Articles, Featured, Italy, Russia

You can’t go home again

Language as a home

“The Russian language is my homeland”, wrote the great poet Anna Akhmatova. She was born in Odessa but lived mostly in Saint Petersburg. She descended from Ukrainian cossacks on her father’s side and from Russian nobility on her mother’s side.

She could have escaped during the 1917 Revolution, as friends of hers did, but chose to stay instead. She knew she was giving up freedom, but she said she could not bear to live in exile, like a stranger in a strange land.

Her first husband was shot by Lenin and her son was sent to the gulag by Stalin. But she never left the Soviet Union, except for brief trips at the end of her life, authorized by the regime.

She wrote patriotic poems and read them to soldiers during the siege of Leningrad, but she also wrote “Requiem”, a long poem about the Stalinist terror, published only posthumously in Russia in 1987.

The English language is not my homeland. I write in English because I lived for many years in English-speaking countries but it’s not my mother tongue — I think I write decently in it, but it still doesn’t feel completely natural, and my pronunciation is not great. But I lived in so many countries, I don’t know in which language I should write anymore. And, unlike Akhmatova, I live in exile. A stranger in a strange land.

Tradition as a home

There is a YouTube channel I like called Pasta Grannies. It interviews year old Italian grandmas who make pasta the traditional way. The last one was about a 96-year old grandma making homemade pesto.

It is beautiful, but it’s also kind of sad. Will this tradition be kept alive in the future?

Italy has a fertility rate of less than 1.3 children per woman, and, on top of that, it is receiving thousands of foreign migrants every year. As in France, increasingly even small towns are full of immigrants, and locals are not having children, but just getting old.

Will these African, Arab and Asian migrants keep the handmade pasta tradition alive? Highly unlikely. They are bringing their own traditions with them.

Most of the illegal migrants board boats on the Libyan coast. They could be easily transported to Tunisia, which is much closer, but Tunis doesn’t want them. So German NGOs picks them up just a few miles off the Libyan coast, and bring them to Lampedusa. There, the EU makes it impossible for them to be deported. So they remain, but many don’t have jobs, and not even a lot of benefits.

Italy is not really a rich country, and many Italians are struggling right now, so you can imagine that most of those migrants are not really having the dream life they were told they would have.

Since it’s German NGOs that bring them, perhaps the Italians should put them all on buses and send them to Berlin. Germany also offers better benefits to migrants, so it would be win-win.

But Meloni is not doing anything about it, and she recently even implied that she wants to increase legal immigration to the country, bringing in people from India too.

Say what you want about Salvini, at least he wasn’t as big a disappointment as Meloni proved to be.

Now the EU has a new agreement that all member countries must share the enrichment. So Poland, Hungary and other countries not so near the Mediterranean will receive their share too. It’s only fair.

No home even at home

In 1973, French writer Jean Raspail wrote the novel The Camp of the Saints, which was an early warning about mass immigration. Despite its relevant theme, the book is out of print. You can buy it at Amazon for 1,000 dollars, which is more than most immigrants pay to the smugglers for their boat ride to Europe.

I don’t even blame the migrants. Some demonize them, but, well, most of them are just poor people who are just being used by others in power — to lower salaries, to create conflict, maybe one day to start a new war, who knows. They probably wouldn’t even come if there wasn’t an incentive from the European governments for them to do so. As Akhmatova knew, it’s hard to live away from one’s homeland.

And in the end, that’s what it is all about. Those migrants only come because the European and American governments are pushing it, and even paying for it.

Just the other day some mayor of a small town in Germany said he was going to install converted containers to house refugees in a primary school, against the parents’ wishes, and he even bragged that there was nothing anyone could do about it.

What is that if not a big “F.U.” to the local population?

Mass migration is portrayed as some kind of natural, unstoppable force, like a tsunami, but it’s exactly the opposite. Billions of dollars or euros are spent to bring those migrants, and then other billions are spent to host them in apartments or containers or camps, and sometimes they even receive a monthly wage.

Occasionally the governments even complain that it costs too much. Well, what about, just stopping spending all those billions?

Of course, it won’t happen. It’s an engineered program that could easily be stopped if there was just the will. But there isn’t.

If the migrants feel bad, if they can’t find a job, if they suffer with racism and xenophobia, if their life sucks and Europe or America is not the shining city on the hill they were promised, they can always go home.

But you, my friend, who grew up under the shadow of those native trees, whose ancestors built these old medieval towns and churches that still stand, you have nowhere to go.

Your country has changed. Your life has changed.

You can’t go home again.

No one wants to help us
Because we stayed home,
Because, loving our city
And not winged freedom,
We preserved for ourselves
Its palaces, its fire and water.

(Anna Akhmatova, Petrograd, 1919)