For the past four days we’ve been in Cosenza, walking the earth of our Italian ancestors. Yesterday we met our cousins. This was not expected. It was enough for Maya and I to walk the gentle earth of our maternal ancestors. To be aligned simply by walking. But with the help of our dear friend Mario who researched our family , we journeyed to the village of Figline Vegliaturo and embraced our relatives from the side of my Mother, Grandfather, and Great Grand Mother. Mario took us to the Village’ Town Hall and was able to locate my Grandfather, Francesco and Great Grandfather, Pasquale in the pages of the birth registry. While Mario persuaded the women at the registry for photocopies of my family’s documents, in walked Gaetano Greco, son of Rocco Greco, Grandson of Gaetano Greco, Great Grandson of Goffredo Greco and Rossa Crocco and thus Great Nephew of Aquilina Greco, my Great Grandmother, my Grandfather, Francessco Villella’s Mother! Forget the first second third cousin formalities, in walked my cousin, Gaetano Greco! Who by chance was the son of the woman in charge of the registry, ex wife of Rocco Grecco!
Our newly found cousin graciously took us to the cemetery where we paid our respects and heard stories, like how my Great Uncle Goffredo Greco, blacksmith, creator of bells for cows, sheep and goats was murdered one night; murdered out of spite and jealousy, Gaetano told us, jealousy because Goffredo’s business, the production of cattle and sheep bells was so successful. We were taken to the old Blacksmith shop that still stands today, and where my Great Great Uncle Goffredo was murdered.
Next we were taken to my Great Grand Mother, Aquilina’s house, my Great Grand Father, Pasquale’s house and the area where my Grandfather, Francessco most likely was born and played in the Piazza center. Gaetano then took us to our other cousin’s homes, Liberata and Giovanna where we were embraced, held cheek to cheek, shown pictures of Aquilina’s brother, served pastries cake and coffee, while holding hands. We were told how Aquilina convinced the Father of our cousins not to go to Canada, not to go to Montreal to work on the railway because times were too hard. We were introduced to an elder neighbour of there’s who claimed to know of Aquilina. Gaetano took us to his Aunt Franca’s home, sister of Rocco Greco, another cousin of ours and once again we were held tightly, all of us in disbelief and awe at our great fortune of meeting each other.
On our way to meet Gaetano’s Father and rest of his lovely family we met some of the neighbors like the man who makes the best salami in the whole of Calabria, and his wife and daughter, the man who measures and prepares the burial of the deceased, the neighbour of Aquilina’s descendants. Our last stop we meet Rocco Greco, Gaetano’s father and second wife and Gaetano’s wife! We were embraced once again and we left with more photos and cheek to cheek farewells.
Today I am closer to the rhythms of my Italian ancestry, I embody more fully past generations, I feel closer to Aquilina Greco who I met briefly in an ancestry workshop a few years ago through movement and imagination. Thank you to Diane Roberts and Liliona Quarmie who lit the spark to this connection! I am deeply grateful for this journey, the privilege of being able to travel, trace and share this with my own daughter and of course with my beautiful Canadian/Italian Mother who brought us up proud of our Italian side! I also look forward to sharing this journey with my other Canadian relatives, sharing the depth of our heritage, our footsteps, our breath, our life.