At the beginning of the year I started visiting the guests of a nursing home. They are all italians and I go there once a week to read to them and chat.
For the first few months the residents lived in a small home where the staff was mostly italian and the food was only italian. Whenever I walked in I was enveloped by a comforting smell and it was like walking into my grandmother’s house. It wasn’t a fancy place, the furniture was old fashioned and all the tables had tablecloths on. The home was in a quite pocket of an inner city suburb, not far from where I live.
Most of the residents came to Australia after the war. They travelled by boat, some of them with their families, others by themselves, many are women who did the long trip with their small children. They all left loved ones, familiar places and everything they knew to come to the other side of the world. They didn’t know anything about the country that would be their home but they were brave and adventurous and when they tell me the story of their trip they laugh and make it sound easy, as if it wasn’t a big deal.
I can’t even imagine what they must have felt. Most of them had never been outside their home town, most of them had never even thought there was a world outside their home town. They arrived and started their new life, settled in their new houses, had children, met the neighbours, found a job. They created a community where they were comfortable and they could spend the rest of their life in.
A few years ago they moved to the nursing home. One last move, they thought. It was scary but they soon felt at home, their families are nearby and they drop in all the time, they made new friends and decorated their rooms with the memories of a life time.
Then the news came that the home was closing down. The residents would be moved to a new place. A brand new building, five storey high, not far but on a busy road.
The weeks before the move were very hard. The atmosphere had changed, often I met with only a handful of residents as the rest preferred to sit in their rooms, thinking, praying, crying. There was a lot of sadness and fear of the unknown. The biggest worries were to do with food. Not enough, not good enough, not italian enough!
But the day came and their new adventure began.
This time the home was not an “all italian” place and they were not happy. And, as predicted, the food was a big big problem. Sandwiches for lunch??? No oil or salt on the vegetables?? Tasteless meat drowned in salty gravy?? This was all too hard to digest!
Of course they took it all in their stride. They are such resilient, wonderful people, they couldn’t let another change get in their way. We laugh a lot about australians and their cuisine, or lack of. It has become our favourite pastime, forget about the news of the world!
They are adjusting to life in their new home and, after 50 years, they are finally in Australia!