When writing of the past, two of the most valuable things I can hope for are handed-down spoken stories and photographs. I never knew my bisnonno, Domenico yet each photo can say so much…
In his work clothes (top left), one knee patched, behind him his Applethorpe orchards on land he’d hand-cleared, long before he could afford the horse.
Below, just a teenager in his navy uniform, this studio portrait in Palmi at the time of WWI. (For most of his life a cigarette never far from his hand – he smoked Capstans).
Other photos reveal the camaraderie of the migrant men in Australia. Their evident love of music and dance in those rare times they weren’t working and could get together, Domenico often asked to play his guitar. Bonds built up in the years they’d been compelled to be apart from family in Italy, and now reunited with wives and children, WW2 over, the future promising.
In the centre photo, Domenico stands between two fellows, well-dressed, behind them the truck he’d bought – that sign of success for many. By this time he owned the farm, had his wife and three children near, a first grandchild. It must be one of the last photos of him. Domenico only lived to be fifty-three but by then, the risk he’d taken in emigrating to Australia with so little, knowing he could never again see his parents and relatives back in Italy, had set up a future for ongoing generations of his descendants. It never fails to impress me what these first generations of migrants accomplished.
Companion post –
Inklings of the past… Francesca