64 / Immigration

This post was contributed by my brother:

My younger sister is just receiving the deeds to her new apartment in a white A4 envelope containing pristine paperwork all signed, appropriately stamped, dated and put together in logical order. The smooth handover bears no record of the scars and bruises that have led up to this moment, but sitting behind the desk in front of us is a person who has navigated the sale and purchase of her properties through some very tricky territory.

That he should be sitting where he is, is even more noteworthy. I first met him in 1964 when, as economic migrants, his family came, along with many of their country folk, to the town where we live. They came from an impoverished region of Southern Italy to gain employment in the brickworks of Bedfordshire. The only words he spoke that we could understand were, Juventus Youth, so I put him as centre forward in the school football team. Within the first ten minutes, a cross came over from the wing which he smashed into the net on the volley. He was made!

He left school with brilliant examination results, all achieved in his second language of course, and there he is now, nearing retirement as Senior Partner in a well-respected firm of solicitors.

During my first four years of teaching I had the pleasure of engaging with many of the young Italians who came from this migrant community and some of them became close friends. What joy it was to be invited to an Italian social evening, to be introduced to the children and grandchildren of this community and to hear about the lives of those I first met so many years ago. So many stories of achievement against the odds.

I have long been bewildered by the animosity which can be stirred against those who attempt to forge new lives in foreign lands, rather than marvel at the energy, opportunity and diversity they can bring with them. 

© Benóg Brady Bates


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