Friday, June 26, 2009

Family Experiences - Great-grandma Anna

(Anna with a relative)

(Great-grandparents Joseph & Anna with children)
(young cris and dora)
This story is about my great-grandmother Anna, who is "technically" my great aunt. Here's why... During the Spanish Influenza of 1918-1919, my grandma's birth mother died from the flu while my grandma and her sister were still little girls. So her aunt Anna decided to marry my great-grandfather in order to help raise her sister's children so that they wouldn't have to grow up without a mother. I really admire the self-sacrificing love she had for her nieces and her widowed brother-in-law, by giving up the chance to begin a seperate family of her own, or look for a husband of her own choosing. My grandma always used to recount this story with tears in her eyes, because it meant so much to her, that her aunt loved her enough to 'step into the shoes' of the mother she had lost so early on. She said my great-grandmother never made her feel as if she did it merely out of a 'sense of duty' or 'obligation' either. She took on the role whole-heartedly, without any hint of regret. She also later had a son, (my grandmother's younger half-brother, Cris.)

(Dora, Cris & Mary -grown up)

(Great-grandparents Anna and Joseph)

But this wasn't the only unexpected event which presented itself in her life that called for her to really 'rise to the challenge.' To me, this next part of the story called for alot more self-sacrifice than her initial commitment ... During the pre-war years, my great-grandfather had a family business in Italy (they owned a bakery and also made olive oil, etc) but when he began to see the political climate becoming unstable, with Mussolini rising to power, he knew he needed to get his family out of the country because he could forsee what was coming. So first he came over to try and get things established here in America, and then he sent for one member of the family at a time. Eventually, the whole family immigrated to America, but the process in total, took about 12 years. So although they may have seen each other for brief periods inbetween, can you imagine how difficult it must have been being apart like that for years at a time? My great-grandmother was pretty business-savvy also, and she did a good job 'holding down the fort' and caring for the family business back in Italy, while my great-grandfather was getting things underway in America.

(Dora's immigration card/passport photo)

My grandma had a pretty interesting experience happen on her way over to America while crossing the Atlantic. She said that a whale (or something extremely large) hit the boat one evening on the way over because she felt a big "thud" and then all of a sudden the boat was tilted sideways and passengers were falling down & sliding across the floor, while tables and dishes were flying across the dining room to the other side. (that's gotta be a pretty scary incident for a girl on her first big boat ride, while being all alone and away from her family for the first time. Especially considering what happened to the Titanic!)

(Great-grandma Anna with Dora)
She began studying the Bible here in America, and was also baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. She had one of her final 'tests of faith' at quite an old age (in her 80's I believe,) because she developed a very low blood count or platelet level, from some complication that occured after having her spleen removed during surgery. I don't know all the details, but I do know that her chances of survival were pretty slim and her doctors strongly urged her to have a blood transfusion. But she held firm on her stand by refusing to compromise and accept a blood transfusion, and she eventually recovered without the need for one. I've said it before, and I'll say it again... what a strong woman! =)

Joseph's band (clarinet-2nd row bottom left)

Casalanguida postcards (the town they grew up in)

(original house they grew up in)