Mirella Sadkowsky was born in a little village called Lequio Tanaro, at the foot of the Piedmontese Alps in Northern Italy, in 1952. She migrated to Australia when she was 4 years old with her parents and younger sister, settling in Canberra where she grew up and was educated. She has a degree in Modern Languages at the Australian National University and completed her post-graduate studies in Genoa, Italy. Mirella loves languages and music, and is currently learning Spanish and Polish, refreshing her piano skills and enjoying nature walks, art, music and travel, when possible. She enjoys quality time with family and friends, and especially loves playing with her grandchildren.
At the foot of the mountains, the Italian Alps, I was born, almost 68 years ago.
I have always loved mountains; climbing them, looking up at them, and wondering at their majesty. As a toddler, I loved mountains, snowflakes, my two Nonne, and my aunts, uncles and cousins. We spoke Piedmontese.
When I was four, my mother, father, younger sister and I went on a big ship and sailed away on a long ocean journey. I remember flying fish and the big, wild waves that made me sick.
Australia was all different. No extended family. I couldn’t understand anyone, and everything was strange.
In preschool, I could not speak. I had no friends.
The next year, at school, I could speak. I made friends.
I spoke English all day. I spoke Piedmontese at home and Italian to other Italians who were not Piedmontese. I went to Italian school on Saturday mornings.
Our street in Narrabundah was full of European migrants and I did not feel too different. I knew I was a New Australian like them, and all together, there were many of us.
We had photos and letters from Italy, so as I grew up I knew that, far away, I had relatives, but I don’t remember missing them, really. My parents were very hard-working and we were always busy learning and working hard, too.
A memory that lingers within me is the time my mother received a letter and, on reading it, burst into tears. This is how she received the news that her mother had died.
I know it was much harder for my mother to adapt in the new country.
I grew up loving this country but never forgot my early memories, which always remained special.
I didn’t return to Piedmont until I was 25. By then, I felt more Australian than Piedmontese. But meeting all my relatives stirred in me a deep love, joy, and pride about my origins.
I then came back to Australia and left my roots behind again for 30 more years, as circumstances – work and six children, including one with disabilities – forced me to grow and grow ever further into this southern hemisphere’s soil.
The children are grown now; I am a grandmother. I belong here.
Still, I have since travelled back to Piedmont twice, visiting the mountains and my relatives, savouring every moment and loving my first home again. I am Piedmontese.
© Mirella Sadkowsky, 2020