Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Excerpt From Lidia Bastianich's Autobiography

Here is a brief excerpt from the first chapter of Lidia Bastianich's new autobiography or memoir, My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food, published in 2018:
Few people outside of my immediate family know this, but for the first five years of my life, my name was not Lidia, it was Giuliana. My mother had chosen this name for me as a way to remember her homeland, which was then part of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northern Italy. The Second World War had ended, and communism was coming to Pola, the small city on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, where my family lived. The Yugoslav Partisans, who were communist-led, had fought as guerrillas against the Nazis and Fascists and had taken over the government of Yugoslavia when the Germans were defeated. As part of the 1947 Treaty of Paris, our city, and most of the Istrian Peninsula, which had become part of Italy after World War I, was given to communist Yugoslavia. 
The redrawing of borders sparked a mass exodus from the area, with more than three hundred thousand people fleeing to Italy to reclaim their Italian citizenship. Many of them had deep Italian roots; they spoke Italian, and their families were Italian. Many of them migrated on to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. My parents planned to join the migration, but my mother was pregnant with me, and they knew that travel would be difficult. There was also the question of where to go once we crossed the border. Refugees were being placed in camps, and my father was not comfortable with the idea of my mother's giving birth and caring for an infant in such a place. They also had my three-year-old brother, Franco, to consider. The war was still raging when my mother gave birth to him in July 1944. With the collapse of Fascist Italy in 1943, the Germans occupied the city and used it as a U-boat base, making it a target for Allied bombardments. (...) When he was five months old, two bombs were dropped on Pola. The minute the siren sounded, alerting residents to the bombardment, my father assumed his role as driver of the fire truck for the Pola town arsenal, Cantiere Navale di Scoglio Olivi. My mother awoke to see pieces of the ceiling falling onto her baby's cradle, and she hurried to his side, grabbed the [wooden cradle] with Franco inside, and ran to the bomb shelter. 
At the end of the war, Pola was under the Allied forces when my mother became pregnant with me. The exodus of Italian Istrians was still open, and many of my mother's friends and relatives were moving to Italy, because Istria was soon to be under the Yugoslavian rule.
(...) on February 21, 1947, she gave birth to me at the hospital in Pola, and seven months after that, on the fifteenth of September, the day the provisions of the Treaty of Paris were put into place, the border between Italy and Yugoslavia was officially closed. My parents—and Franco and I—were now stuck in Yugoslavia.
Change came to Pola (“Pula” in Croatian) almost immediately under communism. The names of streets, towns, and monuments were changed to reflect the area's new official language [Serbo-Croatian]. Everybody's last name was changed as the new documents and identification cards were issued. Ours was changed from the Italian “Matticchio” to the Slavic “Motika”. Churches across the peninsula were ordered closed. Suddenly, people weren't allowed to go to church or even practice religion openly. It was a sharp blow to many—both Italian and Croatian—who lived in the city and had practiced Catholicism for generations. (...)
“Giuliana” had a deep meaning for my mother. Friuli-Venezia Giulia is still a region of Italy, and Istria before the war was part of that region. Istria was in the Giulia part of the region, and we were Giuliani, as the emigrants from the area were referred to. (...) For the first five years of my life, I was known as Giuliana by everyone who knew me—friends, family, and everyone in town. I was Giuliana. Then, suddenly, I wasn't. Suddenly, I was Lidia.

The book is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble: My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food