• Photograph 8113710

My grandfather, Onofio, had come to Sydney, Australia, in 1904 with two of his brothers. He and one brother worked in a relative’s fruit shop in George St., while the other brother went cane-cutting in Queensland. This happy arrangement came to an abrupt end when it was found that Onofio was getting too friendly with an Australian girl who worked in the Commonwealth Bank in George St. He was considering proposing. This scandalized his brothers - "you cannot marry a 'foreigner' ”. They promptly put him on a ship back home with one of the brothers. It is reported that Onofio was so upset that he refused to speak to his brother for the whole of the 4-week ship-journey home. Onofio eventually did marry a local girl in 1917 and had three children, a son Onofio Jr., and two daughters, Rosanna and my Mother Esther, who was born in 1923. The economic conditions in Sicily were harsh after the First World War so in 1924, when Mum was only 9 months old, Grandfather Onofio decided to join his elder brother in Boston, USA, where he had a fruit shop. For the next 10 years he worked hard and sent every penny he could back home to his family until in 1933 the retina in his left eye detached. His US doctor advised him to return to his family in Italy, as it was very likely that the other retina would go as well. He came back to a family who had not seen him for 10 years. My Mother had never known him as she was just nine months old when he left. He was going blind and could not help with operating the farm in Pollara - he was just a drain on the family. It was a very difficult period of adjustment for all and only got worse in 1941, when mum’s brother, Onofio Jr, died in Abyssinia - a victim of Mussolini’s expansionist dreams.

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