Sunday, 28 December 2008

In memoriam, Anna Maria Figini...

the Italian Red Cross nurse, passed away this morning after a short, painful battle with cancer, in Bologna, Italy.
The Hungarian refugees who were handed over by the Yugoslavian border guards to the Italian Red Cross in February of 1957, met Anna at the door of the Red Cross camp in Marina di Ravenna.
For the disheveled group that we presented to the welcoming Red Cross nurses, Anna's bright and warm smile will live forever in my memory. For many of us she was symbolic to all the love of family, friends and country that we left behind after the 1956 Hungarian Freedom Fight.
The lack of common language was no obstacle for Anna as she instinctively knew whatever any of us wanted to say or ask for.
She never stopped smiling, never showed impatience, never stopped caring for us. As time passed in camp, she had managed to teach most of us a few words of Italian and soon we were old friends. I remember telling her - much to my astonishment - the story of my family with the fifty some odd Italian words that she taught me. When I got stuck at any point she would patiently help me find the right word or gesture. We were communicating!
We have spent some five months in the Italian Red Cross camp with Anna being on duty virtually every day during that time. When time came to sail off to some distant land as the refugees found a welcoming country, parting with Anna was almost as painful as leaving my mother and little brother at home in November of 1956.
It seemed like leaving home all over again, and it was evidently painful for Anna as well. We promised to keep in touch.
While in person communication was possible with hand and facial gestures coupled with the few words of Italian, writing from far away Canada became much more difficult. My Italian was just not good enough for the written word and my English didn't exist yet. The correspondence was mainly in postcards with just a few words, although dear Anna wrote what later I found to be encouraging letters to keep on learning and working and eventually finish university in my adopted land. With time we lost contact.
On the fiftieth anniversary of my stay in Italy I wrote to the Italian Red Cross and asked if they could find Anna Figini.
I have given up hope of hearing about her when some eight months later I have received a letter, from Anna!
She was now retired and a grandmother, living in Bologna and so happy to have received my query from the Italian Red Cross. We were both elated and I promised to visit her and her family in Italy, we had so much to tell each other of the last fifty years! Then I have called her and we were even more happy to hear each other's voice. This time I was fluent in Italian and we had a great conversation.
The next letter, some three weeks later, from Anna had devastating news. She had been diagnosed with a rapidly developing form of cancer and was undergoing severe chemo and radiation therapy.
When I called her again, she was barely able to talk, but it was she who had consoled me...
This morning I had called her in Italy and her sister told me that Anna passed away, just hours before my phone call.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas day 2008 is almost...

history and the media around the world has been mellow or silent on this day.However, by morning on Boxing Day, readers and viewers will be treated to the usual fair of sensational news items, or at least controversial subjects to stir up reader interest. One can count on The Guardian in the UK for leading the way. First,they publish the full "Christmas message " to the world of Ahmadinejad. As if, next to the messages of queens and statesmen around the world, the Iranian crackpot would be of some significance. Then, having insulted the Britts and sundry they have a lunatic salivating on the prospects of going after key figures of the US administration as they hand over the reigns to the new president on January 2oth. A controversial journalist, (Bring Home the Revolution:the Case for a British Republic), Jonathan Freedman is agitating for a "reckoning" of Bush and "his cronies". He is aghast over the treatment of the innocents at Gitmo and advises key members of the US admimistration not travel abroad as they surely would be arrested by justice seekers like Freedman.
Lefties the world over first try to bring about a "revolution", failing that they latch onto cases of "crimes" against humanity.
Only one thing is common to all of these Freedmans and shoe-throwers: they are all living in free democracies.

Christmas morning...

tea almost ready, Crosby, Andy Williams, Julie Andrews, like close friends, are singing their hearts out...just a few hours ago it was classical Christmas music by Handel, Schubert, Verdi and Bizet sung by Renee Fleming. No one can smile and make you warm all over as Fleming. She glows and her voice penetrates the innermost part of your soul.
So, there is no shortage of earnest talent to put you into the mood. Still. Worrying news creeps into the morning, as various portals feel it is their duty to serve up at least a bit of reality, lest you get carried trying to resist reading anything impersonal. Get stuck in a blog by Instapundit. Travelers around the globe are cited. How this holiday the hotels, restaurants, exclusive resorts are all half full or less. No doubt, the loss for those making a living for these services the reality is painful or soon will be. But for the ones staying home this holiday may not be all that bad.Those staying away are at home. Count your blessings. If you could not get to spend for this Christmas get-away, count your blessings. If you are healthy and at home and not travelling, count your blessings. Shed a tear for those who are neither at home nor at a resort this Christmas.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Dec. 22, 2008 on Fox News...

The best line by Charles Krauthammer that evening : "The vise president's role in the Obama administration will be diminished and it will suit the man (Biden)..."

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Recent visits to Spain...

after so many years of conscious neglect due to dislikes of bullfights,dishonest cabdrivers and a general state of chaos in the big cities, produced a new vision of the country and her people, for the better.It all started in Barcelona a couple of years ago, then Madrid last year, Ciudad Real this spring and finally an afternoon in Cartagena just a few weeks ago. On each trip one pleasant surprise after another. There are no better , cheaper and more efficient connections between airports and city centers.The intercity trains are spotless and comfortable, and fast.
The most unexpected event that will stay with us for a long time happened in Cartagena.Our ship stopped for a few hours and we took off to visit the old town, walking for hours. Near the ship's docking we looked for a supermarket to buy a case of mineral water to take on board. But there wasn't a store in sight, so one of our fellow travelers (not the political kind)stopped a middle aged lady on a bicycle for directions. A long discussion followed in Spanish accompanied by arms and fingers pointing to several directions, but all target stores apparently in far away places.
Finally,the kind lady of Cartagena jumped on her bike and indicated to our little group to stay put for a while, she'll be back.Realizing this complete stranger's intention, we ran after her and literally forced her to take our euros, as our bona fides
Within ten minutes she was pedalling back where she'd left us, carrying several sacks of bottled water!
We were in a such an awe at this wonderful gesture, that her tight hugs to each one of us didn't register with us even while she was getting back on her bike and soon disappearing in the port's traffic.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

What species is that "eurobird"?

A few years ago,shortly after moving to Florida from my European assignment and effectively retiring from my long-term employee within a few days,I was accosted on the tennis court by already retired residents. After a few pleasantries and introductions , one of them said to me after hearing that we'll be here only in the winters: "So, we have another snow-bird here!"
Having lived in Canada, too, for some 21 years I knew immediately the kind of bird I was taken to be. And it almost fitted the description. I was, in fact, a Canadian, I was going to live in Florida during the winter only, I talked "funny" (at least as compared to real Floridians). However, it wasn't a perfect fit.
Not wanting to sound snobbish, but feeling the weight of responsibility to explain myself, without a moment of hesitation I have found the best possible answer to the friendly gentleman calling me a snow-bird.
"Actually, I am a euro-bird" and being quite surprised myself at this instant creativity, I looked around with a confident smile that bordered on unintended impertinence.
The expression just created a species hitherto unknown to me, or, apparently anyone else in the group. There was a moment of silence and to my utter relief another gentleman came to my rescue asking whether we go to Europe in the summer instead of "up North".
The rest is history.
Yes, we actually have a home on each continent and about the same time when the snow-birds return to their summer nests, the euro birds head East to Europe.
Without confusing my dear readers,I have to add that my genes have quite a bit of snow-bird-y characteristics as well,since come the North American spring I feel a calling from "up North" and I often heed that irresistible call and "fly up" to one or another Canadian community. (To visit can-birds, naturally.)

The alleged sale of the US Senate seat...

and the other disturbing news of the day: Italy bails out ailing parmigiano cheese makers. While the soap-opera quality of the latest news from Chicago merits , at least, a disapproving frown, the plight of Italian Parmesan makers is first-rate drama that ought to deeply disturb pasta lovers around the globe! And we are numerous. Imagine, one day finding no Parmesan cheese on your favorite supermarket's shelves! There is no more Parmesan, all producers are in Chapter 11, outcome of court supervised production of the dairy delicacy is in serious trouble. No harsher fate can be imagined to decent pasta lovers, everywhere.
However, the present Italian government is to be complemented on fast action saving Parmesan promoters, at least for now, by buying up and distributing to charities some 100,000 wheels (77 pounds each) of the golden delicacy.
No messy fight on the floors of congress, no partisan party politics, when it comes to messing about Italians' pasta and de rigour ingredients, quick legislation and implementation is the result.
US lawmakers should consider the present agony of bailing out automakers ala the Italian Parmigiano example by answering just one question: is the automakers bailout as important to this great nation , as the bailout of the Italian Parmigiano makers?
Please, don't rush to a hasty conclusion...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says, NYT

If true, what a responsibility this puts on your shoulder!