She woke up early that morning to complete the daily house duties. The first thing she did was to collect the eggs from the chickens of the farm. That morning, especially, the hens worked really hard and their numerous eggs were exceptionally big. Gina put them in a basket and carried it on her head back to the house. She was feeling annoyed about all the things she had to do, now more than ever since mom was expecting a baby soon. She wasn’t happy about having another baby to take care of beside her little sister, Eva. She walked listing on her mind the duties she had to complete: wash clothes, prepare food, clean the house and look after her sister and mom. So many things for a 12 year old! When she was near her house, a neighbor approached her with a cheerful, big smile. Her sister Joanna was born. Gina couldn’t take it anymore, and in a burst of rage she smashed the three dozen of eggs on the floor.
Maria Gina Constanza Rossi was born in Italy in 1935, in a little town called Campobasso. She is the oldest of three sisters. A tall, strong, well-built woman with smoky green eyes and thick eyebrows. Her light-brown hair curls up right at the end under her shoulders. When she laughs she does it with all her heart, you can hear it from far away. She is loud and doesn’t know how to control the volume of her voice. Even though she’s been living in Argentina for more than 50 years she doesn’t know Spanish really well and speaks her own language.
Raised without love but with fear. The hard life made of her a pretty conflicted woman with a strong personality. Nobody ever explained her anything, she learned through experience, the hard way. She grew up with ignorance. After the war finished, her parents were struggling to feed three children. So when she was 14 years old, they obligated her to get married. Her husband, Alberto, was a cold hearted soldier who soon impregnated her. She didn’t know what sex was or where babies came from until that moment. Months later her first son Alfredo was born. Soon her husband had to go for military duties and left them with his parents. Her family in law was mean to her, she was sent to sleep in the barn with the animals. Every night she could hear the sound of the planes of the war, frightening her until she would fall sleep with her baby in arms. It was the most difficult time of her life.
There were no sweet words for my grandma. All her questions were replied with violence and aggressiveness. That life was all she knew, she was innocent. During that time people were escaping for the hunger in Europe. The period after the war was hard, even for those that didn’t fight in it. Gina used to walk on the streets with her son looking for food in the garbage. Hunger was maddening.
Her husband never came back from the war, so when her parents moved to Argentina she decided to follow them. When she departed for Rome, where the ship was waiting to sail, she felt something she didn’t know it existed, freedom. Freedom from hunger, violence, contempt from her family in law and from a man who she did not love. Conde Grande was the name of the ship that would take her across the ocean, to a better place. It was immense, the biggest thing she ever saw. She was scared, but hunger was stronger than fear. The first night on board she sneaked on the kitchen looking for food. She was desperate. Gina found a banana, but didn’t know what it was and ate it without pealing it. Anything was good for her empty stomach.
In Argentina the lack of love from her family was still the same. But life made a good turn and she met her savior. Damiano was a handsome Italian man that lived next to her house with his brothers. He was a wonderful gentleman that cared for her and taught her things about life that nobody told her before. When her mom discovered the romance between them she took Gina to the police station, accusing her of prostitution and asking the police to deport her. On that moment, Damiano showed up to defended her from her mother’s accusations and took her and her son to live with him.
They shared a small, multifunctional room that he built next to his brothers’ house. Soon she got pregnant with her second child, who would become the most important person in her world, Sebastian. She became almost obsess with her younger son. He is her whole world. In her mind he belongs to her.
A few years after Sebastian was born, Damiano had an accident with his motorcycle and died. Gina was alone with two young sons. People turned their back at her, but she had learned that no matter how many times you fall, you have to get up and keep going. Like Damiano had told her, she needed to be strong. Damiano’s ex-boss offered her a job at the racetrack as a cleaning lady and she started right away.
People wasn’t nice with her, she was shy and didn’t trust nobody but my grandma worked really hard. She learned how to be independent and fearless. She ended owning the house Damiano shared with his brothers, and helped him to build another house on top of that one. When he passed she finished the house, and rent it. All her efforts and sacrifice made her wealthy woman. Now she owns more than five properties and three well-stocked bank accounts.
It is easy to see that she did not have the same amount of love for both of her sons. The oldest one, Alfredo, left her house when he was a teenager. He would come around once or twice a year to see her, but my grandma never really cared about him. Many years later he was found dead because of an overdose. When they called her from the hospital with the news she did not cry. She didn’t feel bad for him, but for herself. It is always about her.
When a person is mistreated since birth becomes vulnerable and this made her resentful towards life and people. Life around her is almost toxic, poisoning. My grandma has a very special personality; there is no middle point with her.
She have the capacity of being really generous and evil at the same time, of love you with all her heart or hate you with all the power within herself. Gina can also do both things at the time. Every feeling she has is ambiguous. I am her only granddaughter and she taught me many things about life but made me miserable sometimes.
Every time we talk I can feel in her voice the sound of a lonely person, who knows that made a lot of mistakes but cannot accept the guilt.
She can be difficult to love sometimes but there is something about her that makes her impossible to hate. I cannot be more proud of what she accomplished through all these years. My grandmother is the most special person I know.