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Articles by: Azzurra Giorgi

  • Facts & Stories

    A Sea of People for Pope Francis' Inauguration Mass

    From the early hours of the morning, St. Peter's Square embraced the pious crowd come from all around the world to celebrate the Inauguration Mass of the new Pope, Francis I. 


    Around 9.00 AM Jorge Mario Bergoglio arrived in the crowded square on a white jeep and took a long tour among those who were there to praise him. His arrival was hailed by the faithful with a long roar of joy, accompanied with long applauses when he suddenly asked the driver to stop the car in order to greet a disabled person and some children behind the barriers. 


    He then went to the sacristy where he put on the “Fisherman's ring,” an gold-plated silver artwork made by the sculptors of Pope Enrico Manfrini, as well as the “Pallium,” a band of white wool with red crosses symbolizing the Good Shepherd. The Pallium is the same one previously worn by Joseph Ratzinger. 


    Finally, along with one hundred-eighty celebrators, the Inauguration Mass started. During his homily, Pope Francis remembered former Pope Joseph Ratzinger having defined today as 'a very meaningful coincidence': the fact that it is the Saint's day of his predecessor. Bergoglio then recalled one of the themes of his Election speech, inviting his listeners to “have respect of everyone, especially of children, of older men, of those who are more fragile and who often are in the suburbia of our heart. We don't have to be afraid of kindness nor tenderness. Tenderness is not the virtue of the weak, but is the capability of love instead.”

    A long applause accompanied the end of his address, and everyone seemed charmed by his speech. An old man admitted, “I'm eighty and I have seen many Popes, but this one is one step ahead the others. You can see that he likes staying with people. He is a hope for the future. We really needed a Pope like this.” These words echoed those of the many who showed their appreciation for the new Pope in St. Peter's Square. In fact, Bergoglio interrupted his homily various times because of claps and cheers saying "Hurray for Francis!" - while on social networks people praised him for being humble. 


    “Humble” is the most recurrent adjective these days when talking about the Pope. From his paying the bill at the hotel, to his refusal of the ermine stole, he gave the impression of a big change for the Church, and the choice of his papal name 'Francis' is certainly exemplary of this.


    A great emotion occurred even to those who joined together in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires when Pope Francis called his countrymen asking “to take care of each other and to pray together.” 

    The whole world is drawing attention to the sea of people that gathered this morning in Vatican City, where flags of many different countries waved for the new Pope. A Pope which, against the tide of Ratzinger, seems very willing to be encircled by people in a way reminiscent of Pope John Paul II, who was always known for staying close to his faithful believers. 

  • Events: Reports

    Eleven Posters for the Year of the Italian Culture

    Eleven posters to describe the Italian excellences. Eleven posters to celebrate the Italian traditions related to fashion, technology, architecture and the Italian heritage in general.

    Displayed at the Calandra Institute, these images called the attention of Italian and Italian American personalities, like Uff. Joseph Sciame, Chairperson/President of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, Inc. and Vice President for Community Relations at St. John's University, who opened the event introducing John De Santis, Artistic Director of the committee, who created the posters in celebration of the Year of Italian culture in the United States.


    “How do you put into one poster everything about Italy, everything about Italian Americans? We saw the David-Apollo when it was in Washington and we said 'this can be the core piece'” - stated Joseph Sciame, indicating the main poster of the exhibition, a 'cleaned up version' of the Apollo, sculpted by Michelangelo around 1530.

    John De Santis talked to the audience about the newness regarding this year's posters: “We usually do one poster per year, but this year the theme is really year-round, so we decided to do more than one poster. We started with David-Apollo which was unveiled in December in D.C and then throughout the year there are various projects and themes that will be highlighted around the country, so from those themes we picked concepts that highlight them. We tried to grab different visuals and put them together but, since one poster was too much, we decided that this year there will be a poster coming out every month: we already have music, art, science, technology and the annual one. Every month there will be a new poster available online.”

    Joseph Sciame welcomed Minister Natalia Quintavalle, Consul General of Italy in New York, who said to be “very happy to be at this event, especially this year. As most of you may know, 2013 has been proclaimed the year of the Italian Culture in the U.S. The posters are always very beautiful but I think this year they are reaching the top. In the framework of the year of the Italian culture, numerous events will be organized all across the United States to celebrate our heritage in the arts, music, science, technology, cinema, literature and history. However what is even more important is the fact that these initiatives not only will represent the heritage of the past but they will also emphasize the future. The theme of the year of the Italian Culture is the 'Italia del futuro,' so the museums and all the other cultural institutes will present the most advanced techniques of restorations, combining the past and a look to the future. There will be a lot of initiatives you may want to follow on the expression of the Italian creativity in the fields of science and technology.”

    After thanking the Board Members of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee for the work around the year of the Italian Culture, she left the podium giving the chance to everyone to admire the posters shown at the Calandra Institute. Those that have been already released regard 'music and theatre,' represented by Giuseppe Verdi, who also celebrates his 200th birthday this year, 'science and technology,' with the sketches of Leonardo da Vinci, 'art,' depicted by Piero della Francesca, 'cinema and photography,' with Cinecitta' in the background, 'Italian language and literature,' well represented by Dante, 'italian brand and design,' symbolized by the 50th anniversary of Lamborghini and finally 'next generation,' focused on the new technologies, 'tastes and flavors' and 'territories.'

  • Facts & Stories

    Jorge Mario Bergoglio Elected Pope Francis I

    He was probably one of the least expected to be elected, but today Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis I

    Succeeding Joseph Ratzinger, Bergoglio becomes the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. Archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998, he belongs to the order of the 'Society of Jesus' and he is the first Church leader ever chosen from South America.

    Despite his South-American archbishopric, he has Italian origins. In fact, his roots are planted in the Piedmont region in Bricco Marmorito di Portacomaro Stazione, a small city close to Asti. Here his great grand-father was born and had six children, including Bergoglio's grand-father, who left the small town and moved to Turin. In Piedmont state's capital the future pope's father Mario was born. Mario Jose Bergoglio, a railway officer, later married Regina Sivori, a half Piedmontese and half Genoese housewife. The couple moved to Argentina where Jorge was born. 

    His election to papacy seems to be a sort of destiny. In the past conclave, back in 2005, he appeared to be the most favored after Joseph Ratzinger and, basing on some reconstructions, he felt the grave of the responsibility to succeed Wojtyła and convinced other cardinals not to vote for him. If this was true, this conclave may have been the natural consequence of the last one, electing a Pope that already seemed the only one who could follow Ratzinger. 

    With this election, South America is in the spot light more than ever. The same South America which Cardinal Bergoglio constantly warned of the modern forms of slavery and exploitation, focusing on the new immigrants. 

    The Church, in a moment of critique and rumors about its expenses, made a precise choice electing someone who has always denied prosperity and wastefulness, opting for public transportations and a modest living. Maybe this is one of the reasons why he picked 'Francis' as his papal name, maybe recalling Francis of Assisi. 

    This election also has a dark side, evoking  shadows from his past addressing possible connections with the Argentine dictate, during which 30.000 people got kidnapped and/or killed. Statements that still do not find solid confirmation. 

    The new Pope starts his endeavor with the special message from President Obama who stated: "As the first Pope coming from the Americas, his election is a tribute to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping the world and, along with millions of Hispanic Americans in the United States, share the joy for this historic day." 

    During his first speech as Pope Francis I, Bergoglio asked the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square to "Pray to the Lord so that he blesses me" before delivering his benediction to the mass of his followers.

  • Facts & Stories

    The Conclave Has Begun. Who Will Be the New Pope?

    After Joseph Ratzinger resigned as Pope Benedict XVI, there are great expectations of the one who will take his place. After weeks of waiting, the first day of the Conclave has arrived.

    Here below is the list of those who are most likely candidates for becoming the new Pope.
    ANGELO SCOLA: Archbishop of Milan, 71 years old. Well esteemed by Ratzinger, who wanted him in the theological magazine 'Communio,' he comes from two dioceses, Milan and Venice, that gave five different Popes in the last century. He is very reluctant of taking on a label and he has an open look on modernity.
    ODILO PEDRO SCHERER: Archbishop of Sao Paulo, 63 years old. Bearer of the Brazilian and Latin-american Episcopate, he claims a major role in the central government of the Church. He is in the Board of Supervisors of the Ior and also knows the Curia for working many years with the Congregation of Bishops.

    MARC OUELLET: Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, 68 years old. On the same theological line of Joseph Ratzinger, he was very well esteemed by the former Pope. He is the former archbishop of Quebec and has a long experience in South America, especially in Colombia, guiding also the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
    PETER ERDO: Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, 60 years old. He is the president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), and is busy on the role of Catholicism in Europe and in countries of ancient Christian traditions. Very focused on defense of the ethical values, he collaborated to 'Communio.'
    CHRISTOPH SCHONBORN: Archbishop of Vienna, 68 years old. Belonging to the order of Dominicans, he is a former student of Ratzinger in Regensburg. He carries an advanced vision, being also open to “uncomfortable' topics such as the celibacy of priests.
    TIMOTHY DOLAN: Archbishop of New York, 63 years old. Head of the Episcopal Conference of the United States, he is a charismatic figure very able in public relations. He comes from severe polemics against Obama's health-care program that obliged even Catholic hospitals to abortion.
    SEAN O'MALLEY: Archbishop of Boston, 68 years old. Capuchin friar, he was a missionary on Easter Island. He is against luxuries, choosing also not to live in the rich palace of the Curia of Boston. In his diocese he faced the scourge of pedophilia with resolution.
    PETER TURKSON: President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Coast, 64 years old. Active in the field of peace, he works for reducing the economical and social inequalities, especially between countries of the North and the South.
    GIANFRANCO RAVASI: President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, 70 years old. Media personality, he participated to various TV programs and collaborated with several newspapers. He implemented one of the causes that Ratzinger cared the most: the 'Court of the Gentiles,' a space for dialogue for non-believers.
    GIUSEPPE BETORI: Archbishop of Florence, 66 years old. He is the youngest Italian cardinal. Considered a 'Ruini' for working as a general secretary of the CEI under Ruini's presidency, he is considered as a member of the paleoliberal wing of the Roman Curia, which constituted a sort of opposition to the decisions of Benedict XVI.
    LUIS ANTONIO TAGLE: Archbishop of Manila, 55 years old. He is the second youngest cardinal of the Sacred College, and he is beloved by his countryman. Known for his charismatic nature, he is involved in many social issues with emphasis on helping the poor and the needy while maintaining opposition against atheism, abortion and contraception.
    FRANCISCO ROBLES ORTEGA: Archbishop of Guadalajara, 64 years old. Considered as an outsider of this Conclave, he played a central role in the fight against crime and drugs in Mexico.
    JOHN ONAIYEKAN: Archbishop of Abuja, 69 years old. Considered as a possible successor of Benedict XVI after the many voices aiming a 'Black Pope,' the Nigerian archbishop is very active towards the poor and dispossessed. In his country, he has been very careful not to intensify the religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians.

  • Events: Reports

    Finazzer Flory's Pinocchio Hits New York City

    Forget Walt Disney's version of Pinocchio and dust off Collodi's book from your shelf. It may appear to be an entirely different story from the one depicted in the movie, but this original version of the wooden puppet's adventures, written by Carlo Collodi in 1881,  deserves to be better known. 

    This is why someone decided to promote it with a particular show that landed at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo'. The idea came to Massimiliano Finazzer Flory, who directed and performed the show "Pinocchio. The story of a puppet."

    “After his interpretation of the 'I Promessi Sposi' by Manzoni two years ago, he kept focusing on the central knots of Italian culture and literature. And he does that in a very creative way: he takes a literary text and transforms it into a text for the stage. In doing that, he tries to use everything he can to create this 'magic' that the theater affords us” - said the director of Casa Italiana, Stefano Albertini, presenting the show. 

    The performance traveled through the most important parts of the novel, from the creation of the puppet, through the escape from the dog-fish's mouth , and to the meeting with the Talking Cricket, the Fox and the Cat

    For those who have only seen the Disney's version some parts of the story may have seemed anomalous: the beginning, for example, is set in the shop of Master Cherry, a carpenter who discovers that a piece of wood, destined to become a table's leg, is alive. The story itself does not begin with Master Geppetto, but with a different character, who then gives  him the piece of wood. Other differences can be found in the Fox and Cat's episode, when they set a trap in order to get Pinocchio's money by guiding him to the Field of Miracles, and in the escape from the dog-fish's mouth, where Pinocchio and Geppetto meet a tuna who helps them to arrive to the shore. 

    Moreover, the performance itself is a one man show performed by Finazzer Flory, who embodies every single character of the novel, including the narrator. The show is an original story telling of a great novel, enriched by the dance performances of Michela Lucenti, who is also the show's choreographer, and Emanuela Serra, both reproducing different episodes of the story. They switch between being the puppet and the Fairy with turquoise hair, the marionettes, the Fox and the Cat and the Talking Cricket. 

    The show is a combination of narration, acting, dance and piano music performed by Gianluca Pezzino with music by Nino Rota and Fiorenzo Carpi. A great tribute to a book that, even with its hundred and thirty two years of history, addresses situations and feelings that are still relevant today. “It is not only a children's book, if it is a children's book at all. It is a book that you can interpret in as many way and at many levels as you want” – underlined Albertini while introducing the play.

    This new and multi disciplinary performance will not just stay in New York City. Performances are scheduled  in Hartford, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and Houston during the month of March 2013. 

  • Fatti e Storie

    Le Primarie del PD a New York: come e dove votare

    Da pochi anni sulla scena politica italiana e' comparso un nuovo protagonista: le primarie. Strumento ben più conosciuto all'estero, dove e' ormai diventato mezzo decisionale assodato, ha conosciuto fin da subito aspre critiche in Italia, considerato più come mezzo populistico che meritocratico dai molti che, legati ad una più antica tradizione politica, preferirebbero dei vertici di partito scelti dai meccanismi insiti nel partito stesso, piuttosto che dagli elettori.

    Entrato in Italia a partire dalle elezioni regionali del 2005, il ruolo delle primarie si e' consolidato durante gli anni e mai, come adesso, sembra importante per il futuro di una nazione il cui partito maggiore e' quello degli indecisi.

    E gli italiani all'estero, il cui numero aumenta sempre più col passare degli anni, possono comunque partecipare alla votazione che vedrà come candidati per la guida del Partito Democratico Pierluigi Bersani, Nichi Vendola, Matteo Renzi, Laura Puppato e Bruno Tabacci.

    • Tutti gli elettori registrati all'AIRE che alla data del 25 novembre 2012 abbiano compiuto i 18 anni di eta'.
    • Tutti gli italiani residenti o temporaneamente all'estero per motivi di studio o di lavoro che sottoscrivono il pubblico Appello di sostegno della Coalizione di centro sinistra “Italia Bene Comune” e dichiarano di riconoscersi nella sua Carta d’intenti.
    • Tutti gli elettori che, considerati come fuori sede, si trovino lontani dal loro rispettivo luogo di residenza, dando informazione scritta al coordinamento locale. Rientrano in questa categoria, i militari in missione, il personale del corpo diplomatico e consolare, gli studenti Erasmus, i ricercatori universitari all'estero, i cittadini italiani residenti temporaneamente all'estero.
    • Il cittadino/a deve sottoscrivere il pubblico Appello di sostegno alla Coalizione di centro sinistra “Italia Bene Comune” e quindi iscriversi all'Albo degli elettori e delle elettrici dal 4 novembre al 25 novembre 2012 sul sito www.primarieitaliabenecomune.it oppure nelle sedi stabilite dal Coordinamento locale*, versando a copertura delle spese organizzative un contributo minimo deciso dal comitato locale.
    • Ogni elettore/elettrice deve esibire al seggio un documento di identita' valido ed il Certificato di elettore della Coalizione di centro sinistra “Italia Bene Comune”.
    • Ogni elettore puo' votare solo nel seggio della propria citta' estera che include la propria sezione elettorale assegnatagli al momento della registrazione.
    • Sabato 24 novembre 2012 dalle ore 10.00 alle ore 20.00 ora locale.
    • L'eventuale secondo turno il voto si terra' sabato 1 dicembre 2012 dalle ore 10.00 alle ore 20.00 ora locale.
    *Al momento, le sedi per esercitare il proprio voto sono: 25 Carmine Street a Manhattan e 24-44 Francis Lewis Blvd nel Queens.

    Per maggiori informazioni >>>

  • Life & People

    NICE - New Italian Cinema Events Tributes Valeria Golino

    “The economic difficulties and organizational uncertainties faced by any Italian author who produces their film have been greater than ever this year. Of course, this does not simply apply to filmmakers, but also to Festival organizers and to all those involved in promotion in general.” In this way, the non-profit cultural association NICE, New Italian Cinema Events, opens its 2012 festival in the United States, involving recent Italian comedies, although with a bitter taste.

    This year, the festival is a tribute to actress Valeria Golino, an artist who contributed to make recent Italian cinema internationally known.
    NYU's Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò hosted a screening of one of her latest movies, “Respiro (Breath),” a portrait of the island of Lampedusa, wild and still mostly unknown, and a panoramic on human disorders.
    After the screening, Golino talked about her thirty-year long career and her upcoming movie, an adaptation of the book “Vi perdono” (I forgive you), that marks her directorial debut. The topic she chose as a new director is assisted suicide, a theme not so well known as much as euthanasia. “Euthanasia is a universal subject and every country has its own way to deal with it: Italy, for example, has a very controversial way to discuss it because of the Vatican. But assisted suicide is another thing: it is a request of help from the sick person, and it is illegal in Italy, ”Golino stated.
    Her debut as a director owes a lot to her experiences as an actress: “Everything I know, I have learned from being an actress for thirty years. It was very hard, but I would do it all over again. Directing was much harder than acting. As a director, you always have to make decisions that could constantly change your movie. I was afraid to make mistakes but it was beautiful, though.”
    And, while some actors decide to dedicate their selves to the theatre after a career on the big screen, she prefers not to: “I do think that the ultimate experience for an actor is playing in theaters, but I do not have that passion. Although I appreciate it, I do not like things to be repeated, it's not in my nature, so even if I like to see the process of acting, and also because I don't have a technique as an actress, I don't really have the desire to do theatre.”
    Her acting career definitely helped her in the new process of making a movie completely by herself, even when it is about directing other actors “I can tell when actors are getting annoyed or if they are getting better while playing. This 'sense' helped me even in making decisions about how many takes I had to do.”
    Valeria Golino's background is very international itself: she born from a German father and a Greek mother. She lived in Los Angeles for ten years, and that gave her the chance to work with great professionals of contemporary cinema, such as Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise and Nicholas Cage. But what really helps in the process of becoming an international actress? “The knowledge of languages helps for sure – she said – but probably the most important thing is curiosity. In this job, a very being always curious is The, with a capital T, attitude to have, it makes you enthusiastic. Both the lack of fear, and a little bit of fear help, at times. My nature led me to always do new things.”
    In her career she had the chance to face two different worlds: Hollywood and the Italian movie scene. Obviously there are quite a few differences between them. “Hollywood is more star-driven, while in Europe, the film director counts more. The director is the 'king' and there is a hierarchy to respect, especially in Italy. In the States, as well as in France, there is a solid star system, that is protected, so all the attention is on the movie stars.”


  • Fatti e Storie

    Manhattan prende luce e vita

    Sono passati cinque giorni ormai dalla furia di Sandy. Cinque giorni in cui tanto, tantissimo per alcuni, è cambiato. E da cinque giorni New York con tutti i suoi borough stenta a tornare alla normalità. Diversi sono stati e sono ancora i disagi di coloro che, quando non hanno subito danni o addirittura perdite in famiglia, hanno dovuto interrompere la loro vita normale. Molti abitanti anche di Manhattan sono dovuti andare via dalle loro abitazioni senza elettricità e acqua ed essere ospitati da amici più fortunati.

    Normalità per Manhattan vuol dire essere frenetica, rumorosa, cablata, collegata, elettrica, ma soprattutto illuminata. I suoi quartieri, così diversi ma allo stesso tempo parte di un tutto più grande, hanno perso la loro vita e si sono spenti a causa di un ciclone di fine ottobre.

    Quindi fino a solo poche ore fa Manhattan è rimasta praticamente spaccata a metà, con l’Empire State Building a fare da spartiacque tra la luce e il buio. Sotto la trentaquattresima, infatti, mancava quasi completamente l’elettricità e così Downtown si spegneva, lasciando le strade vuote e desolate.
    E spinta dalla curiosità di vedere una città completamente diversa, venerdì sera sono andata anch’io verso le zone più colpite di Manhattan intenzionata ad arrivare a Little Italy. L’ho fatto a piedi.
    A mano a mano che camminavo verso sud le strade inziavano a farsi sempre più deserte. In pochi avevano l’elettricità, e quei pochi la mettevano a disposizione di tutti, con prese elettriche in strada che formavano inevitabilmente capannelli di persone ansiose di potersi rimettere in contatto con i propri cari.
    Madison Square Park era stato riaperto, come molti altri parchi in città, eppure era come se fosse rimasto chiuso. Pochissime le persone che vi camminavano, mentre il Flatiron, ancora al buio, non attraeva più turisti increduli.
    Le strade erano vuote, tanto che non si vedeva l’ombra di un taxi mentre i semafori lasciavano il loro lavoro agli addetti di polizia.
    Ma lo scenario più sconfortante l’ho trovato scendendo ancora, dopo Union Square, in quella che solo pochi giorni prima era una delle strade più trafficate e camminate di New York. La Broadway sembrava aver lasciato tutto il suo chiacchiericcio, la sua frenesia e la sua vitalità a vie abbandonate a se stesse, vuote. I negozi erano tutti chiusi, mentre alcuni alberi non avevano retto davanti alla forza di Sandy e orano lì, spaccati a metà, simbolo di una città stroncata.
    Ho cambiato strada, sperando di vedere uno scenario diverso. E invece no. Anche Canal Street faceva da fotocopia alla Broadway, con pochissime persone ad animarla, per lo più curiose di vedere che cosa stava succedendo, turisti che si immaginavano tutt’altro arrivando qui.
    Mulberry Street a Little Italy era ancora peggio. Il piccolo polmone di italianità, sia pure ormai marcatemente commerciale, nella grande mela era completamente abbandonato a spazzatura e rifiuti. Non vedevo nessuno per strada, ad un certo punto mi sono girata: ero sola.
    Non passerà nessuno nel lasso di tempo che sono rimasta là, incredula di vedere tutte le attività chiuse, con sedie e tavoli arroccati al suo interno e finestre rinforzate. Ancora non era venuto nessuno a rimettere tutto in ordine dopo Sandy.
    Arrivata la sera ho deciso di incamminarmi verso casa, sulla trentaquattresima, dove gli effetti del ciclone si sono sentiti appena. Anche i mercati di Chinatown, ora chiusi, lasciano i marciapiedi incredilmente liberi. Solo pochi hanno provato a rimenare aperti, utilizzando torce e candele per cercare di illuminare l’interno del proprio negozio.
    Sono tornata verso Midtown con il sole quasi completamente sparito. Sono passata per il ritrovo campus della New York University, completamente disabitato. Difficile da riconoscere. Gli studenti, ancora senza luce, non animavano più le strade. 
    Sono state delle urla a terminare questa mia mesta esplorazione. Camminavo assorta e vengo distratta da un grido: mi volto. Un ragazzo festeggia in strada con la madre. Nel loro palazzo, sulla diciassettesima strada, è tornata la luce. E i passanti si congratulano  con loro. E’ un regalo che a loro ancora non è ancora arrivato, ma è un buon presagio.
    Sul mio telefonino l’allert di Facebook comincia a richiamare la mia attenzione. Sono i miei amici che abitano nella zona che si mandano messaggi. Hanno saputo che sta tornando l'energia elettrica. “E' vero, dove? Ma c’è anche l’acqua?”. La luce sembrava compiere il miracolo dalla speranza per una normalità, anche se certo New York ci metterà molto tempo per tornare come era.
    Ho visto quartieri che sembravano disabitati, bui, fantasmi. Nessuno si prendeva cura di loro. Poi una luce, la luce. Ed ecco vedere di  nuovo una città animata per tornare a festeggiare: sperare.

  • Life & People

    Sandy & New York Italians

    It happens very rarely. It is something that you see only if you leave your country and go abroad, far away from your reality and your old life. It is different and scary, especially if you are not used to it. This is the way Italians, and some Italian-Americans, felt when Sandy hit the city.

    It was described as “very serious” by Obama even before its coming, yet it confirmed everybody's worst fears when it reached New York City. Almost three million Italians and Italian-Americans were right in the middle of it.

    Picture this: a few hours before the storm, the streets are empty. Cabs, buses and the usual rush leave the place to something else: desolation. New York looks like a town of nobody, a ghost town nobody lives in. There are only few people on the streets, mostly driven by the curiosity to see the “capital of the world” completely abandoned to itself.

    Authorities ask everyone to stay at home and most of the people remain in their houses hoping to experience something similar to Irene, the storm that provoked more fears than damages last year.

    But Sandy is coming closer, and the wind speeds up shaking trees and cranes. People stay indoors, and Italians start recalling memories from their childhood and their mother country. In one night, Facebook connects every Italian in town.

    Italians try to comfort those back in Italy and start exchanging plans, fears and recipes for the night. Some prepare pasta, some others arancini and ravioli. It is a way to travel back home for a few hours, to go back to a country that is not waiting for Sandy.

    The wind speeds up some more, while the Hudson River starts flooding Lower Manhattan: from the Financial District, to the East Village and parts of Brooklyn. Battery Park and the surrounding subways are underwater.

    And suddenly, the City that never sleeps is turned off. All its lights go off gradually, from south to north. Few areas have electricity, and for those living in those parts, it is a once in a lifetime view. There is darkness all around. 

    On social media, people upload videos and photos of what they are witnessing: fallen trees, uncovered houses, furniture piled up and water, a lot of water. They write their experiences hoping to find some comfort in a “cold” social network inhabited by real people who are dealing with the same situation.

    As the hours pass, the wind starts to calm down. Those who can, go out on the streets looking for an open market or simply to walk the dog. But a lot of others have no electricity or water, and they are forced to use everything they can, such as old radios, to communicate with others. 

    The night passes and so does Sandy. New York City wakes up flooded and devastated. The storm, which was described as the “worst in the history of New York” by mayor Bloomberg, seems gone. People leave their homes and taxis start to be back on the streets again.

    Even the Italians try to get back to normality, with that spirit that characterizes them. Despite the damages, Sandy has been a way to remember old (culinary) traditions, the past and the country they left. And they are all ready to help if needed. Also with the help of Facebook.

  • Fatti e Storie

    Sandy e gli italiani di New York su Facebook

    Sono tanti. Qualcuno dice quasi tre milioni. E tutti quanti hanno affrontato Sandy. Sono gli italiani e gli italo-americani a New York che, il 29 ottobre, si sono ritrovati faccia a faccia con quello che, alla vigilia, era stato anticipato da Obama come “ciclone potente e pericoloso”.

    A poche ore dal suo arrivo, il silenzio nelle strade faceva già impressione. Non c’erano taxi, né autobus, né la solita frenesia che scandisce le giornate a Manhattan. Solo poche persone si avventuravano per le strade, per lo più curiose di vedere una città deserta, con negozi e metropolitane chiuse.
    Su Facebook hanno cominciano ad apparire prestissimo status sull’uragano in arrivo e soprattutto immagini.

    Tanti sono i riferimenti che descrivono la preparazione all'uragano. Foto di finestre con nastro adesivo, approvvigionamenenti, mobili accantonati lontani dalle finestre, consigli di diverso tipo.

     Come fa Rosanna, che fotografa una 5th Avenue deserta ma impaurita per la gru pericolante che rischia di portare i primi, gravissimi, danni sulla cinquantasettesima strada. Lei stessa immortala, poco dopo, quasi scaramanticamente, anche la mela della Apple davanti al negozio di Steve Jobs.

    Alice ed Alessio mostrano la loro finestra a prova di vento, Rodrigo la sua casa con i mobili accatastati.

    Le ore passano e l’uragano Sandy si avvicina, mentre molti sperano che si ripeta “solo” un Irene 2, l’altro recente uragano che aveva causato grande spavento ma pochi danni per New York. Tra questi c’è Paolo, che cerca di tranquillizzare gli amici su Facebook, dicendo “un giorno e passa tutto. In fondo siamo chiusi in casa e non è così tremendo”.

    E Facebook, appunto,  in una notte svela tutta la sua importanza tenendo gli italiani di New York insieme. E si scopre che, oltre alle rassicurazioni a chi è rimasto in Italia, si condividono esperienze, programmi e paure. L’italianità che tutti conservano viene fuori: c’è chi per esorcizzare la paura prepara la pizza, chi gli spaghetti alla carbonara, chi i ravioli o gli arancini. 

    Quasi un  ritorno alle origini, un modo per essere più vicini al proprio Paese, a 8000 km da New York, a chi non è chiuso in casa ad aspettare Sandy.

    Il vento intanto aumenta, e l’Hudson inizia a farsi avanti nel Financial District, nell’East Village e in parte di Brooklyn. Gli alberi sembrano elastici tanto si muovono, ed ecco che il ciclone colpisce tutta New York.
    La città che non dorme mai, così luminosa e rumorosa si spegne. Strada per strada, avenue per avenue, le luci scompaiono, lasciandola per la maggior parte al buio. Ed ecco che ci si ritrova a guardare verso il New Jersey e Downtown, completamente all’oscuro, così come tutto l’East Side. Penn Plaza è una delle poche zone illuminate, circondata dal blackout nei quartieri vicini.  
    Poche ore e il peggio sembra passare. Il vento si calma, mentre la città è ancora buia e silenziosa. Chi può affronta il vento ed esce, come alcuni turisti sulla trentaquattresima strada, che camminano solitari al bordo di un marciapiede in direzione della decima Avenue, verso l’unico Deli rimasto aperto in zona. Qua il ciclone è stato clemente, si vedono appena i segni del suo passaggio.
    Altri non hanno certo avuto questa fortuna. C’è chi è rimasto senza corrente e senza acqua e si arrangia come può. E’ il caso di Stefano, che scrive “il cellulare e il computer sono morti, l’Ipad ne ha ancora per poco, la connessione internet è ridicola ma ho trovato una mini radio. E’ la mia unica fonte di informazione in queste ore”. Ci si rifugia dunque nei sicuri, anche se "antichi”, mezzi di comunicazione, come se si tornasse indietro nel tempo.
    “L'albero dell'infanzia di mio marito è caduto sulla casa di famiglia nel Queens. Sì, possiamo ritenerci fortunati.” Scrive Tiziana da Brooklyn, che riassume e ricorda cosa Sandy ha fatto anche altrove: “69 morti nei Caraibi, 17 morti dalle Caroline fin qui, 8 milioni di persone senza elettricità, 45 miliardi di dollari in danni. A New York 50 case bruciate nel Queens, - in quella penisola di Rockaway che sbocca nell'Atlantico l'acqua arrivava al petto quando sono arrivati i pompieri in barca a soccorrere i venticinque bloccati in una casa -, il reparto neonatale del New York University Hospital evacuato, e stamattina la città allagata, la città spenta, distruzione dappertutto, un silenzio spettrale sincopato dalle sirene delle ambulanze, dei pompieri, delle auto della polizia.”

    La notte passa, e così anche il ciclone, definito da Bloomberg come “il peggiore nella storia di New York”. Manhattan è in parte allagata, mentre il vento cerca di calmarsi e le prime persone escono per strada. La luce svela le malefatta di Sandy. Gravissimi i danni.

    Su Facebook continueranno ad essere postate foto, richieste di consigli, offerte di aiuto, status rassicuranti per parenti. Alcuni ristoranti o negozi confermano la loro chiusura ancora per un giorno. Qualcuno riapre. Fabbrica, il nuovo ristorante di Williamsburg, posta una foto con un arcobaleno. Sarà tra le prime a fare il giro della rete e portare una ventata di ottimismo. Ma è difficile e si contano ancora i danni, piccoli e grandi, come nel caso di Mila che dal suo armadio, scoperchiato dal forte vento, può adesso vedere il cielo grigio di Bushwick. 

    Ma gli italiani, quelli di New York, piano piano cercano di tornare alla normalità, con il solito spirito che li contraddistingue. Sandy è stato anche un modo per tornare un po’ alle origini e cercare di sentirsi a casa. E molti di loro sono pronti ad aiutare nei prossimi giorni, a dare una mano a chi ha ancora bisogno. Sempre grazie a Facebook.