Caterina Taormina née Cuffaro

I was born in 1933 at Cianciana, province of Agrigento. There were 6 children, 3 sisters and 3 brothers. We grew up during World War 2 and Mum and Dad had to make many sacrifices and worked really hard to raise such a big family. One day in 1951, Dad had an accident, he fell and died young. Six of us were left at home with Mum, a widow at 43 years of age.

At the age of 18 I met my future husband Giuseppe Taormina. We became engaged and I was married on 22 February 1953. Three years later our first son Gaetano was born.  After 21 months I had my second son Alfonso. In 1958 my husband went to work in England for two years. I was left on my own with two small children and that was a big sacrifice for me but my brother Giuseppe helped me a lot.

Seven years after we were married we came to Australia. We left Messina on the 18 June 1960 aboard the ship Neptunia. When we boarded, my eldest son was four and my youngest two.

We arrived in Australia at Port Melbourne the 17 July 1960. We travelled all night by train and in the morning we arrived at the Adelaide station where we were met by my sister Maria and my brother-in-law Franco. We are two sisters married to two brothers. We lived together for 7 years and all of us made many sacrifices. At the beginning, language was the problem.  My husband, my brother in law and my sister would go to work and I would stay home to look after the family and all the children. It was a bit hard, but eventually with time we learnt some English. My sons have all studied; Gaetano has a degree in Economics and Alfonso has a degree in property valuation.

Gaetano married Maria Immacolata Carbone in 1983. My second son, Alfonso married before the first and now I have four grandchildren Tristan, Senay, Laura and Lidia. I thank God that the family is doing really well; my sons have found good partners, my grandchildren are very good and we are very happy with Australia. My husband has had many ailments but in this country they really helped him; if he were still in Italy he may not be alive now. Again I thank God for my family and my grandchildren; we also have a great-granddaughter – her name is Lily.

I do miss my family in Italy; I had three brothers and three sisters but one of my brothers passed away. Italy and Sicily will always be in our heart. I cry when I talk about it. We have never wanted for anything in Australia and my husband and I have been generous to everybody.  I worked for 29 years at the Julia Farr Centre. I would walk there because it was near home. I worked there with all my heart. I never went to school here, only in the last year of my employment they taught us “English in the workplace” for a few hours only. At the Julia Farr Centre I would help to look after people who were unwell, it was a kind of nursing home. When I stopped work in 1993, the elderly were crying because I had always treated them as if they were my grandparents.

We are happy in Australia. Now that we are old, we think of our family and it is a big family. I went back to Italy only once in 1988. It was a bit different from our times there. It had improved but I was missing Australia.  Also both my sons, who went to Italy, will say that it is nice to see the family but Australia is a better place to live. Both of them were born in Italy but it is as if they were born here.

At the beginning it was hard but my sister and my brother in law helped us. My sister and I are still very close and we respect each other. We have lots of people from our village here. Many of the old ones have passed away but the younger ones are still here. We are five or six families all living near each other and with a couple of families we are like brothers and sisters. We are fond of each other, we help each other in the garden and if we don’t see each other for two or three days we knock on each other’s door to check how we are.

When I was young I wanted to study but only my brothers did so. One was a lawyer; one was a professor at the Agrigento high school for 28 years and later became “headmaster”, the Principal. We women did not study, my sister went to school but I was looking after my grandmother, who was unable to move and I only went to school until year 4. My brothers used to say that I had less schooling but I was more intelligent than them. When they read my story they cried.

Recorded January 2014. Transcribed by Angie Morony.