Signora Claudia hasn’t lived here all her life. She was actually born far, far away, in Italy. But her parents were from here. They left Ethiopia when the Italian fascists invaded, and made a life for themselves in the new hostile country, following an Italian benefactor, who promised them security and safety, and proved true to his word.
Signora Claudia never even knew where she was from until she was ten years old. She didn’t even speak her parents’ language, and her name was an Italian name. But that was the life she knew, and that was all right.
Siamo qua, her mother used to say in Italian. We’re here. And that was the way it was, and that was all right.
Then Signora Claudia grew up. The war ended, the Italians left Ethiopia, leaving behind roads and buildings, names and memories. Signora Claudia traveled back to the homeland she had never known, and met the man who was to be her husband.
She never thought that would happen, but she stayed in the homeland that was never hers. She never even learned to speak Amharic, but most people still understood Italian, and everyone called her Signora Claudia, and things were all right.
Siamo qua, she thought sometimes, after her children were born. We’re here, and that was all right.
Her husband had a restaurant, a modest business that enjoyed some fame in Addis Ababa. With Signora Claudia’s help, the restaurant grew in fame, business doubled and tripled, and things were all right.
The years passed, and her husband died. Her children grew and took over the restaurant. Two of her sons were killed in street unrests that turned bloody. Signora Claudia grieved for her husband, and she grieved for her sons. But she endured, and she persevered. And time continued to pass, and the years, and the pain, and the worries, and the fatigue, took their toll on her once beautiful face.
Signora Claudia is old now, and frail, and sits outside her colourful house, next to an old tree, which was ancient when she was little, and knew nothing of this place. She’s waiting for her grandchildren to visit. She thinks of her husband; she remembers his face as clear as if she saw him that very morning.
She thinks of Italy sometimes, so far away now, over land, sea, and time. She thinks of her parents, who never got to come back to the home they once left behind.
Siamo qua, she thinks. We’re here. And that is all right.