What catches my attention the moment Signora Vincenzina Marsicovetere and I sit down to chat is her accent. It is distinctly northern Italian. Although born and raised in Viggiano, Signora Marsicovetere has lost all her native dialect as a consequence of years living with her husband’s family who were from the Trieste region.
One of the most endearing qualities of Mr Enzo Vivarelli was his frank honesty. He made no lie of the fact that life in Australia for Italian migrants in the early 1960’s was, from his perspective at least, difficult. Nor did he shy away from making it clear that the cultural differences between Italians and the countrymen of their new homeland sometimes ended in physical violence.
‘Nella mia testa, io cammino per le strade d’Australia, perche’ me le ricordo tutte. Tutti i santi giorni…Io sto qua e la.’ (In my mind I walk the streets of Australia still, because I remember them. Every day. I am both here –in Italy-and there.)
In 1974, after 14 years in Australia, Signor Gino Milano, a native of Marsicovetere in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy, decided enough was enough, and with two Australian born children in tow, decided to return to his native village.
“I saw my father for the first time when I was five years old. My zio, mum’s brother, had been back to Italy several times, so I knew him. When we disembarked from the ship in Melbourne, I ran to embrace my zio rather than my father.”
Angelo Savino was 31 years old when he decided to follow his sister to Australia. After a ten-year absence and during her brief visit back to Italy she had been one of the very first in the Post-war era to take advantage of the call for migrants. Having made a life in her adopted country, she felt Australia and its opportunities would also appeal to her brother and his young family.
Born in Viggiano, Basilicata, Delia Estelle Giliberti, is an elegant lady with a soft voice and eyes that hold your attention as she speaks. We meet on a rain soaked afternoon in her native town, where she is visiting for the Festa Della Madonna from Liguria where she now lives.
“Una mattina all’alba vedemmo l’Australia per la prima volta. Una striscia di terra piatta, il cielo azzurro ed una cortina di nuvole bassissime. Sembrava che schiacciassero la terra.” (One morning at dawn we saw Australia for the first time. A strip of flat land, a blue sky, and a very low curtain of clouds. They seemed to be squashing the land).
Domenico De Mase has two sons with very English names. Alan, the eldest, was born in Australia just before the earthquake that devastated much of the Basilicata region in 1980.