Summer 2011 I spent in Italy. From June 15 to October 15 I was a resident of UNIDEE 2011 program at Cittadellarte Pistoletto Foundation in Biella, Italy.
As a result I made this video CARRY EACH OTHER.
Doing research about elderly people in Biella, I found that there are many immigrants, who take care of them (from post-Soviet countries also). These two weak parts of society, the elderly people and the immigrants are trying to help each other, sometimes even despite of the law. Different cultures and different ages live in collaboration where they need each other. They help each other to survive, to make life easier and better. Moreover I found an interesting phenomenon that despite a difficult situation – or maybe because of it – some people are trying to construct a new reality using their creative skills, like drawing, singing, dancing, etc. For instance 98 years old Silvio, who worked all his life as a fabric designer, makes collages from buttons, Lidia, badante (it. caretaker), draws pictures and sings in a church. Therefore even if you don’t have enough physical strength you have a choice to be or not to be a burden, to create or to destruct.
In my film I combine interview with drawings, which illustrate the story. Some of this pictures I found in Santuario di Oropa, a small church village near Biella, Piedmont. The huge hall with plenty of pictures, crafts, photographs, which people drew for Madonna Nera as gratitude for saving or recovery make a lasting impression.
My film is about the choices that a person makes and the relationships between very different people.
Video was shown in UNIDEE in Progress Exhibition
at Cittadellarte Pistoletto Foundation in Biella, Italy, 2011
Biella is a small city in the north of Italy. For many years this place was famous because of
wool textile industry. Since 1999-2000 crisis many local wool mills were forced to close or
moved to China. It is likely to meet elderly people than young on Biella streets today. Therefore
I decided Biella is the best place to do a research about Italian elderly people.
I took interview on the streets and one friendly man gave me advice: You have to meet Silvio,
he is full of energy in his almost 100 years and he lives nearby!
Next morning I was presented to Silvio and was impressed. He worked as a textile designer
all his life and now he is still very busy. He showed me his schedule – meetings everyday.
Silvio makes collages from buttons and one room in his flat is for the exhibition.
– My mother in low lived here before – he mentioned.
He also writes poetry in Piedmontese dialect and published books. Silvio took one sheet
from the table and read me a tender poem, which he dedicated to his caretaker Olena for
her wedding. I wanted to meet this person, who was loved so much. Olena is from Ukraine
and that time she had a honeymoon. Therefore to meet her I had to wait.
Her aunt Maria was working instead. She came to Italy from Ukraine almost 11 years ago.
I lived in Ukraine, when I was a child and we become friends very soon. Maria told me her
story, how she felt in love with Italy when came to Rome for the church holiday many years
ago. Since that time she has been working as a caretaker and babysitter. Maria enjoys life in
Biella, she likes dancing and often visits dancing clubs. One night she took me to see how
she dances. Huge club was quite fare from the city in the middle of nowhere, there were
many cars on the parking and many people different age inside. At 2 am we left, next morning
Maria had to work in the hospital.
There is a park in the centre of Biella, where Ukrainian immigrants meet each weekend. That
Saturday I came with Maria. Several women at their 50s were sitting on a bench, they all
work as caretakers (badante – it.):
– We are here because it is easier to find work for women, but not for men.
Often women came to Italy illegally, usually like tourists, but sometimes with logs in a truck.
They have to live without their families for years. Most money they earn they send to their
relatives. Without this help, they can’t survive in Ukraine. My question was why these women
agree to be hostages of money and the dream of a better life in the future that can never
happen. You need to be strong to live alone, far from place where you used to live. I realized
that Ukrainian immigrants are very religious.
In my film I divided screen in two parts, one illustrates the other. The part about Ukrainians
in a park I combined with pictures, which I found in Santuario di Oropa, a small church
village near Biella. The huge hall with plenty of pictures, crafts, photographs, which people
drew for Madonna Nera as gratitude for saving or recovery makes a lasting impression…
After some sentimental stories we went to a church, where each Saturday there was a
service by Ukrainian priest. Lidia was the best singer in a church. I wanted to record more
songs and she invited me to her house. Lidia makes money as a caretaker, she is a person,
who never give up. She repairs her house by herself, sings, draws, embroiders… I illustrated
this part by her pictures.
All immigrants that I interviewed are now legal, but several years ago when they arrived to
Italy most of them didn’t have any papers. Carola from Peru said that to move to Italy she
received help from a special agency, which promised not only to make papers but also to
find a job and accommodation for her but didn’t. She told me story about other immigrants
from South America, who used the same agency service, but when they arrived there
was no job and they didn’t have money but fortunately they had place to live – a cold small
house in the mountains where they lived all together in one room for several months. I was
interested in whether this agency asked for some money for this service and realized that
they receive some percentage of the immigrant’s annual salary and it is a legal business.
Now it is almost impossible to find a job in the north of Italy for illegal immigrants. But the
situation is different in the south, where there are more immigrants from Africa and East
Europe. It is a well-known scheme for illegal immigrants to come to southern Italy, make paper
there, and move to the northern part of the country because the salary is hire.
Finally Silvio’s caretaker Olena came back from her honeymoon. I was looking forward to
meeting her. I heard only the best about her and all my meetings with friendly immigrants
gave me a lot of impressions about their difficult, but very interesting life. Imagine my surprise to
see tired of living young girl who even refused to give me the interview.
– Welcome to Biella, the beautiful city! – Lidia said last words in my film.
Beautiful Ukrainian song full of homesickness spreads into Italian landscape, view from the
villa window. I was invited here by one Ukrainian family. They are not owners, they don’t
rent this amazing place, they live here because they are caretakers of the house.