21 Jul 2010

Lettre à Ciaruccia (Part 2)

Way before funding a private pension became the norm, you were financing your own, but lost all your savings once the unscrupulous financiers from Marseille ran off with the coffers! This cruelly spelt a penniless retirement for you, but somehow you made do, thanks to your spirit of enterprise and support from your closed ones.


You amazingly were the last inhabitant in the hamlet. Only towards the end of your life, when approaching 80, did you relent to rent a room at a friend's house in the heart of the village in order to avoid being completely by yourself. Even then, you would walk the 3-mile return trip daily back to the hamlet to check your house was alright! I do not know anyone, young or old, who could claim your bravado, your courage and determination, with limited financial and emotional support and no modern means of communication.

Of all the difficulties that cluttered your life, the harshest of them all probably was when your much-loved nephews moved away, to the call of the bright lights: Augustin to Bastia, Ajaccio and then Calvi, while mémé (plus her husband and daughter) took the deep leap and moved hundreds of miles north, to St-Quentin. You knew deep down that they would never be able to sustain a living by staying in the region. Moving away was a necessity back then, unless maybe if you were a fisherman, a jack-of-all-trades builder, a doctor, a civil servant or a rich land-owner...


You passed away in 1962. By then, the world was already spinning into meltdown, mourning Monroe, orbiting towards the last frontier of space, splitting Berlin into two blocks, losing colonies and engaging deeper into the Vietnam war fiasco. The world was changing fast into something ever more alien to you and your contemporaries. The fabric of society, solidarity, agrarian Corsica (and the role of peasantry and land-ownership), were changing too into something you would have not recognised.

Although I have never met you, I miss you Ciaruccia and feel humbled by you. You were the salt of the earth that you cultivated all your life, a down-to-earth lady with infinite wisdom, courage and kindness, practical, hard-working, yet probably extremely lonely at times.

Despite all this you derived simple pleasures from everyday life, without being blasée or resentful. You saw goodness in everything and everyone. You were incredibly human, yet your self-inflicted working conditions were short of human.


It is a tragedy that our history books, press offices, libraries and collective psyche tend to only remember and praise kings, pharaohs, ministers, generals, celebrities and tycoons, when those who build the foundations of history and society are the little people like Ciaruccia, who busily glide in and out, in the background, out of sight, out of mind, weaving that incredible canvas that is indeed the fabric of our historic wealth and legacy.

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