Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yes, well, to continue the saga of the Paino family (pronounced Pi-eeno except for Australia, to where most of the Port Elizabeth Painos emigrated, where it’s pronounced Pay-no), our very good friends Ian Dean and Maggie Semple are terrific Italophiles and do the holiday thing there quite frequently. On one of these jaunts Ian very kindly e-mailed me an extract with all the Painos in the Reggio telephone directory and, lo and behold, after all these years there was one still living in the Via Torreone! Must be a relative surely so I duly wrote a letter explaining who I was and including a photograph and the letter was returned by the Italian postal authorities who evidently like most postal workers these days can’t be bothered to do some simple research and correct a simple mistake. I had put the wrong postcode – one figure – though it was the postcode in the Italian directory! So I re-addressed the envelope and sent it again. Never heard a word. I hadn’t realised (because I am such a klutz) that my computer could have translated my letter into Italian for me but there you go, if I wasn’t to hear from G.Paino in Reggio, that’s the way it was. Months went by and then one day our postman told me there was a package for me at the post office so up the village I went to collect. It was from Italy! It was from a Giuseppe Paino. I sat down in the plateia outside Mikey’s cafĂ©, ordered my coffee and settled down to inspect my package. There was a letter from Giuseppe, with printed photograph, in answer to mine and apologies that he had originally addressed the envelope to a G.Johns instead of Jones. Well this has happened to me all my life but I would have thought in a little town like Vamos where the postman and the post office know me so well, they would have put two and two together, instead of which they outdid the Italians and sat on it for goodness knows how long before sending it back. Still all’s well that end well as Mr W.S said. There were a number of family photographs including one of my parents’ wedding and that one of me at 6½ months. I saw pictures of my grandmother for the first time. She didn’t look in the least English. In fact she looked Italian, Mulatto even. Fortunately I could understand Giuseppe’s letter as Italian for the most part is easier to translate than the other way round. After all it’s just like English really with loads of accent and bravissimos, no? There was also a family tree going back to my great grandfather Francesco. In the photograph we have Giuseppe’s grandfather Antonino, his father (Francesco) and mother and four siblings. The boy in the picture went on a long voyage to South America, disappeared and was never heard of again. The little girl in front is Grazia, still hale and hearty (except maybe for a little back trouble) at 87. Giuseppe is not in the picture. He was still to be born and is now 81.

The earliest photograph is one of Antonino as a younger man with his wife and two of his three sons. The third son was my grandfather, Bartolo, who had already emigrated to South Africa. This photograph is from 1887.

A visit to Reggio Calabria and the Casa Mutilati, as the house was once called, was inevitable.

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