It’s a fascinating subject – people left their homeland, often in desperation and with the fear of never seeing their native countries again. But for some of their descendants, family roots were and are profoundly set in the ground and in their hearts, so coming “home” was a natural step to take. After telling Paolo Bertoli’s story in our last article, here is another such case…
Coach Antonio Grillo and his wife Margarita have been living in Bedonia since 2007, and are now officially residents of our little town. Because the year prior to that, they had left Argentina, where they and their two sons were born, to do the opposite of what their predecessors had done – seek a better life for themselves in Italy. Let’s take a few steps backwards;
Grandfather Antonio Grillo was born in Calabria, in southern Italy, and spent most of his childhood there. In the early fifties, when he was 12, he and his family emigrated to Argentina during President Peron’s government, when immigrants were encouraged into the country, attracted by the free ship fare and even more so by the promise of free land to work on. Argentina is an enormous territory, and Peron’s policy at the time was “come on in – there’s room for everyone”. And thousands did go in, in fact a very large percentage of the Argentinian population has Italian origins. Antonio settled down in his adoptive nation, married and had a family of his own, of which one of the sons was Giuseppe – the father of our current Antonio. At the age of 42, Giuseppe made the decision to come to Italy, and shortly after, his wife, also of southern Italian origins, joined him. He worked as a plumber, and lived the remaining 27 years of his life here.
Their offspring however stayed in Argentina; son Antonio (named after grandpa!) was a very keen soccer player as a young man, and dreamed of turning the sport he loved into a profession. But at the time, it was just that – a dream, so Antonio sensibly trained as a mechanic, and later on, also shared a chauffeuring business with his wife Margarita, something similar to the “Uber” service in America. It was at this point that the couple began to have serious doubts as to whether they were bringing up their two sons in a serene and healthy environment, since Antonio had already risked his life more than once whilst conducting his chauffeuring activity. He had been threatened with knives and guns in several occasions, and feared for his family’s safety in a wild city like Buenos Aires, so the seed for a major upheaval was planted. It was a difficult decision to make, because it is never easy to leave families behind and venture into the unknown, and the fact that Margarita – or Mari, had to give up a florid activity as a talented make-up artist there, didn’t help. But at the end of the day, they gave priority to their sons’ well-being, and made the big move to Italy.
The family stayed with Antonio’s parents for a year in Calabria, during which time Cristian, the eldest of the two sons, resumed playing soccer – a love he shared with his father. In Argentina he had played with the most prestigious team BOCA Juniors, and wished to continue along this track, but unfortunately he was injured whilst on the pitch, and at that point decided to hang up his soccer shoes for good. A work opportunity then brought Antonio and Mari to Bedonia, but by this time, the crisis had set in, and the small motor firm they had taken over shut down after a mere year and a half. This was when Antonio’s mechanical training stood him in good stead, because he landed himself a job which is currently taking him all over the world as an expert in machinery maintenance.
But his dream of pursuing a career in soccer was never far beneath the surface, and lead him to undertake another kind of training; in 2013, he achieved his objective on becoming a professional sports coach. The first three years spent training the Bardi team resulted in it rising from second to first category, and the same thing happened when Antonio took over the Valtarese Juniores team – a significant rise in quality. He was then awarded a prize as best coach, and became highly sought after all over the province. And so it was that Antonio could afford to pick and choose where he preferred to go,and although he had also been summoned in Parma, his preference went to his home team…..Bedonia, where his heart now is. So great things are anticipated in the future for our local team, thanks to a man with a passion who crossed an ocean for the love of his family.