[…] Nata a…? La risposta tarda ad arrivare. L’interlocutore è il professore delle medie prima, poi del liceo, dopo ancora l’impiegato degli uffici amministrativi dell’Università, e via via per tutto quel mare di fogli e pratiche burocratiche, tante, di cui è fatta una vita di studio, di lavoro, di certificati di nascita o di morte.
Aspetta, con un po’ di impazienza: è preparato sull’eventuale esitazione quanto alla data di nascita. Ma sul luogo…”Allora: nata, dove?”
“A Pola.”
L’impazienza aumenta: questa qui si permette di far perdere tempo anche con una banalità come la geografia. “Come ha detto?”
“Pola. Istria.”
Questa volta, l’esitazione passa dall’altra parte: qualche secondo di silenzio imbarazzato. E poi: “Ah, in Jugoslavia…Lei è jugoslava”. “Veramente no: io sono italiana. Sono nata in Italia”. Un’illuminazione: “Ah già, dimenticavo…Allora lei è profuga”.
E chissà perché la cosa, “lei è profuga”, faceva così ridere il professore, la professoressa, l’impiegata del comune o dell’anagrafe che me lo chiedevano.
A me veniva da piangere. Anche e soprattutto perché gli altri ridevano. […]

[…] “Place of birth?” The answer is coming slowly. The first questioner was a teacher at the secondary school and then at the college, and later on it was the clerk at the university administration offices, and so on all through that multitude of files and paperwork of which a lifetime of work and study is made up, of birth or of death certificates.
He is waiting, with a little impatience. He is used to a possible hesitation regarding  the date of birth, but not the place… “So,  where were you born?”. “Pola”. The impatience is growing: this one here is taking the libertyto loose time even with such a trifle as geography. What did you say?” 
Pola. Istria.”
Now it is him to hesitate. A few seconds of awkward silence. And then: “Ah, Yugoslavia … You are Yugoslavian.”    “I am not, actually, I’m Italian. I was born in Italy.”  An intuition: Oh, sure, I forgot … So you are a refugee.” 
And I wonder why the statement, you are a refugee,”  made the teacher laugh so much, and  the professor,  and the municipal employee  or of the General Registry Office.
It made me cry insteadEspecially because the others laughed. […]

from “Bora”, Anna Maria Mori e Nelida Milani, 1998, Edizioni Frassinelli

 

[…] quante mai persone, ditemi, hanno cambiato dalle nostre parti due o tre volte in vita loro di nazionalità, di religione, di partito, di nome. Come se fossero state concepite in barca, si sono fatte della vita un’idea d’instabilità, di transitorietà come unica definitezza. […]

[…] tell me how many people from these parts, have ever changed their nationality, their religion, their political party, even their very name two or three times during their lives. It seems as if  they had been conceived on a boat, and they got a sense of life in terms of instability, of transience as the only definiteness. […]

from “Una valigia di cartone”, Nelida Milani, 1991, Sellerio Editore Palermo

 

My grandparents, Guerrina Cossetto and Angelo Cociani, formerly Kocijančič, were Istrian. When they were born, Istria was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire,  then it became part of Italy, then of Jugoslavia, now it is Croatia. After the Second World War, many Istrians left their homeland and the so called “exodus” began. My grandparents decided to move to Italy, some of their brothers and cousins took refuge in  Australia. But many of them decided to stay where they were and in that way they passed their strong bond to this country along to me together with the need to understand the present and to question the past, and to revive and recollect my grandmother’s tales and those of my relatives who had stayed. Tales that inevitably mingle with historical memory.

2014-ongoing

Croatia, Poreč-Parenzo
A old family album with the pictures of my grandparents
Italy, Caslino al Piano (Como). My aunt Paola in the room of my grandmother
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. Wild peach
Istria_-041
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. The tomb of my father's grandparents
Croatia, Grožnjan-Grisignana
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. In the woods in front of my grandparents' house
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. My father in my grandparents' kitchen
Croatia, Rovinj-Rovigno
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica
Istria_-039
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. A scorpion in the bathroom of my grandparents' house
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. A friend of my granparents shows me a bunch of wild asparagus
Croatia, Kaštelir. The goats of Maria and Miljenko
Croatia, Višnjan. The house of the family of the husband of Livia, one of my grandmother's sister
Croatia, Kaštelir. Maria, my father's cousin, and her husband Miljenko
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. My grandparents' house
Croatia, Kaštelir. Nini, my father's cousin, and his wife Letizia
Istria_-052
21Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. Angelo, a friend of my grandparents, in the woods
Croatia, Labinci-Santa Domenica. An abandoned house in the village of my grandmother
Croatia, Novigrad-Cittanova. My father
Croatia, Umag-Umago