, is a remote village high up in the Calabrian mountains.  Before you start imagining a quaint rustic village, bucolic countryside, endless nostalgia, let me assure you that Fabrizia is totally devoid of any charm.

There is a local legend that explains the origin of the village: Local bandits used to seek refuge in remote hills surrounding the village. One band finally came upon the spot of what is now Fabrizia and decided to set up permanent camp here on the premise that the area was so remote and inhospitable the authorities would never suspect that anyone would be hiding there. A more plausible explanation is based on the plague of malaria that infested the lowlands of Calabria in the 19th century forcing the coastal dwellers to abandon their homes and migrate to the mountains.

Whatever explanation we believe, the fact is that Fabrizia was a most unfortunate place; the only industry was farming yet little was produced in the fields because the soil was so poor. The Romans had virtually deforested the area to build their fleets. The harsh winter when it snowed for months coupled with the ferocious heat of Summer made farming even more difficult. The end result was that Fabrizia since its founding has been a miserable place to live and the only escape from such misery was to migrate yet again and so for all of the 20th century any Fabrizian that could, would arrange to migrate to any country possible. Early on before the first world war the favoured destination was the United States; later especially in the fifties Argentina and Australia became the main destinations.

So here I am in Australia 50 years after migrating recollecting what I can so that the story is not forgotten and passed on to my young daughter Rafaela who I hope can pass it on to her children.
My daughter Raffaela is named after my late father Raffaele.  Although it is a tradition in Calabria to name children after their grandparents, I chose to do so because of a deep admiration I had for my father and a very strong desire to maintain some memory of him, especially since he had died well before Raffaela was born.

He migrated three months after I was born in 1953. He had hoped to migrate earlier but Italian law at the time forbade a father leaving a child any earlier. Furthermore there were bureaucratic obstacles that had their origins in the second world war.

This war had devasted the South of Italy. First the Germans occupied the place, then towards the end the Americans invaded through Sicily and pursued the Germans up the peninsula. As the GI’s were liberating Calabria my father had been stationed at a military barrack at XXX some xxk from Fabrizia. 
                                           Raffaele Nesci taken by Salvatore Nesci

My father told me the touching story of how his Commandant was preparing the men under his control for the imminent arrival of the Americans. “Men”, he said “the Germans are fleeing, and whilst we should all be grateful of this our Government is still at war with the United States, so we are to be invaded yet again. I have been ordered to resist this new invader and hold my ground. I will do so but all of you have no need to remain, the war will soon be over, go home to your families, no one will know that you have left your posts. He then personally bade each soldier goodbye and gave some money to assist them to get home. My father noticed that he had tears in his eyes and he asked the commandant why he was so sad, since the war was virtually over. He replied: “The Americans may be coming to get rid of the Germans, but they are soldiers and they are still the enemy. I have a sixteen year old daughter living with me and I have no doubt what is about to happen to her”.

My father made it home safely and all was forgotten until nine years later when completing the interminable paper work needed for migration. He not been officially discharged from the army and consequently was classified as a deserter…….

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