Letter to a grandchild
I read this moving and deep letter, written by Lino De Palmas, in the newspaper La Nuova Sardegna, @Ddurudduru di Luciano Piras, on 22 August 2014 (http://piras-sassari.blogautore.repubblica.it). I don’t know Lino De Palmas. There is only a short bio on the page: he was born in 1970 in the village of Lodè, near Nuoro (Sardinia), and since 2002 he has lived and worked in Berlin. He is a researcher and an educator. He wrote a children’s book, Spaghettino. Il cuoco Piero e le ricette colorate, in Sardinian, Italian and German.
His letter struck me. In a few phrases De Palmas outlines our recent past, in a poetical yet crude way. Some images, for example, the one of the pig, wrung my heartstrings, taking me back to the world as it was told by my parents, in another age, though only three generations ago. A world of sacrifices but also of dignity and hope, something that has disappeared without a concrete alternative being built for our land.
Finally, I’ll hand over to De Palmas:
Your grandparents do not believe in this global village, because they are orphans of the real one, of our society that was deeply communitarian. It was sa idda (the small village) where they were born and from where, suffocated by poverty, they escaped by emigrating to terras anzenas (foreign countries), working hard and saving to send money back and help their family. Always with the soul of farmers and shepherds, they bought pieces of land and built their own house stone by stone, thanks to su cambiu torratu (mutual help), because back then there were still sa tratentzia, sa vide, sa paraula (brotherhood, god fatherhood (*) and the respect of one’s word, of the promises made).
Today, there is only silence. And if sometimes your grandparents tell their story as if they were dreamy, do not take that as due to senility. They do not ask you to do what they did; they only want you to remember that they did it.
I know that times have changed, and now the family sometimes has to send money to the emigrants, and that the present is not easy indeed. But, trust me, it was not easy also for your grandparents.
Wars, malaria, disease and hunger, so much hunger, so much so that to calm the starving pig they played the accordion, and he fell asleep dreaming happily; but the hunger was so much that he woke up more aggressive than before.
I say this, so that you will not forget that if your parents (and you too!) had the opportunity to study and live a more comfortable life, it is thanks to your grandparents’ spirit of sacrifice.
Your parents have unfortunately forgotten it. Now they are on the list of families in extreme poverty. They have squandered all the cultural and moral inheritance. They are the new figure of the modern poor, poor in all senses, rich only in laziness and dishonour. Your grandparents would never petire un’undu ‘e lactuca (beg for a bunch of lettuce) while the lands around the village are completely abandoned.
This is the country where you came to grow.
I’m writing these words, my dear grandson, so that you can forgive them, your parents, for they know not what they do, but especially because no iskin ki nd’an pèlditu vatta e fama (they don’t know that they have lost everything, all that they have done and their reputation, without hope).
Lino De Palmas
(*) sa vide was a strong concept, very difficult to translate in English, which referred to the link between a family and the godfather of their child. It was a relationship taken so much seriously that the godfather was the legal guardian of the child in case the parents die before adulthood – and in any case he was his mentor and his moral point of reference.
I cannot add more but the consideration that after so many illusions, proclamations and empty political words, our communitarian culture and our traditions have been scientifically erased and, only after a few generations, the only common sentiment is a sad, fatalistic cupio dissolvi (a desire to forget oneself).