• Photograph 7501459

My parents Gennaro and Esther Bongiorno were married in 1946 in Pollara, a little town on the island of Salina in the Aeolian Islands, just off the North-Eastern coast of Sicily. The Second World War had ended only recently, so times were hard, food was scarce and there were no jobs. They went to live with Mum’s parents - Onofio and Maria Picone - and help them run the family farm, because Onofio was blind. On 6 July 1947 they had a son, Aldo, me, and started seriously considering their long term future as a family. The Italian economy, as with all European economies at that time, was struggling to rebuild after the war. The future seemed grim, so in traditional Italian style they looked to go overseas. At that time, the options were migration either to Canada or Australia - there was little point in migrating within Europe. By 1949 my parents were trying to decide where to migrate. Grandfather Onofio advised them emphatically, “Forget about Canada. Go to Australia. It is much, much better than North America”. He had never liked the 'dog-eat-dog' attitude and low wages in the US. So the decision was taken to migrate to Australia. (At the time there was a local saying that if your relatives migrated to Europe or the Americas you need not cry – they will be back again. However, if they migrate to Australia you cry because you know that they will not return.) Dad had an aunt in Sydney who could sponsor him, and in 1950 he boarded the Lloyd Triestino MV Sebastiano Caboto in Messina, Sicily, and arrived in Melbourne on 29 January 1950. Somehow he managed to reach Sydney by train with his trunk, despite speaking no English and needing to change trains at Albury.

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