by Margaret Pekin, Australia
My Gt. Grandfather, Costantino Giovanetti, married my Gt. Grandmother Ann O’Shannassy in 1882, she was born in Australia of Irish descent. He died when my Grandmother Rita Giovanetti was 5 years old, the oldest of 5 children in 1888. My Gt Grandmother married again taking the youngest daughter with her. Costantino’s brother Gottardo, who also migrated to Australia (1857) brought up my Grandmother’s 2 brothers and my Grandmother and her sister were brought up in another local (not Swiss-Italian) family. My grandmother did not remember either her father or mother, but she did know that her father was a Swiss-Italian.
My daughters studied Italian at school and one went on to major in Italian at university, as they knew I was very proud of our Swiss/Italian heritage.
I was overwhelmed by the distance my Gt Grandfather travelled to get to Australia and how he would have felt leaving behind his family and such a beautiful, imposing landscape when only 16 years of age. Seeing Grotto Giovanetti as a fading sign on a very old stone building, religious paintings near the church and graveyard (painted by my Gt. Gt. Uncle Vanoni), an ancient paved piazza I imagined my Gt Grandfather recalling these features of Aurigeno village life, when he arrived as a miner to a tent city on the goldfields of Ballarat and Castlemaine.