Monday, April 12, 2010

My grandfather's journey

My grandfather Bruno Rebuli was a quiet man, of “regular” height with brown hair and blue eyes. He was also known for his hard work and strength. What made him want to find a new life for his young family in such a far away land as Australia can only now be left to conjecture. My father often said that my grandfather was uncomfortable with the political climate in Europe at the time. Hardly surprising due to fact he personally witnessed the brutal impact of World War I on the Bigolino area. Rumours of another world war looming must have been the only incentive my grandfather needed. With a brother-in-law already established in Adelaide, South Australia, my grandfather, aged 33, left his family behind and made his way to the Italian seaport city of Genoa to board the 5,359 ton vessel called the Carignano headed for Australia.

Ship records for the Carignano show that the majority of the 123 passengers were men. None of them could speak English and I am sure they new very little about the new country they were travelling to. One can only imagine what was going through their minds as they said goodbye to their birthplace, parents and siblings knowing very well that they probably would never see them again. What were they thinking during the long sea journey and as they first saw what would be their new home? It is a sad fact that a large proportion of men that migrated from Italy to Australia during that era all died young. Could it be because of the extreme stresses and difficult conditions they endured to create a home for their families? There can be no doubting that the sacrifices and hardships they must have faced would have been enormous. However, I do not recall ever hearing anything about my grandfather complaining or making an issue of it. I am sure he simply saw it as something he needed to do for the wellbeing of his family.

Bruno Rebuli’s entry papers into Australia states that he had served in the 2nd Alpini and had the meagre sum of 16 pounds on his person. It shows the arrival date of the 25th of July, 1927 at Fremantle with his intended address to be c/o (brother-in-law) Rossetto, Domenico, JP Cape Spencer, SA and also lists a Costa, Romano, residing at 32 North Street, Adelaide, as an acquaintance. The papers say his intended occupation in Australia was to be a farm labourer. I have heard that he spent some time working on Kangaroo Island – sometimes for several weeks at time - clearing scrubland and other claims that he (quote) “worked in the outback with camels”. Adelaide in the late 1920’s was only a small city and the outback probably was not that far out of suburbia. However, I have also heard of camel trains that transported Mica from Alice Spring mines to Adelaide and perhaps that is to what they are referring.

It would be four years before his wife and three children would join him.

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