FROM ITALY TRAVELLING TO THE BUSH IN AUSTRALIA – An Italian migrant story

I am so happy to share with you the article in last week’s Lismore Northern Star paper, about my father’s (Sabatino Masci) emotional journey back to where it started for him in Australia in 1952. I took him back to Lismore and he relived his hard times as a migrant. His book “A Difficult Harvest” captures all his memories beautifully. Not bad to write one’s memoires at age 80!

 

From Italy with love
From Italy with love

It all started in Abruzzo – the central Italy region where my parents were born and raised. During the post war years poverty and hardship were rife.. unemployment was high and the Italian feudal system was actually still alive and well. Poor tenant farmers like my father’s family endured a subsistence living.. eking out as much as they could from the small parcel of land given to them to work. The lord or boss of the estate always had first pick of the produce and crops..it would be at least 50% which would go to their landlord’s household. This included many eggs, seasonal vegetables like artichokes, zucchini, eggplants, chickens and other farm animals raised. When preparing the pig during the freezing winter months the best cuts would go to the lord of course.This would leave the poor farmers with mostly the cheaper cuts like offal (lung, heart and liver) or the trotters.. Of course great culinary traditions and dishes sprung from these meagre ingredients.

Sabatino decided at age 19 to leave his native land and try out his luck in Australia as a sponsored migrant. 42 days later he arrives on Australian shores ready to make a new life. The book has beautiful descriptions of life as a child in Abruzzo and what he did to survive. His times as a young innocent 11 year old during World War 2 and then his departure at age 19 from Italy to Australia.

Once in Australia he was sent to the migrant camp of Bonegilla in Victoria and from there he went further north at a dairy milking cows, then he settled upon banana farming in the bush from Lismore. It was at a place called Bentley Creek on the road to Kyogle.

Fast foward 55 years and Sabatino now aged 85 years old has had the opportunity to revisit this area of northern NSW and luckily his mates Jim and Peter were still alive and also 85 years old. It was such a great reunion and to see them so happy together, retelling stories of that time. Like going wild boar hunting and they lost their dogs, shooting the creek to bring up the eels and walking through the bush in pitch black darkness to get back to their farm shacks.

Chatting about old times
Chatting about old times
Reunion at the Italo Australian club Lismore
Reunion at the Italo Australian club Lismore

Another wonderful highlight in my father’s life there was that he was not married in the usual style.. He married by proxy that is he sent for his future wife Rosa from the same village in Abruzzo. She of course could not come out as an unmarried woman so she agreed and their legal marriage was done by proxy where Rosa was still in Ripa Teatina and dad was in Lismore. To be exact he was at St Carthage’s office where the papers were signed. You could say it was Married at first sight!!

Marriage Italian Australian style by proxy
St Carthage where Sabatino married by proxy in 1956

 

Married at First Sight Italian style 1957
Married at First Sight Italian style 1957
Sabatino with his horses Lismore
Sabatino with his horses Lismore

We donated a copy of his book to the Lismore Public Library so it can be read by all. His story echos many of the European migrants of that time. It is heartfelt and frank at the same time.

Donation of A DIFFICULT HARVEST to Lismore Public Library
Donation of A DIFFICULT HARVEST to Lismore Public Library
Revisiting the church where Sabatino was married by proxy
Revisiting the church where Sabatino was married by proxy

READ THE ONLINE ARTICLE HERE

READ THE ACTUAL PAPER ARTICLE BELOW:

Article in Lismore's paper THE NORTHERN STAR
Article in Lismore’s paper THE NORTHERN STAR

If you would like to purchase a copy of Sabatino Masci’s autobiography please contact Touring Abruzzo. Happy to ship anywhere in the world. COST IS AUD $29.95 plus postage. (USD $23.95 plus postage).