Strength in Love

Abdullah Sankari from Sir Joseph Banks High interviews Josephine Azzopardi

In 1945 at the ripe age of ten, Josie moved from isle of Malta to the hopeful Australian shores. She has had a fulfilling family life, with three daughters and five grandchildren all with her beloved husband Saviour. In recent unfortunate events, Saviour past away to leukaemia, so Josie continues to lead his legacy through his words. She tells Abdullah Sankari what it was like growing up in Australia and the importance of being resilient, for her family.

Transcript

Could you introduce yourself?

Yes, my name is Josephine and I was married to my husband, Saviour, but I’m now widowed and I have three daughters – well my husband and I had three daughters; and five grandchildren.

When and where were you born?

I was born in Malta, in 1945.

Can you describe the place you spent your childhood?.

I don’t really remember because I was only 10 when we came to Australia. My dad used to take us to the beach all the time and I remember my grandparents, there were three of them. One of them migrated to Australia with us but what I remember is that we were in a good place.

What do you remember the most from your childhood?

One of my grandfathers, he used to come around all the time and he brought us lollies. He had a shop. With our dad he used to drive us to the beach and we had lots of fun.

Is there a smell, taste or image that takes you back to your childhood? If so, could you please describe that?

My mum was always in the kitchen, she always cooked well. I guess that’s something I always remember with her cooking. She was always there with food.


Is there one dish that you remember that you really loved?

I guess her macaroni. I like macaroni. She’s still with us today; she’s 95 in two-weeks.

Where do you live now?

I live locally.

The place that you live currently, does it feel like home?

Well, we’ve made it home since we arrived in Australia. I’ve been back to Malta with my husband three times and we loved going to Malta. He was from there, but it’s always nice to come back home. So, this is home.

What is ‘home’ to you?

I guess, the love with the family. Having the kids and the grandkids to come home to when you’re away and knowing that you’re pretty safe where you are. Knowing that you can contact your kids when you want to talk and whatever you want to do.

What dreams did you have for your future when you were younger?

When I was younger, maybe in my teens, I always wanted to be married, that I met the right person which I did, and that we would have kids.

How achievable did you feel these dreams were?

When I met my husband, we more or less fell in love with each other straight away, we started dating and it was pretty good. I had a strict dad [growing up] so I couldn’t go out when I wanted to.

What dreams do you have for your future now?

To see my grandkids grow up; that’s the best thing I think.

Where did you meet your husband?

I met him at his sister’s place, because we knew his sister already and as soon as I saw him he was pretty quiet. We sort of looked at each other and we used to ring each other up at work and he used to ring me and I would ring him and we would talk and that’s how it all started.

What does strength mean to you?

Strength means being able to cope with things that you may not foresee like with my husband death for instance; he suffered leukaemia and that seems – I think that’s a strength to have when you know that you have to look after someone, that you have to have strength to cope and I still feel the strength in me, because I still got my children and grandchildren to help when they need it, to help them.

What is the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome in your life?

The loss of my husband.

How long were you two together?

47 and a half years.

How did you turn the death of your husband into a personal strength?

Last time I just did it in my head, because he said to me, “to look after myself” and it gave me strength even by saying that. To keep going, even though there are times when you think, “Oh no, I can’t do this...” because I just miss him so much but when I talk to the kids and the grandkids– they give me strength.

What is a quality that you love about yourself?

That’s a bit hard, about loving yourself. Maybe mixing. I’ve started mixing with people and just to try and get out of the house, like I’m meeting people and enjoying their company.

What’s your most memorable moment with your husband?

We used to go away all the time, just for a few days here and there. We enjoyed each other’s company. I miss that so much. Because, I don’t get to go anywhere much now, not on my own, yeah, we had a good life. We had a good life.

Would there be a trip that you remember the most with your husband that really makes you smile or anything.

Yeah, because it was probably one of the trips when we went up to Malta and we went to Rome, we went to see the Pope and we went to see the ruins and all the different things around there which was really wonderful. We had such a good time. Then another time, we went to Hawaii, we had a great time in Hawaii, because, they are very nice friendly people. Yeah, we should [have] stayed longer.

Being a child from a migrant background and living in Sydney, what was it like back then?

When we first came to Australia, I had five siblings. Then, mum and dad had another child in Australia. We did get picked on because even though we spoke some English when we were taught in Malta but kids sometimes still picked on you because you didn’t speak as well as they did because they were Australian-born.

Do you see any similarities or differences between Malta and Australia?

Well the opportunities were here from the start, even though Malta has changed a lot now, there’s lots of opportunities now. I think if we were living there now, we probably wouldn’t come to Australia because everything’s different. It’s better. It’s a better place to live but still as I said, we still like to call Australia home – well I do. Because it’s wonderful, it really has everything you could ever wish for.

What does freedom mean to you and how do you express this freedom?

I think freedom is when you just walk out your door and you can go shopping wherever, without having to worry about anyone following you or being unsafe. You can just go out and do what you want to do.

How do you cope with losing your family and loved ones as you age?

I’ve seen people, I’ve seen a psychologist and I’ve got people from my church that help me. They come and visit me sometimes and I go out with them for coffee. A lot of these ladies are going through what I’m going through when they help people, they’re just trying to mix with people who are going through what I am going through.

What is your biggest fear? What do you worry about?

The biggest fear, I guess would be if any were to happen to any of my family. With things the way they are at the moment around the world, that worries me a lot. And that one day maybe, there might be an attack locally or someone gets hurt, I think that would be a really big problem.

What advice can you share with others that might be going through similar experiences that you have overcome and how can you help others recognise their inner-strength?

I don’t think I have overcome what I’ve lost. It’s something I’m going to live with for the rest of my life, but as I said, with help I’m hoping to get there one day. It’s just difficult to explain and for people to realise what they’re going through is real and unless they’re going through it themselves, they have no idea what it’s like. They have to go through it to understand it.

When you see kids today take things for granted, say for example their family, their freedom, how does this make you feel?

Really upset, because that shouldn’t happen. My husband and I always taught our kids to be good people and they’re wonderful people and the grandkids are great as well, they’ve been brought up well. It’s just that I feel sad for these kids that haven’t been brought up properly. Maybe parents don’t have time for them, maybe they’re both working or maybe problems in the family, you know, broken families. That’s a sad thing.

What advice would you give to kids that are going through these hardships, like a broken family?

I think there’s always help for them, you can go through either your doctor or your school councillor to try and get help, because, I think they’ll need it. I think that’s the better way to do it than going [to] friends to give you advice because they might not give you the right advice, it’s best to go to a professional person.

What’s your most memorable moment with your husband?

We used to go away all the time, just for a few days here and there. We enjoyed each other’s company. I miss that so much. Because, I don’t get to go anywhere much now, not on my own, yeah, we had a good life. We had a good life.

What did you used to work as?

I was a shop assistant.

And your husband?

He was an electrical fitter.

Would there be a trip that you remember the most with your husband that really makes you smile or anything.

Yeah, because it was probably one of the trips when we went up to Malta and we went to Rome. We went to see the Pope and we went to see the ruins and all the different things around there which was really wonderful. We had such a good time. Then another time, we went to Hawaii, we had a great time in Hawaii, because, they are very nice friendly people. Yeah, we should [have] stayed longer.

Edits by Naveen Krishnasamy

Photo by Kevin Ngo

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