Guest blogger, Vivian Miotto writes about her life as a woman who was born in Adelaide and has lived in Italy since 1969. She reflects on the question of identity.
My name is Viviana Miotto but relatives and friends call me Vivian.
My parents, Antonio and Dora (Gina) Miotto nee Corrado, migrated from Italy to Australia in the early 1950s after the II World War. I am the first of three children and we were all born in Adelaide.
After nearly 20 years in the land down under my parents decided it was time to return to their homeland as all their siblings lived in the area of Valdobbiadene and Vidor, in the province of Treviso in Veneto.
At that time, I was 14 years old and found it quite difficult to have to leave the country of my birth, my friends, and the Australian lifestyle. I tried to imagine what my future life would be like in Italy, but I had no idea! I only knew it was going to be very different as I could not speak nor write in Italian very well. Moreover, I didn’t know anyone in Italy, my relatives included, I had never met them and had only seen some of them in photos. My two brothers, Maurizio and Riccardo, are 9 and 7 years younger than me, so they didn’t really think much about what was happening.
Then the day came when our departure by ship from Port Adelaide arrived, all our friends were there to say goodbye, it was very emotional; I felt very upset having to leave everyone I had grown up with during my childhood and whom I felt very close to. Because of the distance between the two countries, I thought I would never see those friends again! It was a terrible feeling! Fortunately, later, as years went by, some of them came to Italy on holiday and with great joy, we met up several times again!
When we arrived in Italy, it was a very foggy winter morning in January. We disembarked from the ship in Genoa, Liguria, where two of my uncles came to meet us. That was my first contact in Italy. We travelled all the way to our new home by car in the fog and it was certainly a hard trip, especially for one of my uncles who drove all the way (about 450 km)!
We reached Bigolino and finally settled down there. Bigolino is a small village of about 1,500 inhabitants beside the River Piave. It was an enormous change for me comparing it to the suburb of North Adelaide where we used to live, but everyone welcomed us very warmly. This made me feel more comfortable. Our new neighbours had had a similar experience in Canada, so there was immediate contact between our two families.
However, my strongest challenge was the Italian language; the Italian school system in those days couldn’t accept my school enrolment because of my lack of command of the language. I recall the difficulty I had in expressing myself in Italian when I arrived and the frustration and loneliness I felt as a result when I couldn’t explain things properly. I had to study hard and try to sit for a Primary School exam and a second year Middle School exam in six months (the Italian school system is quite different from the Australian one).
Fortunately, I passed both exams and in October I could enrol in the third year of Middle School. This allowed me to go to high school and later continue my studies at University. I must say I was lucky to meet very good teachers along the way who encouraged me to improve my knowledge of the Italian language and become more fluent. I also met some wonderful classmates who helped me to improve my Italian and who I am still in touch with ever since.
It took me a couple of years to learn all about living the Italian way, but once I got more familiar with it, I started to appreciate it.
It was then the first time that I had to come to terms with the lack of sense of belonging. I started to question my identity and who I really was because I was not quite Italian and yet I certainly didn’t identify with being Australian. I had this internal debate with myself for many years and it has been renewed at various stages of my life. However, later I decided that I could live comfortably with the fact that I am an Italian and also an Australian, but more Italian than Australian. I adore everything which is Italian such as culture, people, art, literature, and food. It is hard to explain as it is such a personal perception of the way I live it.
This experience has provided me with so many opportunities and I love the fact that I am bilingual. Today I am so thankful to my parents for having done their best by providing me with a set of beliefs and values and helping me build intercultural respect and understanding.
2 July 2023