My Mum was a bright and very adventurous little girl. She tells me that when she was 8yrs old she put her name down to go to summer camp in Cetraro. I'm not sure how she persuaded my Nonna Emerlinda to let her go. She had told her that there was a Convent and Nuns and that must have convinced my Nonna. Mum was happy when she had come back home as she had learnt many new things so the following year she was allowed to go to Praia A Mare. Nonna was also happy for her as she had come back all grown up. Mind you, I was never allowed to go to camp.
On 31st January 1958 all the arrangement were starting to be made and the papers were put in for them to start their journey. Although a little sad, they couldn't wait to come and join my Nonno Aurelio in Australia. It snowed a lot in Mum's hometown and sometimes just walking to school in the morning was a challenge. Mum told me that in 1956 when Nonno left it snowed so much and that no one could leave their homes. Essentials like food and water had to be dropped in by small planes.
It was Christmas Eve in 1958 that they boarded the ship the 'Flaminia' from the Naples dock. It was a cold and eerie night and there were many tears on the ship. They were all sad to be leaving their home in Cosenza to an unknown town and Country.
Nonna was heartbroken to be leaving her Mum Filomena as she was her only daughter. My Mum and all her brothers and sisters loved their Nonna so much. Mum always talks about her as she was a huge impact on her life. Mum has a special photo of her Nonna Filomena with her holding a bunch of chamomile flowers that she keeps close by. Nonno Emilio had passed away years earlier and although Mum was young, she remembers him sitting staring out the window with his walking stick.
Mum tells me of lots of stories from their voyage. She had told me that another migrant named Mimmo had asked my Nonna if his Mum could stay with them as they were on the lower deck and it was just too noisy for her as she was not well. My Nonna was so generous so of course she had said yes and he was very grateful.
The 'Flaminia' first stopped off in Fremantle, Perth before crossing through Sydney and under the famous Harbour Bridge. They finally arrived at Station Pier, Port Melbourne on 23rd January 1959. Mum remembers it being a very hot summers day. It took a few hours for all the medical checks to be done, but eventually they were able to get off. Dressed up in their finest clothes and so excited to see my Nonno who was waiting there with open eyes and arms and couldn't wait to hug them all.
Even though over 50 years have passed, talking to Mum about her journey to Australia, the feelings and tears are as raw as if it only happened yesterday.