by Camilla M.
Anna was born in Carbonia, South Sardinia, on June 17, 1945. She lived her childhood in an extended family which, in addition to her parents and younger brother, also housed her grandparents and great-grandmother, who died at the age of 106. She remembers with great pleasure her childhood, the walks sitting on her bicycle with her father who took her to eat the "doughnuts" that an old man sold, on a cart, in the village square. Anna's father was a miner, as were her grandmother and her mother, who passed away a few months ago at the age of 99.
Anna has never been mild and condescending, she has always been a child and a rebellious girl. She tells me amused. During her adolescence, for three years, she attended a school run by the nuns: it was during this period that she learned to sew and embroider, but above all it was during these years that she met her husband Luigi. Luigi is from Santu Lussurgiu, a distant village, but he works for a landowner in the area. Anna describes in detail their first meeting: it was the time of the grape harvest, at the end of the summer, and both of them would have worked in the same landowner's vineyard; Luigi reads a newspaper, lying on his stomach, and when he hears Anna's voice he raises his eyes to look at her. She feels a shudder running down her back, it was really a lightning strike. She was very young, she was only 16, but she still gets excited when she tells me about it.
The years before the wedding are very troubled, Anna's family does not accept the engagement, so she is forced to take advantage of the moments when she attends school to meet Luigi. The nuns know Anna's feelings and allow her to leave the school to say goodbye to him: when it is time for the intermission, Luigi drives past the school with the tractor, heading towards the train station, a few meters away. She reaches him, they hold hands for a few minutes, without saying a word out of shame and, every time, before leaving, they exchange a letter.
At the age of 18, they lose sight of each other for reasons beyond their control. Luigi is forced to leave the country and move away, because Anna is not yet of age (she tells me that, at that time, the age of majority was 21). The two lovers leave each other with the promise to write to keep in touch, but Luigi's letters are intercepted and seized by Anna's father, and never delivered to his fiancée. She is convinced that Luigi has left her, and even Luigi, who has never received an answer to her letters, thinks that Anna no longer loves him. The two boys stay apart for two years. One day, while Anna comes home from work, she sees Luigi waiting for her on his moped in front of the town hall, and they can finally clear up. Anna's parents still don't accept the engagement, and they send Luigi away from home. Anna follows him, she's pregnant, a big scandal at the time. They get married shortly afterwards, on August 18, 1966. With a smile she shows me a photo of her wedding: she sewed the dress herself, after having bought the fabric. Under the dress you can see a big belly; the first daughter would be born after a few days.
Anna did a lot of work in her life: she started out as a dressmaker, then she worked as a pantsuit for the local tailors, she moved to Rome first for work and then to other cities for a few years, but she suffered a lot from being away from home and decided to return home. After a short time Luigi left for Libya for a work experience that lasted almost twenty years, and returned to Anna and their little girl every 3 months, and then left again every time, until he finally found a job in Sardinia, which he is entitled to as a work orphan.
Luigi's father, in fact, also works in the mine, like Anna's parents, but they don't know each other. He is a carabiniere (Anna has a picture of him in the living room, he is dressed in uniform, he is very handsome), but the salary is not enough and he decides to go and be a miner to earn more money. After only a week he falls from one of the castles of the mine and is the victim of a tragic accident. Anna's mother is present when this happens and sees the scene with her own eyes; she is strongly impressed and often tells the story, without knowing that the man in question is Luigi's father. She learns this many years later, when the family finally agrees to meet their son-in-law and he tells the story of his childhood. For Anna the mine plays a key role in the story of her life: it was the workplace of her family and Luigi's family, and the scene of an accident that happened exactly five years before she was born, on 17 June 1940. "That's why - Anna tells me - I believe in destiny."
I ask her if the parents, who were so strict with her, had a more affectionate relationship with their grandchildren. She tells me that the grandchildren were exemplary grandparents. Anna and Luigi have four children, and their maternal grandparents love them very much: Anna's parents help her to look after the children, even though she has always had a babysitter, because she works, but they never wanted to leave their home to go and live at their daughter's house, not even when they are elderly, when they are no longer self-sufficient. They have two very strong characters, Anna tells me; she believes that the work in the mine has strengthened their temperament: women to go to work went out alone even during the night, met bandits, and of course they had to develop a courageous character: "A person is not born strong or weak, it is life that puts you in front of difficult situations and forces you to become strong”.
After the experience as a seamstress, Anna works as a janitor in many schools in Sulcis, until the age of 60, when she retires. Being reborn she would make everything of her life again, she tells me, even the janitor: it was nice to deal with the boys, even today when they meet her on the street they stop her and greet her with affection. She tells me that she has been a strict janitor, one of those who cares about giving an education to the most discouraged students, for this reason she is not immediately appreciated: once, perhaps out of spite, the boys flood the bathroom and Anna slips and breaks her leg; she has to stay at home for a while. The students immediately regret that gesture, by now they have learned to love her and, while she is recovering, they fill the janitor's office with messages of affection. After a few years she was given the opportunity to take up a position as a secretary, a more remunerated and prestigious position, but Anna refused, because that job would not allow her to stay in close contact with the boys.
Anna shows me a table covered with old photographs depicting the most beautiful moments of her life: she is proud when she shows me the pictures of when she was young, she retraces her life from childhood, her engagement with Luigi, her marriage, the activities she has done and continues to do involving the boys, her work as a janitor, and even a meeting in Rome with the Pope, organized by her.
Although he loved his work, he doesn't feel sad now that he's retired, because he believes he has given everything; he has wonderful memories that he will always carry with him, but he feels that one phase of his life has closed to make room for another, certainly no less interesting. Now he dedicates many hours of his day to comedies and theatre, a passion born many years ago in the parish hall (he had been writing comedies and making theatre since 1966). Her boarding house is pleasantly busy, her days are full of commitments and appointments, and she gets angry if one of them jumps because it forces her to reorganize the whole day. They are hectic days, I point out to her, but she answers me that retirement is not a time to rest and sit on her hands, she doesn't feel tired for the work she did when she was younger.
She is a woman full of life and fun, she loves to show off, both right now in front of my camera and on social networks. Anna uses a lot Facebook: she manages her private profile, which she uses to distract and relax, but also a public page that she uses to advertise all the activities she organizes with the theater and folk group. She has also created a chat on WhatsApp that brings together all the people who participate in her initiatives, a channel through which you can quickly reach more than 100 people to spread the communications that concern everyone. Anna is a leader, it's difficult to coordinate and keep such a large group alive, but she's really good at it, she's able to convey the passion and love for what she does.
She tells about the activities she organizes with the children and gets excited. She tells me that children are able to amaze. It takes a lot of patience with them, it's complicated at the beginning because they think they don't know how to speak Sardinian (Anna's comedies are all in Sardinian), but after a few days and a bit of training they speak it fluently, they learn right away, they are amazing. Through her comedies she's teaching Sardinian to people who can't speak it, adults and children. Even her grandchildren have participated as actors in her films and comedies: she speaks about her children and grandchildren with great affection, she is very happy with her family, she feels like a queen, the luckiest person in the world to have children and grandchildren who love her, a husband who follows her and accompanies her in everything she does and a roof over her head.
Among her many passions there is also writing: in these days she is writing her 19th book; some of these books are represented in her comedies, others are poetry books, others are short stories, such as "contusu e contisceddusu", in which she tells the story of falling in love with her husband Luigi and their first kiss. I'm curious, I ask you to tell it to me. Apparently it sounds like a romantic story, but soon it turns into a funny story: after two years of estrangement wanted by Anna's family, finally the two lovers meet again. Luigi, however, has to leave for work (Anna would have joined him at the age of 21), the time comes to say goodbye, they hide behind a hedge and kiss. Mother is convinced that Anna has left home to go shopping in the village shop, and waits for him to return with the ingredients to prepare lunch. But the time with Luigi has stopped, this long-awaited kiss lasts more than half an hour. Mother, worried, leaves the house to go look for her, sees Luigi's bicycle and imagines that Anna has stopped with him. She slips a cane from behind the hedge where the two lovers have hidden themselves and starts beating her, but poor Anna is still dazed by that first kiss and doesn't really understand what is happening. When she realizes that she has been discovered then she runs away, chased by her mother who at every step beats her with a cane so long that she always manages to reach her.
I ask her if she has also been so strict with her children: she answers me that she has never made them lack education, and they have never disrespected her. After her children she tells me about the other four "creatures", as she defines them, that she created: Is Massaius, the folk group, the polyphonic choir and the theatre company. They are all passions that she created herself because "you don't have to have time to think; if your mind is busy organizing, you don't have time to think about negative things. I live my life, everything that comes before me I do, if I feel like it, and no one stops me; when they try to get in my way I go out the door and enter through the window, I always have plan B, C, D".
I ask she what, in her your opinion, is the role of pensioners today. She answers me that the greatest duty is to pass on traditions and, I can assure you, she is succeeding. Her mission for many years is to share with the younger generations and tourists - who come to visit Sardinia and want to know its traditions - her passions and her knowledge: homemade pasta, the art of making bread; she tells me that the most exciting aspect of what she does is to be told that her gestures bring back to mind, to those who watch her, her mother or her grandmother. "It's nice to help people remember the good times," she says, arousing feelings in people is the thing that makes her feel better and gives her more satisfaction. But Anna does not only do this to spread the local culture, she exports the Sardinian tradition abroad: she is invited, together with her folk group, to many international events, during which she showcases the colours, clothes and music of Sardinia. Anna loves the activities she carries out with her members, she is a real dragger, a leader who manages to involve and excite a very large group of people.
It was nice to hear her tell her story, and towards the end she manages to surprise me again. When I asked her if she imagined her pension would be like this, she said,
"Absolutely, I was dreaming it."