Yesterday and Today, English Edition, Part Four
Scritto da © Carlo Gabbi – Lun, 25/01/2016 – 05:05
Part Four English Version
Rose was approaching her seventy birthday. She was still a beautiful woman and she looked much younger then her age. In fact she could have easily been mistaken in her mid fifties and had retained such youthful appeal. Over the last years, after her husband had passed away, she kept busy in different social activities, from early morning to late evenings, mainly dedicating some of her time as a volunteer Blue Nurse helping old people.
She had reserved her Thursdays to go bowling, and the Tuesdays were her days to visit friends and her daughter. She kept open her weekend’s time for unexpected activities, but if nothing urgent popped up, she used the free time on her best passions, fishing and painting.
Rose had started to love those hobbies since her first days in Australia, sharing them with her husband, Angelo. Long time indeed! It was now fifty-one years since the day she arrived from Italy to marry Angelo.
She went back on memory line, over the most crucial time in her life and remembered.
“I was running into desperation and alone. I lived in another town, away from where I had born. I had to hide who really I was and therefore I took the resolution of locking out my past from everybody, and to run away from that country that gave me only miseries. I needed to start afresh, reborn again and be again myself, the young passionate woman I used to be. To succeed I needed a new life in a new country.’
Over the last month, more often and without reason, Rose had more thought over her past life. She could clearly see the old days, and surprisingly she realized that those memories weren’t painful anymore. She was liberated from the specters that had resurfaces over and over again in time and calmly she could judge that young woman, that now had only a vague impact on her life. Lucia couldn’t harm Rose any longer.
She saw her second personality projected over a movie screen, where she, the person of today, was comfortably seated in front of it. She could live back once more her past life on the movie screen of her memory.
She followed the steps of that young woman, who once had been her. The past was crystalline clear and she could easily relive that vision of young Lucia… She was again part of the past.
“On the second of October, it will be the 51st anniversary of my arrival in Australia.” The voice said,
“On that day the S.S. Roma moored in Sydney Harbor and Angelo was waiting for me. We met on that occasion for the first time. We had only written each other a few letters.
“It started after I read his advertisement in the ‘Gazzettino Veneto’
“Angelo, was asking in that ad, for a young woman who wished to join him in Australia and marry him. I replied and within a month he wrote back again. I judged the writer to be an honest man and curiously I tried to read between the lines to judge what he was really looking for. I noticed that since his first message he had never asked about my past life and that pleased me. Of course I couldn’t possibly love him just from his first lines, but that man made me curious and I wanted to know more about. Poor Angelo, he was so sure that I would fall in love with him immediately.
“It was in his third letter that he asked me to come to Australia and marry him. What a gamble he took! At that time he wrote.
‘Both of us come from the Friuli region. I feel this is a strong guarantee for our future together. It makes me believe that you are a good woman and you will be the right wife for me.’
“I never told him who I really was and how my life was previously. I would never have found the proper words to explain to him who I had been and why. I’m not sure that he would have understood my life and what had compelled me to do things that in normal circumstances I wouldn’t have done. That was the reason why on the day of my arrival in Sydney, I buried my past and the old Lucia. That was also the day I was born again.
“Angelo was waiting for me on the wharf with a large bunch of red roses. He was very emotional and he was sweating profusely, trying his best to find the right words. He kissed me on the cheeks saying, ‘You are so beautiful and young, you are my Rose.’
“I found him sweet in his talking and I liked the name he called me and I adopted it. Rose became my new name from that day.
“In time, as I came to know him better I also came to love Angelo. Before him I had been in love with another man, and had used several others. Yes, many others, but that was a necessity of survival in the difficult days of war.
“The war had influenced my younger days and compelled me to do many things I didn’t want. It was also necessary for me to run away from the town where I grew up.
It was on the day a group of local women tried to kill me.
“They stoned me in Piazza Santa Caterina, outside the church. They blamed me because their husbands and brothers had been killed the previous day by the Germans. Fortunately on that occasion Don Felice stopped those assassins, getting in between them and me. I was bleeding badly and everybody thought I’d passed away.
Scanio, the sacristan, carried me away to an isolated barn on the mountains, where it was a old doctor, a socialist who hide from the Fasascist. His good heart and skill saved my life.
“A month after I was on my feet again and one night, Scanio came and took me to Udine, the nearest city, where he left me in the care of some of his friends. It was only a short stay there. The war finished a few days later and chaos was part of the city life. It was then that my landlord told me to go on my own.
“I found myself alone in a city I didn’t know, without any acquaintances or money, and I had nowhere to go. In those days to find any work was an impossible dream. It was non-existent.
“No one gave me food or shelter and it was the rainy season.
“I couldn’t return to my country town. The partisans in those days were without mercy and knowing an accusation was still standing over me, they would have taken justice into their own hands. They would have put me in front of a firing squad, in the town piazza with the inhabitants watching the execution. It would have been a summary punishment on their side, with a false accusation against me. The real fact was that I had never been an accomplice of the Nazi over the killing of those partisans.
“So I preferred to let them believe I was dead.
“I was hungry, without any warm dry cloths to wear, and my refuge was the city park with a small bridge sheltering me from the rain. I hoped that a merciful death would free me soon from an impossible life and I was ready to let myself go in that way. I no longer had a reason to keep on living.
“Then suddenly the scenario changed. The Americans arrived in Udine. On that day with the rest of the population I went to welcome them parading on the city streets. One soldier threw a chocolate, another gave me my first pair of nylons, and the third one came off the parade to kiss me. He was an Italo-American and said, ‘Hey Bella, why don’t you come to our camp tonight? Festivities will be on all night.’
“I went and I met John again. For the first time in ages, on that night, I had an hot bath, a decent dinner and a real bed where to sleep. Yes, my American friend was with me all the time. We got drunk together and we made love. I needed that also.
“In the morning, before he returned to the barracks, he gave me a ten dollar bill. I never saw so much money in all my life.
John farewell was with a new invitation, ‘Why don’t you come again to the camp? We dance in the mess every Saturday. It will be a lot of fun.’
“I had nothing to lose. I was alone and desperate.
“I owe many thanks to my first American friend who resurged in me the desire to live again. I met other G.I. on that night and the party became very friendly. That night was followed by others and my G.I.’s acquaintances increased. Soon I was very popular in the ballroom. I adopted their easy way of living, and I moved from the arms of one G.I. to the next. There was nothing wrong with this. I thought my life was merrier in their company and without hassles. They were generous, giving me presents and in the morning, before leaving me, they all left a crispy ten dollar bill in my hands as a thank for the past night pleasure.
“That had been my life for the next two years. I never had regrets for what I did, and why should I? I was alone then, and had to care only for myself. That was the only possible way to survive in those difficult times.
“Soon after, the American G.I. relocated to Germany. It was at that time I read Angelo’s ad in the local paper. I was nineteen.
“For some time I had desired to leave my country and settle somewhere where I could forget my past. I dreamed to go as far as I possibly could. I needed a new life, I needed to recreate a new me, a better me. I saw in that ad the right opportunity to achieve what I was looking for. At that time I never asked to myself if I wanted that stranger to be my future husband and beside, in my eyes he was such an old man. I thought only about the country and I found Australia was the ideal place to go. It was so far away.
In those days people went by ship and the normal time of traveling to Australia was forty days. That’s exactly what I had in mind. I wanted to go to the most distant country where I could forget my previous life, a place where the old Lucia would be forgotten for ever and where a young new woman could have a brighter future.
Rose Pirona was born that day, at the Wooloomooloo mooring, in the Sydney Harbor.
On that same day in October 1950 Lucia died. No one in Australia ever knew her. Since then she only belonged to Rose past memories of shame.