Searching for my Roots

No, I don’t mean my teeth, but my family history!

Not everyone knows that I grew up with a – very loving – Swiss stepfather. When I was two years old, my “real” parents got divorced. Fortunately, my mum – who is Swiss also – married again two years later and that relationship fitted perfect!

So, all things considered, my brother and I had a very happy childhood and our family was complete when our step brother was born a few years later!

The (already loose) contact with my real father – who is Italian – ended more than 20 years ago. I was sad at the beginning, because the break-up wasn’t my choice and I blamed myself for a long time. But after so many years it doesn’t bother me anymore!

Luckily, the contact with my grandparents (Nonna and Nonno, as they were called, since they were Italians) was always intact.

I know since childhood, that my Nonno wasn’t the real father of my father – but that is a much more tragic story, than a divorce!

If you want I’ll share this fascinating tale with you.

This is my grandmas story – her name was Anna, by the way:

World War II, although almost at its end, still raged in Europe and Anna was a beautiful twenty year old girl, who lived with her family in Naples, south Italy. As it was common in the south, religion and family honour was still very much alive then. Hmm….it still is, when I think about it.

Anyway, as we know from history, allied troops were also stationed in Italy. So it happened that my grandma met a young, good looking English fighter pilot and they fell in love! He’s name was James.

So far so good, it could be the start of a beautiful romance! Sadly, it’s not…..

James had to leave for a new combat mission after a while, but not before promising her and her family that he’ll be back and they would get married as soon as possible.

God, they must have been crazy for each other! It’s unimaginable, how painful it must have been to say goodbye under these circumstances.…

As if this wasn’t bad enough, my grandma found out that she was pregnant…..and that in south Italy and not married! We cannot imagine the drama that surrounded her. She was now the family’s disgrace and as soon as her belly started to grow, she wasn’t allowed outside the house anymore.

When they had visitors, they hid her in the closet…She must have suffered a lot. Not only was she worried sick about her beloved James, but also had to deal with her unforgiving family.

And all that in the madness of the gruesome war, albeit near its end!

Then came the probably worst day in Anna’s life: A letter came and informed her, that James had died on a mission in Malta! She must have been devastated….

I’m not sure, if the army informed her, or if James’ family sent her the letter and let her know about the tragedy. What I know is that his family – who lived in Liverpool – offered her to adopt her child, if she couldn’t keep it. He would be loved and well taken care of!

Well, apparently, this wasn’t an option for Anna, and when her son – my dad – was born, she kept it. I have no idea, how she got her way with the family and all that. But somehow she “won” and kept her baby. Well, let me tell you, she was a strong-minded woman!

Her son was baptized of the name Mario and lived in Italy until he was about twelve years old. As far as I know he had a happy childhood and was very spoiled – he meant everything to Anna.

But that was about to change, when she moved to Switzerland, in order to find work. Probably the perspectives were much better than in Italy. Here she met Giorgio from northern Italy, and soon they got married. For Anna it was not only love, but a perfect solution. Only little Mario was really jealous of his stepfather, suddenly he had to share his mum with someone.

So they moved to Zurich in a big apartment and soon had two daughters together – Mario’s stepsisters.

They had a good life, were hard working, the kids grew up, went to school, started to work…the usual.

When Mario was around twenty, he met my mum and they fell in love. Soon she was pregnant and they got married. One year later my brother was born, but unfortunately, the marriage didn’t work out and when I was two, they divorced. I reckon, they were simply too young.

As I mentioned earlier, my brother and I always kept the contact to our grandparents and our two aunties.

Unfortunately, Mario wasn’t so keen on his two kids from his past and after two attempts from my side to keep in touch, I had to understand, that the interest was from my side only. So more than 20 years ago, it was the last time I’ve heard from him.

Anyway, my Nonna told me the whole story, about James, how she coped with her life in Italy, her joy about Mario and the move to Switzerland. Unfortunately, she could never show me any documents, photos or letters from her fascinating life. When I asked her about it, she told me that years ago, Mario wanted to do some family research, so she gave everything she had to him. As far I know, he found out where his father’s family in England lives. But he never dared to contact them.

My grandma died in December 2017, over 90 years old – about twenty years after my Nonno had passed away. And suddenly I realized that my father was the last person, who knew about our history and that he still had the documents his mother gave to him. Well, I certainly hope so…..

So this week I worked up the courage and sent a letter to Mario (he lives in Zurich since many years, with his new family).

My letter to him contains no accusation whatsoever and I explained that he wouldn’t have to worry about having to meet me, or something like that.

But I explained my thoughts, about our family and our extraordinary story. And in case it was true what Nonna had told me, about giving all the paperwork to him, I kindly asked him to send copies of the documents, letters and photos etc. to me. One day it would definitely be too late and I would miss an important part about my past! I don’t even know how the English family name is spelled correctly, I only know how to pronounce it (roughly).…

Well, meanwhile Mario must have received my letter….I truly hope he read it and is considering my request! Let’s see….waiting isn’t my strengths and this is a bit nerve wrecking, to be honest….!


    • Sigrid Starck on March 9, 2019 at 11:12 am
    • Reply

    Hej Diana. Så spännande jag håller tummarna på att din pappa är en förståndig och seriös man som skickar dokumenten till dig. 💕
    Lycka till! 👍

    1. Tack Sigrid, jag hoppas också det!
      Önskar en trevlig helg 😃

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