Port of No Return
When I was a child, in Brisbane, Australia, I asked my father where he was born.
Because I was only six years old, he told me he was born in Trieste, Italy. So I happily went off to school and proudly told my friends. But three years later, my father revised his answer. “Actually, I was born in Fiume, Italy, but it is no longer called Fiume and it is no longer in Italy.”
Being a sensitive child, I noticed that telling the truth had pained him and had not been easy to divulge. He also instructed that I should keep it secret. Now, I was intrigued.
That year, he took our family to Rijeka, Yugoslavia, formerly Fiume. I was moved by his simple reaction. “It doesn’t feel like Italy,” he said.
I then learned that at the end of World War II, Yugoslav Partisans had come down the hills of Fiume to take the portside city. My grandparents, with their four children, had to flee. While my father shared some memories of living in displaced camps in Europe, I didn’t know much more.
I was a writer. I had written several fiction manuscripts and worked as a journalist. Aged in my forties and looking for a new writing project, I thought: “Why not tell my father’s story? Why not find out more about Fiume?” I sensed there was much more to the story and my early research revealed many shocking truths.
All the questions I had pondered since childhood, I now put to my father. Where there were gaps in his memories, research and fictitious licence took over. I was writing a fiction, though my father’s story was certainly my inspiration. I interviewed other Italians, older Italians, who could remember Fiume before the war...
Still, I was an Australian woman, telling an Italian war story, mostly through the eyes of male characters. Surely it would present challenges...?
Empathy helped, not to mention my overactive imagination! I found that I could step into their shoes, to see, feel and imagine what it must have been like to have everything taken away; everything, that was, except for the love of family and the hope to resettle.
So from my childhood curiosity, I have come to write about this little known war, not only for my father, but for the thousands of displaced Italians who fled. Fiume’s Italians and their descendents are spread around the world, residing in countries such as Australia, America and Canada, but through stories, such as this one, they, and their place of birth, will hopefully not be forgotten.
About The Author:
Michelle Saftich is a first-time author who resides in Brisbane, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Business/Communications Degree, majoring in journalism, from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
For the past 20 years, she has worked in communications, including print journalism, sub-editing, communications management and media relations. She is married with two children.
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Port of No Return