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Gino and Maria Maiorino
00:00 / 15:14

Audio Transcript:

we come from Grumento Nova village which is about 150kms from Naples

it's a very small village but it's got a lot of history

Mussolini changed it to Saponara

- the name of Grumento? - yeah

and there was a bit problem because there was another Saponara somewhere else Sicily

so therefore

they changed it again in 1935 I think

yeah, something like that cause we had it written down, our house was the first of the village

and it was written down so therefore they changed it to 'Grumento Nova'

okay, from 'Grumento', a 'New Grumento' okay that's the history

we came to Australia because soon after the war...the war ended in 1945

and uh, between 1945 and 1955 Italy was a um, a disaster

there was nothing to do, no work, disorganised

well, I was 18 and I was looking for a future...excitement and a future

excitement because I had never got out of that village

and a future because I had never worked what am I going to do? you know?

- had you been out of Grumento at all before you came to Australia? - no

so you went straight from there?

well, I had been to Roma just to...because I had to go to pass a medical visit


and ah, also to the Australian consulate, they interviewed you

and um during the interview, they were trying to find out what were your political preferences

what were they hoping to find?

because if you were a Communist they wouldn't let you in

ah really, okay

they wouldn't let you come to Australia?

no way

well I was 12 years old my father came here in 1949 he had enough of war he did 2 years of national service and then the Africa war

broke out and he did that and then the second world war so he was, for 9 years, in it

and he could see no future

for us children from a small town, so he wanted to come to Australia for a new life

and he came here in 1949 and then we came here in 1951

16th of September 1951

- you came with your mum? - I came with mum and my two brothers

we went to live to Carlton, Lygon Street Carlton

we loved it...mum found it hard because of the difference

not speaking English, it was a very trying time for her

we got to try to assimilate and that's what we assimilate, the Australian way

- what did that mean, to assimilate? - to mix and understand their way of living

we had left our way of living

so this was the new way

we had to learn to be good Australians, obedient to the law

and that was what my parents preached us

we had a fruit shop in Scotchmer Street, Fitzroy

I went to work there, I used to go half day to school and half day I went to the fruit shop

my father had a job that started at 4 o'clock in Davis Coop - they used to make materials

I used to go to school from 9 o'clock to 12 o'clock and then go to the shop and work there until 5 o'clock

and that... I was about 13/14 years old

so in other words, I only had about a year and a half English school, not much

in those days there was a lot of discrimination

and thinking back now, with good reason too, in the sense that a war had just finished

we had been fighting against each other there was also a lot of ignorance in Australia

in a sense that the Australians knew um nothing about the rest of the world

and ah and they looks upon us like we were, you know, diseased or something

- yeah - 'wogs'

well they used words like 'wogs' or whatever

but yeah, err

but I must confess that personally I have never suffered

- any of that - yeah okay

um I worked always from um, I think

from day 1 I went to work in a factory where there were some Italians but mostly Australians

and ah, and I found that they were, you know, they got to know you

and they were very helpful to me, they have always been helpful, I never had any

any problems with that

because I don't have much education

cause I only had 5th grade in Italy the only thing I knew how to do was tailoring

it was um, it was pretty hard in a sense that I felt I didn't have the brains to do that

but I managed, I managed alright and uh, yeah

then we got married at the age of 19 he was 24



nostalgia, yes you feel nostalgic I think,

to the day you die 





and I was 24 when I had my first child

discrimination was that you walked into a place, and they looked at you 'you're a dago', you know

you're a foreigner and you could feel it, you could cut the air with a knife sometimes

ah you probably haven't heard this before

in Lygon Street, Carlton

- we Italians, in those days, Saturday the shops open from 9-12pm - yeah

12 o'clock everything's shut and ah you could shoot, you know, because there was nobody in the street

but we, Italians, let's say 'new arrivals'

it was a meeting place

it was a meeting place, only you got out on the footpath and you would find a friend and another friend

next thing, there would be 3, 4 or 5 people talking, you know

yeah yeah

and the cops would come and say

'come on, move along' you know, you weren't allowed to congregate on the footpath

that was no no no no

and um, and you you felt discrimination which in a lot of cases

wasn't so much discrimination, it was ignorance


when I came to Australia the moment I stepped down from the ship

if I could have run back to my mumma,

I would have but I couldn't because I had 400 pounds

of debt, which I had borrowed

and I had to pay that back, to start with and then I would have had to make money

to go back so, that was out of the way

ah, nostalgia - yes you feel nostalgic

- I think, to the day you die - mmm

even now, I've got this thing

I said to her (Maria)

a while back, that I would like perhaps to go back to my town, just to go and visit the cemetery

- where all my relations, relatives are - yeah

- yes, you do have that - mmm

and I don't think that matters where you come from


you have that in, in you, that you...the place where you were born

there are some sad things,

you know when I came to Australia we went through the period of ah, sadness and missing and so on

but then you get on with your life

we got married, we had children, we

we built a house and you don't think of your parents or whoever you left behind then but

strangely enough, now I've got this feeling which I've done something...I'm even ashamed to say it

I feel, what have I done? I've left my parents

and I think that comes to the fact that as you get old

you've got your own children, and you feel, you know

how would I feel if I couldn't see my children anymore because

they're all gone away or...?

and I feel that I've given that pain to my parents


and have never paid them back

I don't know one could say you're stupid

- but that's how I feel, that's how I feel now - no, it's not

- there was a sad time, you were not the only one that left home - yeah

there were millions of others

it was just a...the way things were after the war there was no choice, there was nothing

do you feel like there's a unique Italian Australian culture?

different from culture in Italy?

- ...and different from Australia again? - sure, sure

- oh a lot - there is a world of difference

ah so many things, they're not that much difference but there is in general

I think there is a lot of difference

one of the things that pushed me also to migrate then

was that in Italy it wasn't who you are or what you know or what your qualifications are

it's who you know, what friends you've got

and how much you can bribe these friends

- hypocrisy - because um, whether it was for a job whether it was for anything unless you knew someone that would take something on the side

you never got anywhere

they use the word assimilation


uh but you're always in the middle

you left one culture, you go to another culture

you can never forget that because it's imprinted in you, you know, where you were born that culture is imprinted in you

and you cannot just cut it out

and throw it away

so there is always part of go to a new culture which

there are certain things that you always find strange but you learn to accept

but you are never here nor there you are always in suspended


- 'suspended' yeah that's a good way of putting it -always you cannot avoid that

that doesn't mean that that's bad, or that's bad it's just...

- the way it is - the way it is

I know of people that um, through various things - they changed their name, so that they um has to say well 'I don't want them to know I'm descent from Italian'

so they change their name

but, deep down in them they are not only not happy, they have that guilt in them, to the day they die

so you dancing in-between two poles you know, it will take generations to change that

ah we're talking about when you have Italian culture and Australian

culture and being in the middle and always being suspended...

well there are two things, there are times you feel uncomfortable and there are times you use both and it comes in handy

and it balances out

- you can't change completely to one - no, you wouldn't want to

some people try very hard

but they don't succeed

no and they are unhappy

- you are Italian born but you're an Australian citizen - I'm living here for so long

let's say you've got mixed feelings and not unless it comes to the right time

you don't know how to react I don't


that when you're in Australia and you're talking to people who aren't Italian in Australia

maybe you talk about yourself like you're Italian but then if you were to talk to someone in Italy you're Australian

yes yes

you're always defined by who you're not

that's right yes

I find Grumento Nova

the paese (village) here more than what's over there now

what has happened is that we left a culture

and uh, that culture is with us, even now after 60 years or so, it's still the same thing because that's what we left there

we haven't seen the change that they've gone through

- but when...and that's happened to me but I don't know - yeah yeah

when we went back, it hit us like you wouldn't believe because what we left, it's not there anymore you see over there they don't make i viscuott (biscuits) anymore, they go and buy them

- they don't make uh, salami's, they don't - the pizzas, they buy all those things



I find Grumento Nova, the paese (village), here (in Australia) more than what’s over there (in Italy) now


what are the things that you feel like you do here that make you feel most connected to being Italian?

um I think the only thing that makes me feel connected to being Italian

for one thing is the language


because no matter what if I speak English I've got the accent

even if I speak grammatically correct, which I don't, but even if you do

you've got that accent, you can never get rid of that

- you are born with - it's a marker

it's something that will not wash off


so that makes you feel Italian although even our Italian is buggered up, if you like

well it is unfortunately

because our Italian wasn't very good when we left there

- so we're not going to learn any Italian here - we only had dialect

well we had dialect

mmm yeah

um now one of the things that has changed - they've lost the dialect, they don't speak dialect anymore

really? in Grumento they don't speak dialect?

- no no they don't - really? I didn't know that

to the point that they've got a school and uh, they send their kids to

learn the dialect because they want to carry that tradition but I don't think they will be successful


and ah, so all this keeps us tied up to that - is the language most of it

yes we sort of, our generation, sort of are in between things


ah, we've seen a lot, we haven't had a chance for education

but we are left in-between things we,

we can't speak well English we can't speak well Italian

so we make, sometimes, our own language

- haha, it happens - it happens everyday


we mix

I've been away for 64 years now...

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