Posts Tagged ‘Żejtun’

  • It-traġedja tal-patrol boat

    Kelmtejn qabel: Ktibt din il-ġrajja fl-1986, meta kelli 15 il-sena. Kienu għaddew sentejn mit-traġedja li laqtet lill-kuġinti Mary Farrugia fis-7 ta’ Settembru 1984, imma ż-żmien ftit li xejn kien taffa’ min-niket. Għaldaqstant kont qbadt pinna f’idi u ħażżiżt il-memorji tiegħi fuq il-karti sabiex b’hekk almenu moħħi u qalbi setgħu jistrieħu kemmxejn mit-toqol li din l-esperjenza kienet ħalliet fuqi wkoll. Għal xi raġuni ddeċidejt li nikteb il-ġrajja minn fomm kuġinti. Xejn minn dak li ktibt m’huwa mmaġinat għax dawn l-emozzjonijiet, il-ħsibijiet, u t-tifkiriet miktuba hawnhekk, smajthom u ġarrabthom flimkien magħha u ma’ wliedha. F’Diċembru 1987 iddeċidejt li nittajpja din il-kitba u bgħattha lill-bord editorjali tar-rivista Sagħtar sabiex jikkunsidrawha għall-pubblikazzjoni. Victor Fenech, wieħed mill-membri tal-bord editorjali, kien kitibli ittra sabiħa ferm fejn kien għarraffni kemm kienet qanqlitu din il-ġrajja. Eventwalment din ġiet ippubblikata fis-Sagħtar tal-ħarġa ta’ Frar 1987.

    It-traġedja tal-patrol boat

    Qomt daqsxejn kmieni aktar mis-soltu dakinhar peress li żewġi Twanny kellu jmur għax-xogħol. Ippreparajtlu daqsxejn ħobż, geżwirtulu f’karta, u poġġejtulu ġol-haversack ċkejken tiegħu.

    Wara li libes il-ħwejjeġ tad-Dejma, inġabar flimkien miegħi mal-mejda biex nieħdu l-kolazzjon ta’ fil-għodu. Wara bies lit-tfal u hekk kif bies lili qalli li jekk idum daqsxejn ma jiġi, ma kelliex għalfejn ninkwieta peress li ma’ xi suldati oħra tad-Dejma kellu jmur jarmi xi murtali lejn Kemmuna. Kien għoddu ħareġ meta ftakar li kien nesa l-ġiżirana tad-deheb tiegħu. Magħha kellha mdendel salib kbir bi Kristu msallab fuqu. Kienet għal qalbu wisq dik il-ġiżirana u qatt ma kien jonqos milli jeħodha miegħu.

    Qajjimt lit-tfal u tajthom jieklu u wara poġġejthom f’kamrithom biex jilgħabu daqsxejn sakemm jien innaddaf id-dar. Ma tantx stajt nitħabat peress li kont tqila bit-tielet tarbija tiegħi, iżda xi tfarfira ‘l hawn u ‘l hemm stajt nagħmilha faċilment.

    Xi ftit ħin wara ġiet it-tifla ta’ ziti Fiona biex tgħini daqsxejn. Ħaslitli l-art u l-ħwejjeġ u b’hekk ħelsitni mix-xogħol iebes tiegħi. Qabel telqet wegħedtha li għal xil-5:00pm, x’ħin kellu jiġi Twanny, kellna neħduha magħna l-baħar. Sadanittant, biex ngħaddi ftit tal-ħin, qbadt żewġ ħbula u waħħalthom flimkien f’forma ta’ bandla bil-ħsieb illi la jiġi Twanny idendilha x’imkien fejn it-tfal ikunu jistgħu jitbandlu fuqha.

    Għaddejt il-ħin tal-ġurnata bħas-soltu. Kienu saru xil-5:15pm meta smajt taħbita fuq il-bieb. Ħsibt li kien ġie Twanny iżda kienu xi zijiet tiegħi. Staqsewni jekk Twanny kienx irritorna d-dar. Għedtilhom li le u kollha ħarsu lejn xulxin b’ħarsa li tfisser ħafna. Għall-ewwel ma ndunajt b’xejn iżda meta bdew jiżdiedu aktar zijiet u nies li jiġu minni, bdejt nitħasseb. Fuq wiċċhom stajt naqralhom xi dulur jew biża’ li kien qiegħed inikkithom.

    Saru s-7:00pm u kont għadni ma naf b’xejn. Josef, it-tifel il-kbir tiegħi ta 5 snin, beda jilgħab mar-radju sa ma xegħlu. Kienu bdew l-aħbarijiet. Ma tajtx każhom sakemm smajt xi kliem li ġibidli l-attenzjon tiegħi….

    Spiċċaw il-punti ewlenin u l-qarrej beda jaqra l-aħbarijiet aktar fid-dettall. B’li smajt bqajt imbellha u msammra ma’ l-art! Qalbi bdiet tħabbat sitta sitta u ħassejtha trid tinqala’ minn postha bit-taħbit.

    Xtaqt inwerżaq imma ma flaħtx. Ħassejt rasi ddur bija. Ma ridtx nemmen lil widnejja li Twanny tiegħi kien… mejjet. Il-lanċa li fuqha kien żewġi flimkien ma’ xi suldati oħra kienet splodiet! Wieħed kien salva, erbgħa oħra sabuhom mejtin u mtertqin f’wiċċ l-ilma, u t-tnejn l-oħra baqgħu ma nstabux.

    Ġrejt lejn dar ommi biex inċempel lil dawk li kienu nkarigati. Kienu tawni aħbar li ħawditni. Ma kontx naf jekk kellix nittama jew nitbikkem: Twanny tiegħi kien wieħed minn dawk li ma nstabux.

    “Imma tgħid salva?” staqsejt bejni u bejn ruħi. “Forsi kien iffortunat u salva. Mhux li kien! Imma jekk le? Alla tiegħi għinni għax ser niġġennen,” bdejt ngħid imbeżżgħa, imħawwda, u mbellha.

    Xi wħud jaħsbu li t-tfal ma jifhmux xi jkun qed jiġri iżda dan mhu minnu xejn. Josef u Roderick, iż-żewġt itfal tiegħi, bdew jistaqsuni għal missierhom. Iż-żgħir ta’ sentejn beda jibki għax ried lil missieru ħdejh. Iżda l-aktar ħaġa li għaġġbitni kienet meta t-tifel żgħir ta’ ziti ta’ 4 snin resaq lejhom u qalilhom, “Għaliex qed tibku? Il-papà tagħkom miet għax waqa’ minn fuq id-dgħajsa. Issa ma jiġix għax miet.”

    Għalkemm ma ridtx nemmen, ħassejt li dan it-tifel ċkejken kien qed jgħid il-verità.

    Issa kien dalam sewwa u kulħadd qata’ qalbu milli għad jara lil Twanny ħaj. Kulħad inġabar lejn daru u raqqadt lil Fiona miegħi dakinhar biex teħodli ħsieb lit-tfal għax ma tantx kont qed inħossni fiha. Dakinhar ħadd ma seta’ jagħlaq għajn m’għajn u kull ħoss, anki l-iċken wieħed li beda jinstema’, bdejt nistħajjlu li żewġi ġie lura. Sa fl-aħħar moħħi ttaqqal bl-inkwiet u rqadt. Dħalt f’dinja ta’ ħolm ikreh liema bħalu; bdejt nara wiċċ żewġi mtertaq u mbiċċer b’ħarsa li twaħħax f’għajnejh.

    Qomt mis-sodda mbeżżgħa u sibt li kienu xil-5:00am. Ma stajt norqod b’xejn u qgħdt inħares lejn iż-żewġ uliedi reqdin qishom xi żewġ anġli. “Il-kbir jixbħu wisq!” għedt f’qalbi. Xagħru safrani u għajnejh koħol kienu bħal ta’ missieru. Intbaħt li dakinhar ibni ma kellux dik it-tbissima fuq fommu bħas-soltu u minn ħin għall-ieħor kien isejjaħ, “Papà, papa`.”

    Sejf ta’ dulur daħalli f’qalbi u f’dak il-ħin ftakart fit-tieġ tagħna. Kemm kont ħsibt li ser ngħaddi ħajja twila u ferħana miegħu. Għall-ħabta tas-6:00am qam kulħadd. Kull siegħa għaddejnieha nisimgħu l-aħbarijiet b’tama kbira iżda kien kollu għalxejn. Minn ħin għall-ieħor bdejt nirċievi telefonati mingħand niesi biex juruni s-sogħba tagħhom. Għal xil-11:00am irċevejt telefonata fejn għarrfuni li ġisem Twanny kien għadu ma nstabx. Qaluli wkoll li veru kellha tkun għalih il-mewt għax proprju dakinhar, hu ma kienx imissu jmur bil-murtali, imma kien ċeda lil ħabibu biex imur għall-festa. Twanny ma kien qalli xejn dwar dan għax kieku żgur li ma kontx inħallih imur.

    Bqajna nittamaw għal bosta u bosta ġranet, imma kien kollu ta’ xejn. Kull lejl bdejt ngħaddih nibki u nħares lejn is-saqaf. It-tfal bdew iħossu aktar u aktar it-telfa ta’ missierhom! “Imma,” kont naħseb, “kemm nista’ ndum nigdbilhom? It-tfal qed jindunaw li ġara xi ħaġa lil missierhom.”

    Iż-żmien itir bla ma biss tinduna u kollox jintesa miegħu. Hekk ukoll intesiet din it-traġedja iżda jien ma ninsiha qatt! Minn din il-ġrajja li ġrat sewwasew fis-7 ta’ Settembru 1984, għaddew sentejn…

    Ma kinetx l-unika telfa tiegħi dik ta’ żewġi. Bix-xokk u l-qatgħa li ħadt, it-tarbija tiegħi twieldet qabel iż-żmien u tpoġġiet f’inkubatur. Semmejtu Anthony-Paul għal żewġi u għal missieri li kien miet xi ftit ġimgħat biss qabel Twanny. Ibni dam jilgħabha mal-mewt għal tliet ġimgħat, iżda hekk kif kien kważi rebaħ din il-battalja qalila, l-aħħar frott ta’ żewġi miet u mar jingħaqad flimkien ma’ missieru. Għadni niftakar li ma ridtx nemmen lil għajnejja hekk kif rajt lill-għażiż ibni mejjet! Ma ridtx nitilqu minn idejja. Kien qisu eżatt bambin ċkejken. Id-dmugħ qabiżli minn xfar għajnejja hekk kif missejtlu jdejh u xofftejh tarija u rqaq.

    Kemm ħsibt li proprju b’dawk l-idejn għad imellisli wiċċi u proprju b’dawk ix-xufftejn għad isejjaħli, “Ma.” Iżda l-akbar għafsa ta’ qalb kienet meta firduli ‘l ibni minni u rajtu jgħib taħt it-trab għal dejjem! ….. Intlift minn sensija u ma nafx x’ġara aktar. Iżda meta stenbaħt sibt ruħi mdawwra b’uliedi, b’ommi, u b’zijieti.

    Il-memorja bdiet tiġini f’moħħi bil-mod il-mod. Iva, issa rajt kollox ċar. Issa ma kien fadalli lil ebda wieħed minnhom. F’inqas minn xahrejn kont tlift lil missieri, lil żewġi u lil ibni. Bkejt kemm flaħt sakemm dmugħ iżjed xi nxerred ma baqgħalix.

    Wara xi żmien, lil uliedi ħadthom iċ-ċimiterju biex isellmu lin-nannu u lil ħuhom. F’dik is-sikta tlabna flimkien għal ruħhom. F’qalbi kont qed nitlob għal ruħ żewġi wkoll. Kont mitlufa fi ħsibijieti meta ibni l-kbir reġa’ staqsieni l-istess mistoqsija li kien ilu jistaqsini għal bosta drabi, “Ma, bilħaqq il-papà għadu ma ġiex jara lil Anthony-Paul.”

    “Il-papà jiġi, dalwaqt jiġi,” erġajt tennejtlu l-istess tweġiba li kont ilni ngħidlu għal sena sħiħa.

    Dawwart wiċċi biex naħbi żewġ demgħat li ħarbuli minn għajnejja. Mur għidilhom lil uliedi li missierhom qiegħed jitlob għalihom mis-sema. Mur għidilhom li qatt u qatt m’hu ser jirritorna lura lejn id-dar! Tassew kienu tfal sfortunati aktar mill-oħrajn dawn uliedi għax lanqas ġisem missierhom ma nstab. F’jum il-missier, lanqas fjuri fuq qabru ma jistgħu jagħmlulu, għax ġismu qiegħed hemm, imtertaq taħt il-baħar, fis-skiet ta’ dejjem…..

    2016.09.10 / no responses / Category: Uncategorized

  • IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK

    450 years ago, the Maltese Islands were in the spotlight of several European sovereigns after they had succeeded to come out victorious from the massive siege that was laid upon them by the powerful Ottoman Empire. Fort St Elmo lay in ruins and the other fortifications and houses which had been targeted by the enemy were in no better shape. The land still seeped in the blood of the thousands who had lost their lives during the fighting, whilst many others remained maimed.

    Amid this devastation, the eminence of the surviving Knights of the Order of St John surged, and their fame reached legendary proportions. Letters of congratulations which they received from all over Europe, uplifted their spirits, whilst generous donations eventually helped them to build the new city of Valletta.

    The Knights of St John continued to rule the Maltese Islands until 1798, when they were ousted by French Military General, Napoleon Bonaparte. Although, some might believe that at this time, the Order was obliterated, in reality, these mythical Hospitallers are still present amongst us, and are as real as ever.

    The Russian Grand Priory of Malta

    Saviour Garcia (photo - Fiona Vella)Since the early years of the Hospitallers’ foundation by Blessed Gerard, the Order protected the faithful and provided aid to the sick and poor. These elements have always remained deeply rooted in the mission of the knights who followed throughout the centuries.

    “Even today, as Knights and Dames of the Russian Grand Priory of Malta who form part of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitallers, under the constitution of the late King Peter II of Yugoslavia, we strive to continue to live up to our motto “Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum,” declared Chev. Saviour Garcia as we stood in front of a large painting of Blessed Gerard at Palazzino Sapienti in Valletta.

    “Today, the Order’s mission still incorporates the duty to profess the Christian faith. However, its present members are not fighters but humanitarians who swear to act for the common good of all people without distinction of race or religion.”

    Garcia outlined a number of philantropic projects which the Russian Grand Priory of Malta have been taking care of without much pomposity. Amongst these he mentioned St Joseph’s Residential Home for children in Żabbar, Dar Nazareth’s Residential Home for people with disability in Żejtun, and the construction of a hospital and a hostel in Thailand which caters for the needs of dying children with AIDS.

    “The first investiture and the official institution of The Malta Priory took place on March 8, 1964. A few days after, His Majesty King Peter II of Yugoslavia legitimized the Order by giving it a new Constitution to meet 20th century demands. Within the first decades of its existence, The Malta Priory made several notable achievements which ultimately led it to be elevated to Grand Priory by Royal Warrant from King Peter II on Feb 22, 1970. This Royal Warrant gave our Grand Priory the name of Russian Grand Priory of Malta.”

    Palazzino Sapienti, Valletta

    Library at Palazzino Sapienti (Photo - Fiona Vella)Interestingly, it was the same king who donated the sum of 1000 dollars in order to open a fund for the purchase of a large house which was expected to serve as the World Head Quarters of this Order. The choice fell on the prestigious Palazzino Sapienti which today is located at 223, St Paul Street, Valletta, right opposite to the University of Malta Valletta Campus.

    An original letter held at the archives of Palazzino Sapienti that was sent to Czar Paul I by Grand Master Hompesch in 1797, indicates that at the time, the Russians had an interest to involve themselves in the Order. That is why, after the Knights of St John were expelled from Malta, some of them opted to find refuge in St Petersburg, where they elected the Russian Emperor, Paul I, as their Grand Master, thereby replacing Ferdinand von Hompesch who was then held in disgrace and had to abdicate in 1799.

    Prior to its present distinguished function, Palazzino Sapienti had its fair share of interesting history.

    “Whilst researching about the origins of this building, I discovered that its construction was commissioned in the late 16th century by the English Grand Prior of the Order of St. John, Sir Richard Shelley. However, he did not have the opportunity to enjoy his residence for long, since he got into disagreement with the Inquisitor after he failed to present to him his correspondence to the Protestant Queen Elizabeth for censorship, as was the regulation at the time. Soon, matters got worse when Shelley had also a dispute with Grand Master Peter del Monte, and in a diplomatic way, this building was taken away from him after he was offered another property. Instead, Palazzino Sapienti became the residence of Fra Nicolo Sollima, the Collegium Melitense Rector,” revealed Garcia.

    Palazzino Sapienti (Photo - Fiona Vella)“Stone used for the building of the house was quarried on site. Once the building was complete, the resultant small quarry was used as a water cistern and basement. This process of cutting stones directly from Monte Sciberras hurried the process of the building of the new city.”

    “The facade of the palazzino was imposing, having a main door flanked by two others. The main entrance was decorated by a barrel vaulted ceiling, typical of the 16th century. Traces of a blocked arch located under the staircase which leads up to the piano nobile points out that originally, the level of the street was lower than it is today.”

    “On 12th September 1634, a gunpowder magazine located in the whereabouts of the palazzino, blew up, killing 33 persons. The devastated site was left abandoned for thirty years until Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner established the Fondazione Cotoner in order to rebuild the houses in Strada San Paolo. The palazzino had suffered some cracks in the walls and its glass windows were shattered. Some structural changes were done to it, however, this structure was never intended to be built higher than two floors, since it would have been higher than the opposite building and would have cast a shadow on the University’s sundial.”

    “Traces of red paint on the walls show that this building was painted in this colour. Meanwhile, the limestone balcony supports, the internal courtyard and the main staircase were adorned with seashell carvings that represented St John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Order of St. John. The seashell is also representative of the water element, in this case creativity and knowledge, as befits the University Rector’s house.”

    It was a pleasure to explore this palazzino which I had never visited before. In the meantime, Garcia recounted some curiosities about the notable tenents who lived there.

    A room in Palazzino Sapienti (Photo - Fiona Vella)“In 1919, the tenant of Palazzino Sapienti was the lawyer Luigi Camilleri. On 7th June, 1919, Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky and Count Andrey Bobrinsky, both Russian Imperial refugees, were visiting Camilleri at his residence when suddenly the ‘Sette Guigno’ riots broke out. A large crowd made its way to the Royal Malta University and started to attack it, tearing down the English Imperial flag. These two Russian nobles who were witnessing this from the opposite palazzino were scared stiff since the remembrance of the Bolshevik revolution still haunted them. They stayed at the premises till the 12th June when they were escorted back to San Anton Palace in Balzan by Police Superintendent James Frendo Cumbo.”

    “During the Second World War, the premises were used by the British Royal Air Force for the decoding of enemy aerial operations. Palazzino Sapienti survived two enemy bombs which were dropped in the vicinity. Yet tragedy still struck this place when two children, who were attending school in this building after the Valletta school was hit, found their way down a spiral staircase which led to the city’s undergrounds and got lost there. No one ever found them and these stairs have been blocked ever since.”

    Chapel with reliquary of St John the Baptist (Photo - Fiona Vella)Today, this building is also proud to possess three saint reliquaries: a first degree bone fragment from the Order’s Patron Saint St. John the Baptist, and two third degree relics in the form of a throne chair on which St. John Paul II sat during one of his Papal visits to Italy, and a hand signed dedication by Sister Mother Theresa of Calcutta who was also a member of the Order.

    “Besides housing the Seat of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knight Hospitaller, Palazzino Sapienti has now opened its doors to the public who might be interested to visit it. Moreover lectures regarding various subjects are organized inside one of its rooms wherein we are also giving the opportunity to university students who would like to present talks about their studies or thesis.”

    Certainly, an invitation to such a prestigious, architectural, and historical gem, should not be missed.

    (This article was published in ‘Focus Valletta’ Suppliment issued with The Times of Malta dated 30 September 2015)

    2015.09.30 / no responses / Category: Times of Malta

  • Mad-daqq tal-banda

    Sa mill-ibgħad snin tal-eżistenza tiegħu, il-bniedem kien affaxxinat bil-kapaċità tiegħu li joħloq ħoss, liema abbiltà eventwalment evolviet fil-mużika. Maż-żmien, ġew żviluppati konsiderevolment anki l-istrumenti mużikali, sakemm illum, teżisti għażla vasta ta’ tipi differenti.

    Firxa minn dawn l-istrumenti varji huma użati mill-baned tagħna li llum saru jiffurmaw parti mill-wirt kulturali tagħna. Infatti, ir-ritratti tal-bandisti Maltin saru sinomini mal-esebizzjonijiet fotografiċi li jkunu relatati mat-tradizzjonijiet u l-kultura lokali.

    Hekk kif issa beda l-istaġun tal-festi, tħajjart nesplora kemmxejn id-dinja tal-banda u tal-bandisti. Kif stennejt, ħarġu dettalji u rakkonti tassew interessanti.

    Il-festa tar-raħal isservi bħala xrara

    Alexander Vella mal-kumplament tal-banda (Ritratt - Zejtun Band Club)Il-folla numeruża kienet qed tifraħ u ċċapċap hekk kif l-istatwa tal-patruna tfaċċat glorjuża fil-bieb tal-parroċċa taż-Żejtun. Għadd ta’ bnadar kbar u kkuluriti kienu qed iżejjnu l-bjut tad-djar u tal-każini tal-madwar, iperpru sbieħ fis-sema kaħlana. It-tiżjin tat-triqat kompla jgħani din l-atmosfera ferriħija tal-festa li kienet qed tiġi ċċelebbrata. Iżda bla dubju, dan l-ambjent allegru kien jonqoslu ħafna mill-briju li kieku ma kienx għall-mużika sabiħa tal-banda.

    Kien waqt mument distint bħal dan, lura f’Novembru tal-1973, meta Alexander Vella u ħuħ Raymond, flimkien ma’ grupp ta’ ħbieb oħra, iddeċidew li jibdew jagħmlu parti minn dan l-ispettaklu billi jingħaqdu maż-Żejtun Band Club. Alexander, li kellu 15 il-sena dak iż-żmien, jiftakar li missieru ħa gost ferm b’din l-aħbar, l-aktar minħabba li hu stess kien ilu membru f’din is-soċjetà għal bosta snin. Madanakollu, huwa ma naqasx milli jwissi lil uliedu li jekk tassew riedu jirnexxu f’dan il-qasam, huma kellhom jibdew mill-ewwel jieħdu l-affarijiet bis-serjetà u jintefgħu jistudjaw.

    Opportunità għal min xtaq jitgħallem idoqq

    Ma kienx diffiċli biex tiġi aċċettat bħala membru fiż-Żejtun Band Club peress li l-għan prinċipali ta’ din is-Soċjetà li twaqqfet fl-1933, minn dejjem kien li jagħti l-opportunità lil kull min xtaq jitgħallem idoqq xi strument tal-banda. Infatti, l-istudenti kienu jiġu mgħallma bla ħlas minn għalliema u maestros professjonali, u hekk kif kienu jaqbżu l-aspett teoretiku, is-Soċjetà kienet saħansitra tislifhom strument sabiex idoqqu bih. B’dan il-mod, is-Soċjetà kienet tispera li l-quddiem għad tħajjar lil dawn l-individwi biex jingħaqdu magħha bħala mużiċisti tal-banda, ħalli b’hekk din tkompli ssaħħaħ ir-reputazzjoni tagħha b’membri validi.

    Ridt tkun tassew determinat biex tibqa’

    Il-Banda Żejtun waqt il-Programm Mużikali Annwali 2013 (Ritratt - Zejtun Band Club)Ċertament, sa mill-ewwel lezzjoni, Vella ntebaħ li din ma kienetx se tkun biċċa xogħol faċli.

    “Ridt tkun tassew determinat li tingħaqad mal-banda biex tibqa’ għaddej bl-istudju, l-aktar għaliex qabel jagħtuk l-istrument li mingħalik kont se tibda ddoqq, kien jeħtieġlek titgħallem bl-amment in-noti tal-mużika,” stqarr Vella.

    “Qatt qabel ma kont tgħallimt il-mużika u għalkemm kieku ried, missieri seta’ jħarriġni, huwa rriffjuta li jagħmel dan. Minflok insista li noqgħod attent waqt il-lezzjoni u li nisma’ sew x’kellu jgħidli l-għalliem. Niftakar li darbtejn biss azzardajt nistaqsih xi ħaġa wara li ma fhimtx x’għamilna fil-lezzjoni imma fiż-żewġ okkażżjonijiet, huwa ċanfarni u wissieni biex ma naħlix il-ħin tal-għalliem tiegħi. Wara dakinhar, qatt ma ppruvajt nistaqsih xi ħaġa oħra u kont nara li nifhem sew dak li jsir fil-klassi.”

    Il-bużillis kien li din l-attitudni ddixxiplinata kienet teżisti anki fil-klassi

    “L-għalliem tagħna, Edgar Lowell, kien maestro mill-aqwa imma kien bniedem tassew strett. Kien jippretendi li l-istudenti jattendu regolarment għall-lezzjonijiet u li jsegwuhom b’attenzjoni kbira. Ma ninsa qatt meta fl-ewwel lezzjoni, hu fetaħ idejh beraħ quddiemna u hekk kif beda jipponta lejn subgħajh, qalilna li Alla kien tana ħames swaba’ b’erbgħa spazji bejniethom sabiex niftakru dejjem li kien hemm disgħa noti mużikali bażiċi.”

    Ridt tuża l-istint

    “Minn dakinhar konna mistennija naħdmu iebes u nimxu ‘l quddiem mingħajr ma jkollna għalfejn nistaqsu wisq għall-għajnuna. Kellna nidraw nużaw l-istint tagħna u widnejna biex nifhmu l-ħsejjes u r-ritmi mużikali korretti. Żball wieħed waqt il-lezzjoni kien ikun biżżejjed biex l-għalliem jaqbdek u jibgħatek id-dar bla kliem u bla sliem ħalli tmur tistudja mill-ġdid id-dar. Dak iż-żmien, it-tifħir ma kienx jeżisti u kont tirrealizza biss li kont sejjer tajjeb meta l-għalliem kien jagħtik titgħallem in-noti li jmiss. Dak kollox!”

    Wara erbgħa snin taħriġ, Vella beda jdoqq maż-Żejtun Band Club u ma damx ma beda jservi wkoll ma’ baned oħra. Illum, fl-età ta’ 53 sena, huwa għandu esperjenza ta’ 37 sena ma’ din il-banda u kapaċi jdoqq diversi strumenti. Bi gratitudni lejn din is-Soċjetà li tagħtu tant, fl-2012 hu flimkien ma’ martu Jane, rregalaw sett ta’ bandalori tal-bellus meħjutin bir-rakkmu tad-deheb, bħala tifkira tal-involviment tiegħu magħha, waqt iċ-ċelebrazzjoni tat-80 anniversarju mit-twaqqif tagħha.

    Bidla fil-kultura

    Isaac Scicluna u Alexander Vella (Ritratt - Fiona Vella)Maż-żmien dan l-atteġġjament inbidel kompletament, hekk kif stajt nifhem meta tkellimt ma’ Isaac Scicluna; tifel ta’ 11 il-sena li hu l-iżgħar bandist ta’ din is-soċjetà.

    Fatt kurjuż huwa li Scicluna tħajjar jissieħeb maż-Żejtun Band Club eżatt bl-istess mod kif ġralu Vella; jiġifieri, waqt il-festa ta’ Santa Katarina tal-2011. Bħal Vella, hu wkoll kellu xi membri tal-familja li kienu jdoqqu, fosthom lil missieru, lil nannuħ u lil bużnannuħ li kollha kienu bandisti ferventi. L-istess bħal sieħbu akbar minnu, Scicluna ħassu pjuttost konfuż meta fl-età ta’ 8 snin daħal għall-ewwel darba biex jitgħallem ma’ din is-Soċjetà u sab ruħu affaċċjat bin-noti tat-teorija flok bl-istrument li xtaq!

    Iżda t-tixbiħ ma’ Vella s’hawn jieqaf peress li bil-bidla fil-kultura, li fil-preżent aktar tikkunsidra li tgħin milli li żżomm dixxiplina iebsa, huwa jsib għajnuna kbira kemm mill-ġenituri tiegħu u kif ukoll mill-għalliem meta jkollu bżonn l-assistenza tagħhom.

    “Fl-ewwel lezzjoni ntroduċewni man-noti tal-mużika,” qalli Scicluna. “Ftit ftit bdejt nitgħallem isimhom, it-tip u l-valur tagħhom. Imbagħad ngħatajt sett noti mużikali u ġejt mitlub nikkupjahom u nistudjahom. Missieri għeni nsib it-triq sakemm ġejt fuq saqajja u stajt inkompli naħdem waħdi. Fir-realtà, anki jekk issib tant sapport, jiddependi ħafna mill-ambizzjoni tiegħek sabiex tirnexxi għax aktar ma jgħaddi ż-żmien, il-lezzjonijiet kull ma jmur jitqalu. Meta tkun għadek student l-iskola, jeħtieġlek ukoll titgħallem tqassam ħinek sewwa ħalli tlaħħaq mal-istudju tal-iskola u xorta ssib ħin x’tiddedika għall-banda.”

    “Peress li jiena xellugi, kelli nderri lili nnifsi biex nitgħallem inżomm ir-ritmu b’saqajja l-leminija u ngħodd in-noti b’idejja l-leminija sabiex inkompli mal-bqija tal-grupp. Wara xi żmien nistudja, intlabt ukoll nibda nkanta n-noti ħalli b’hekk widnejja jintunaw ruħhom għall-mużika bi preparazzjoni għall-istrument li kont se ndoqq.”

    Filwaqt li Vella dam aktar minn tliet snin jistudja t-teorija, Scicluna kien meqjus pront biex jitgħallem l-istrument f’nofs dak il-perjodu. Min-naħa l-oħra, mentri Vella ġie rrakkommandat idoqq is-saksafon peress li kien twil imma minflok għażel il-klarinett bħal dak li kien idoqq missieru, Scicluna li xtaq idoqq is-saksafon, kellu joqgħod għall-klarin peress li subgħajh għadhom wisq qosra għall-istrument l-ieħor.

    L-iżgħar bandist

    Isaac Scicluna idoqq l-ewwel darba mal-Banda Żejtun fil-programm Mużikali Annwali 2013 (Ritratt - Zejtun Band Club)Sadanittant, is-sena 2013 kienet waħda sinifikanti ferm għal Scicluna u l-familja tiegħu, meta hu ġie ntrodott bħala l-iżgħar bandist taż-Żejtun Band Club. Fatt interessanti huwa illi din iċ-ċelebrazzjoni kienet pjuttost insolita peress li s-soltu, bandist ġdid jiddaħħal fil-banda biss waqt iċ-ċelebrazzjonijiet tal-Ġimgħa l-Kbira. Iżda, minħabba l-mewt għall-għarrieda tal-arċipriet taż-Żejtun, Dun Eric Overend, bosta mill-attivitajiet kellhom jiġu posposti u b’hekk Scicluna ngħata l-opportunità li jdoqq għall-ewwel darba waqt il-Programm Mużikali Annwali tal-2013.

    Nibqa’ ndoqq sal-aħħar

    Illum, kemm Vella u Scicluna, huma ħerqana biex ikomplu jagħtu s-servizz tagħhom f’din il-banda u għalkemm hemm baħar jaqsam bejn l-età ta’ dawn iż-żewġ individwi, it-tnejn sostnew li xtaqu jkomplu jdoqqu sakemm Alla jibqa’ jagħtihom is-saħħa. Għalissa, Scicluna daqq biss maż-Żejtun Band Club iżda xorta waħda, hu diġà kellu ċ-ċans jieħu sehem f’funzjonijiet importanti bħal meta l-banda daqqet fil-funeral tal-eks-ministru, Wistin Abela.

    Ir-rwol tal-banda

    “Ir-rwol tal-banda hu li tferraħ in-nies bil-mużika tagħha,” qalli Vella. “Madanakollu, bħal f’kollox, anki din għandha l-lati diffiċli tagħha. Ngħidu aħna, għalkemm jiena nħobb nisma’ ħafna l-marċi funebri illi l-banda tagħna ddoqq waqt l-attivitajiet tal-Ġimgħa l-Kbira, meta nsib ruħi qiegħed nakkumpanja funeral bid-daqq tiegħi, inħossni emozzjonat. Minn dejjem kont hekk, imma din is-sensazzjoni kompliet tiżdied wara li kelli ndoqq waqt il-funeral ta’ missieri u hemm ħassejt l-uġiegħ u n-niket li kapaċi jiġi espress permezz tal-istrumenti differenti. Dakinhar, deherli li l-ħoss tagħhom kien jixbaħ il-bikja tas-soċjetà li kienet għadha kif tilfet lil wieħed mill-membri tagħha.”

    Anki t-tfajjel Scicluna qabel ma dan.

    “Jien ukoll inħossni daqsxejn skomdu meta jkolli ndoqq waqt funeral. Imma fl-istess ħin, jien konxju li bil-mużika tiegħi nkun qed nuri rispett lil dak l-individwu li jkun ħalliena. Xorta waħda nħares dejjem il-quddiem biex jiġi ż-żmien tal-festi meta nkunu nistgħu nferrħu n-nies bid-daqq tal-istrumenti tagħna.”

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela MINN RITRATT (14 il-Parti) fit-Torċa tal-21 ta’ Ġunju 2015)

    2015.06.21 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Il-majjistra ta’ dari

    Kien ritratt li deher dan l-aħħar fuq fuljett li ħareġ Wirt iż-Żejtun li qanqal it-tnissil ta’ dan l-artiklu. Kien juri kmajra għera għajr għal sodda dejqa tal-metall u xi aċċessorji oħra sempliċi. Skoprejt li fil-passat, din kienet tintuża bħala lwog għat-twelid tat-trabi. Bħala mara, tregħixt, u ħsibijieti dlonk ġrew fuq dawk l-imsejkna li ma kellhom l-ebda għażla ħlief li jintasbu f’dan il-post biex hemm jesperjenzaw wieħed mill-aktar mumenti diffiċli ta’ ħajjithom. Dlonk ħassejt il-bżonn li nkun naf aktar dwar dawn l-ommijiet u l-majjistri li kienu jassistuhom. Kien għalhekk li ngħaqadt mal-grupp imdaqqas ta’ parteċipanti li attendew fil-Juventutis Domus, iż-Żejtun, għall-preżentazzjoni tar-riċerka li wettqet Janice Caruana rigward xogħol il-majjistra bejn is-snin 1900 u l-1990.

    Każ ta’ emerġenza jwassal għal riċerka

    “Bħala ners li naħdem fid-Dipartiment tal-Emerġenza, waqt li darba minnhom kont xogħol f’ambulanza, sibt ruħi qed nassisti mara biex twelled lit-tarbija tagħha. Din l-esperjenza nisslet f’moħħi diversi mistoqsijiet dwar x’kien isir fil-passat waqt mumenti bħal dawn, fejn il-majjistri kellhom jimprovizzaw skont is-sitwazzjoni u l-ambjent li jsibu ruħhom fih, billi jagħmlu użu mill-għerf u l-kapaċità li kellhom aktar milli billi jserrħu fuq l-għodda tagħhom,” stqarret Janice Caruana.

    Dawn il-ħsibijiet ħeġġewha biex tibda tagħmel riċerka għall-interess tagħha personali. Madanakollu, hi tant daħlet fil-profond ta’ dan it-tiftix, li spiċċat biex sabet ruħha għal għonq it-triq ta’ vjaġġ interessanti ta’ skoperta li ħadha lura lejn il-perjodu li jkopri s-snin bejn l-1900 u l-1990.

    “Id-dokumentazzjoni u l-informazzjoni rigward il-majjistri u t-twelid fid-djar f’dik l-epoka huma skarsi ħafna. Infatti, ma ssib l-ebda dettalji ta’ x’kien isir fil-kamra tal-ħlas waqt it-twelid ta’ tarbija f’dawk is-snin,” spjegat Janice.

     “Kien għalhekk li ddeċidejt li nibda nesplora l-perċezzjonijiet tal-ommijiet u tal-majjistri dwar il-ħlas li kien isir fid-djar bejn dan il-perjodu. L-għan prinċipali tiegħi kien li nsir naf aħjar x’kien ir-rwol tal-majjistra matul it-tqala, waqt il-ħlas, u kif ukoll wara t-twelid. Dan xtaqt nagħmlu billi nfittex l-istejjer u l-esperjenzi personali tan-nies li għaddew minn dawn l-esperjenzi waqt dan iż-żmien partikolari.”

    L-istħarriġ

    B’kollox, Janice intervistat 24 omm (23 minn Malta u waħda minn Għawdex) li bejniethom welldu 95 tarbija fid-djar tagħhom. Kollha kienu miżżewġa għax dari kien tabù li mara jkollha tarbija jekk ma tkunx ħadet l-istat tagħha. Fost dan it-twelid kien hemm: par tewmin, żewġ ħlasijiet mingħajr assistenza, tliet korrimenti, tliet itrabi li twieldu mejtin, u każ fejn mietet l-omm. L-età medja tan-nisa intervistati kienet ta’ 78, fejn l-iżgħar kellha 60 sena u l-akbar 99 sena.

    Għal dan l-istħarriġ, hi tkellmet ukoll ma’ erbgħa nisa li fi żmienhom kienu jaħdmu bħala majjistri, filwaqt li ltaqgħet ukoll ma’ xi qraba ta’ tliet majjistri oħra li llum m’għadhomx magħna.

    Kwalifiki meħtieġa biex issir majjistra

    “Qabel l-1959, il-kwalifiki meħtieġa biex issir majjistra kienu li mara tkun taf tikteb u taqra bl-Ingliż u l-Malti, ikollha għarfien bażiku fis-somom,sentejn apprendistat is-Central Hospital,tkun assistiet mhux inqas minn 40 twelid, tilħaq il-kriterji kollha tal-medical board tal-gvern ta’ dak iż-żmien, tgħaddi mill-eżamijiet u jkollha diploma ta’ ners u majjistra, tħallas il-miżati, u tkun ta’ karattru u morali tajba,” għarrfitna Janice.

    Ġużeppa Bonnici – majjistra

    Guzeppa Bonnici (Ritratt - Janice Cassar)Din il-majjistra kienet miż-Żejtun u kienet tagħti s-servizzi tagħha Ħal-Għaxaq, iż-Żejtun u Marsaxlokk. Temmet il-kors tagħha fl-1934 u l-aħħar twelid li assistiet kien fl-1960.

    “Ġrajja partikolari li seħħet waqt ix-xogħol tagħha kien meta hi tilfet it-tarbija tagħha biex taqdi lil ħaddieħor. Kellha 7 xhur tqala u talbuha tassisti twelid ġo dar. Kien żmien it-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija u f’dak il-ħin, kienu neżlin il-bombi. Dan ma qatax qalb Ġużeppa imma d-destin ried li hekk kif tirfes fuq l-għatba tal-bieb tad-dar tal-klijenta tagħha, taqa’ bomba fil-viċin u tisplodi. Ir-raġel tal-mara ġera lejn il-majjistra biex jipproteġiha mill-blast iżda kien tard wisq. Madanakollu, Ġużeppa kompliet taħdem u ħelset lill-omm. Waqt dawn il-mumenti, hija ntebħet li ma kinetx qed tħoss lit-tarbija tagħha aktar. Fil-fatt, hekk kif lestiet minn xogħolha u marret tiċċekkja dwar il-qagħda tat-tarbija tagħha, ikkonfermat li kienet tilfitha.”

    Maria Dolores Sapiano – majjistra

    Maria Dolores Sapiano (Ritratt - Janice Cassar)Din il-majjistra Żejtunija kienet tagħti s-servizzi tagħha fiż-Żejtun. Temmet il-kors tagħha fl-1934 u l-aħħar twelid li assistiet kien fl-1960. Fi żmien it-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija, assistiet in-nisa refuġjati mill-Kottonera li kienu marru jsibu kenn fil-bini tal-Juventutis Domus.

    Binha jiftakarha ssemmi li f’dak iż-żmien kienet tesperjenza mumenti fejn “waħda tgħajjat minn naħa u waħda tgħajjat minn oħra”.

    “Kienet ammirevoli kif din il-majjistra, mingħajr ma taf xejn dwar l-istorja tat-tqala ta’ dawn in-nisa, kienet kapaċi tibqa’ għaddejja fuq xogħolha, u tassistihom bla problemi.

    Maria Camilleri – majjistra

    Kienet miż-Żejtun. Temmet il-kors tagħha fl-1941 u l-aħħar twelid li assistiet kien fl-1979. Assistiet madwar 8000 twelid madwar Malta kollha. Irnexxielha tkopri dan ix-xogħol kollu minħabba li fl-aħħar tal-karriera tagħha, kienet tgħallmet issuq il-karozza.

    Maria Camilleri (Ritratt - Janice Cassar)“Rakkont partikolari waqt ix-xogħol tagħha jgħid illi darba minnhom, Maria ġiet rikoverata l-isptar u hekk kif intbagħtet lura d-dar, it-tabib irrakkommandalha li tistrieħ għal xi ġranet. Iżda x-xogħol tagħha m’għandux waqfien u żewġha ma damx ma sema’ l-bieb tad-dar iħabbat. Kien mar raġel jitlob l-għajnuna ta’ Maria minħabba li martu kienet waslet biex twelled. Żewġ Maria beda jipprova jfehmu li martu ma setgħetx toħroġ imma hi semgħetu, ħennet għall-omm, libset, u qamet biex tmur. B’kundizzjoni waħda – li titla’ timtedd fuq is-sodda biswit l-omm, sakemm din tasal biex twelled. U hekk ġara.”

    Is-sabiħ fil-ħajja, speċjalment fil-gżejjer tagħna, fejn kulħadd jaf lil kulħadd, huwa li spiss ġrajja twassal għal oħra u b’hekk tibqa’ tiskopri affarijiet ġodda. Hekk seħħ fil-każ ta’ din il-majjistra peress li wara din id-diskussjoni, resaq lejja ċertu Joe Seychell sabiex jinfurmani li kien missieru Frans li kien għallem il-karozza lil Maria.

    “Dak iż-żmien kienet meqjusa bħala xi ħaġa mhux wisq xierqa li mara titla’ ma’ raġel f’karozza. Imma Maria kienet taf lil missier missieri u allura s-sitwazzjoni nbidlet. Missieri kien sempliċiment dilettant tal-karozzi u xogħolu ma kienx li jgħallem. Infatti, wara li l-majjistra tħarrġet ma’ missieri, biex tmur għat-test tal-liċenzja, kellha titla’ ma’ wieħed magħruf bħala ‘Il-Lakkwati’ li kellu skola tas-sewqan. Meta għaddiet, Maria kienet fost l-ewwel nisa fiż-Żejtun li kellhom il-liċenzja tal-karozza,” qalli Joe.

    “Hekk kif illum smajthom isemmu lil din il-majjistra, il-memorja tiegħi xegħlet bit-tifkiriet minħabba li niftakar lil Maria tiġi għand nannuwi, Karmenu Abela miż-Żejtun, li kellu ħanut ċkejken f’numru 38, Triq l-Ispirtu s-Santu, iż-Żejtun, fejn kien jaħdem bħala mastrudaxxa. Xogħolu kien jinvolvi t-tfassil ta’ biċċiet ta’ għamara u s-siġġijiet tal-knejjes li kienu jinbiegħu bir-radam. Kien għamel xi żmien ukoll jaħdem it-twiebet tal-adulti imma jien l-uniku twiebet li niftakar, għall-ħabta tas-snin ħamsin, kienu dawk bojod, tat-tfal. Mhux darba u tnejn li ħajt minnhom tal-ħanut kien ikun kollu miżgħud b’dawn it-twiebet stivati fuq xulxin peress li f’dak iż-żmien, kienu jmutu bosta trabi,” kompla jirrakkuntali.

    “Ġieli nzertajt inkun ħdejn nannuwi meta kienet tiġi Maria titolbu tebut minn dawn. “Ħa neħodlok tebut għax mietet tarbija jaħasra,” kienet tgħidlu. “Ħudu u mbagħad nirranġaw,” kien jgħidilha. Għax għandek tkun taf li fost id-dmirijiet tagħha, Maria kienet ukoll tkeffen lit-tarbija sabiex tevita aktar tbatija minn fuq il-ġenituri li jkunu tilfuha. Niftakar drabi meta kont preżenti għal xi quddiesa tal-funeral ta’ xi tarbija u dawk li kienu jifilħu jħallsu, kienu jordnaw li t-tebut tat-tarbija tagħhom jinġarr b’karru abjad biż-żwiemel. Oħrajn li ma kienux jippermettu dan is-servizz, kienu minflok iqabbdu lil wieħed magħruf bħala Xifu biex iġorr it-tebut. Dan kien jorbot ċinturin miegħu u jimxi bit-tebut f’idejh sal-Parroċċa taż-Żejtun.”

    Il-majjistri msemmija hawn fuq m’għadhomx magħna. Imma Janice rnexxielha tiltaqa’ ma’ erbgħa majjistri li ħadmu matul il-perjodu magħżul għar-riċerka, li tawha ħafna informazzjoni utli u interessanti.

    Serafina Delia: Temmet il-kors fl-1942. Ħadmet bħala majjistra fi sptar barra minn Malta u anki fl-isptar St Luke’s. Serviet in-naħa t’isfel ta’ Malta u f’Għawdex.

    Frances Cini: Majjistra Għawdxija. Temmet il-kors fl-1946. B’kollox assistiet 1000 twelid.

    Raffaella Farrugia: Temmet il-kors fl-1959. Esperjenza vasta fl-isptar St Luke’s u anki barra minn Malta. B’kollox assistiet madwar 1000 twelid. Meta kienet taħdem l-Ingilterra, kienet iddur bir-rota min-naħa għall-oħra tassisti nisa differenti.

    May Pecorella: Temmet il-kors fl-1944. Esperjenza vastaf’diversi sptarijiet. Assistiet aktar minn 6000 twelid. Kienet taħdem madwar Malta kollha imma l-aktar il-Ħamrun u Tas-Sliema. Hi qalet li kienet tikkollabora ħafna mal-majjistra Ġużeppa Bonnici taż-Żejtun.

    X’kont issib fil-basket tal-majjistra

    Il-basket tal-majjistra (Ritratt provdut minn Janice Cassar)Janice kellha x-xorti li tifli mill-qrib żewġ basktijiet ta’ majjistri: wieħed tas-snin tletin u l-ieħor tas-snin erbgħin. Dan tal-aħħar kien għadu mimli bl-għodda u b’kollox kien jiżen madwar 5 kilos.

    “Immaġina lill-majjistri għaddejjin il-ġurnata kollha b’dat-toqol f’idejhom!” irrimarkat.

    “L-għodda li sibt kienu jinkludu: ingwanti, fardal, pinard (strument biex tisma’ l-qalb tat-tarbija), lubrikant, miżien, artery forceps, imqassijiet, siringi, pelvimeter (biex tkejjel il-qadd), inċirata għas-saqqu, stetoscope, delivery pack, ħajt tal-punti, u labar ta’ qisien varji.Kien hemm ukoll: kontenituri tal-istainless steel, disinfettant, suction tube (biex ikunu jistgħu jbattlu l-istonku tat-tarbija), reġistri tat-twelid, pinna, levattiv (biex tnaddaf l-imsaren minn ġewwa), ċinturini (kienu jintrabtu mas-sodda biex l-omm tagħmel forza magħhom waqt li tkun qed twelled), garżi u tajjar.”

    Il-gass biex inaqqas l-uġiegħ kien projbit mill-Knisja!

    L-ghodda tal-majjistra  (Ritratt provdut minn Janice Cassar)F’dan il-basket, Janice sabet ukoll xi mediċini, fosthom dawk għal kontra l-uġiegħ inkluż gass imħallat mal-ossiġnu.

    “Dan kien jintuża l-aktar mill-majjistri li kienu jaħdmu mal-MMDNA għax dawk ta’ qabel ma kienx ikollhom dan il-gass għad-dispożizzjoni tagħhom. Fatt interessanti huwa li dan il-gass li seta’ jtaffi l-uġiegħ lin-nisa waqt il-ħlas, għamel żmien ipprojbit mill-Knisja. Infatti, waqt ir-riċerka tiegħi, xi nisa stqarru li kienu ppreferew li jibqgħu jwelldu d-dar u jġarrbu t-tbatija li hemm bżonn minħabba li kienu jibżgħu li jagħmlu dnub jekk imorru l-isptar u jkunu offruti dan il-gass.”

    Nota: Illum koprejt biss xi informazzjoni u ġrajjiet dwar il-majjistri. Il-Ħadd li ġej, dan l-artiklu jkompli jistħarreġ il-perspettiva u r-rakkonti tan-nisa tqal ta’ dari.

     (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela MINN RITRATT (10 parti) fit-Torċa tal-24 ta’ Mejju 2015)

    2015.05.24 / 2 responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • A medal for silver

    Joseph Aquilina (Photo - Anton Aquilina).jpgAquilina at work (1) (Photo - Anton Aquilina).jpg

    Aquilina's oil lamp - a gift to the Queen (Photo - Department of Information).JPGA silver sugar-basin produced by Aquilina (Photo - Joseph Aquilina).JPG

    Within his small workshop in Zejtun, 68 year old silversmith Joseph Aquilina, can still do wonders with precious metals. Having worked as a silversmith from age 14, he has gained so much mastery in this trade that one of his creations was donated to Queen Elizabeth II during the celebrations of Malta’s Independence in 1964. Nowadays, his expertise is particularly focused on the restoration of antique objects which adorn our churches.

    Aquilina learnt this trade from his father Joseph who was originally from Cospicua. Before World War II, Cospicua was renowned for some of the most skillfull silversmiths who eventually had to move to other areas in Malta when this zone became a target to heavy attacks and bombardments.

    From early childhood, Aquilina was very interested in his father’s work and he spent hours observing him working silver items in his shop at St Mary Square in Zejtun. At age 12, he used to rush at the shop immediately after school in order to join silver beads together to produce rosaries for his father’s clients.

    Aquilina knew that he was hooked to this trade but he never dreamt that at age 14, he would be obliged to choose between attending school and becoming a silversmith! It all happened when one day, a social service inspector called at their shop and found him doing some work. It was useless to insist that the boy was only helping his father because the inspector maintained that if the boy wanted to stay in the shop, he had to register for employment within 15 days. And that was the end of his schooldays.

    “School meant nothing to me at that time and I thought that it was a great opportunity to start doing what I was really passionate about. However, when in later years I had to manage my business and was faced with several difficulties due to my brief education, I realized that leaving school at such an early age was definitely a huge mistake,” admitted Aquilina.

    His father was greatly disciplined in his trade and he demanded the same diligence from his son. Above all, he wanted to pass to him all the knowledge that he had inherited from past generations. Yet this was no easy task since the silversmith’s trade expands vastly and covers areas which include work in silver, gold, filigree and the setting of diamonds.

    “Nowadays, most silversmiths choose to specialize in just one of these sectors, but when I was learning the trade, one had to learn to deal with all these areas in order to become a professional. It took long years until you were regarded to be competent enough to open your own business. That was why it was necessary to start at a very young age in this trade and to take matters very seriously.”
    Interestingly, Aquilina succeeded to attain his father’s complete trust by disobeying him.

    “My father expected utter attention during work, both because he wanted the final product to be impeccable, and also because the slightest mistake could be very costly, especially when we were using gold. He put so much pressure upon me that at first, I felt terrified of him and I did not dare to do anything which he did not ask for.”

    Yet one day, Aquilina felt confident enough to try his luck by operating the soldering equipment which his father had adamantly prohibited him to use. Indeed, whilst his father went to church to attend a Lent sermon, Aquilina asked his mother to give him her gold wedding ring in order to cut it in half and reconstruct it again. His mother accepted without a second thought and Aquilina hurried to the workshop, broke the ring in two, switched on the gas, prepared the soldering equipment and trembling with excitement, he quickly joined the two parts together. He did such an excellent job that his mother could not identify any signs that her ring had been broken, and when she told her husband about this and he inspected the ring, a bright smile lit on his face. His son had finally made it!

    From then on, Aquilina had his father’s complete respect and he started to produce his own creations for their clients. He had learnt this trade in the traditional way where everything was done by hand, and to keep in line with this method, he decided to focus on the antique style. This stratagem worked perfectly with those connoisseurs who appreciated refined local craftsmanship.

    “I am proud to say that many of my works can be found among the collections of several local and foreign distinguished individuals. Most of my creations consisted of antique Maltese style coffee sets which included only three items: a coffee pot, a sugar-basin and a milk jug, since tea was not popular back then.”

    Some of Aquilina’s works have often been selected to be given as gifts to foreign individuals.

    “I made a particular silver sugar-basin for a group of Drydocks’ workers who wanted to give it to their British Admiral when he ended his job in Malta. Yet surely, the most popular item that I produced, was the 14 inch oil lamp which the Government of Malta ordered directly from me during the period of the 1970s and 1980s in order to consign it to the foreign delegations who visited our country.”

    Meanwhile, even though throughout the years, there were many machines available which could ease the difficulty of the job and hurry the flow of work, Aquilina always refused to use them.

    “That is the only way of keeping the profession’s prestige and the value of your creations,” Aquilina insisted. “When this type of work is done by machines, the product will loose all its significance because nothing can replace the creative fabrication of the human hand. A handmade product is unique because one can rarely create an object exactly like another. Contrarily, the very precision of objects which are executed by machines will simply turn them into ordinary copies.”

    In order to design and work his particular creations, at times Aquilina had to manufacture his own tools. Yet apart from the ingeniousness required in order to assemble these devices, it was fascinating to know the stories behind the origin of some of the material.

    “Look at these heavy hammers and feel how heavy they are,” he told me with a mischievous look as he brought them near. “I bet that no one would ever guess what they are made of until I tell them myself!”

    Certainly, I did not have the slightest idea.

    “These were some of the huge bolts that formed part of the ‘Angel Gabriel’; the Greek tanker which in 1969 got shipwrecked near the area of the ex-Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsascala. I obtained them when the ship was being broken down into pieces in order to clear the coast.”

    Another curious fact about this trade is that whenever a new silversmith is authorized to start his/her business, he/she is given a personal stamp with which to mark each object that they make. This stamp will be unique and it cannot be transferred to another person. Therefore, each silversmith’s work can always be recognized, no matter how much time elapses.

    In order to explain better, Aquilina referred to an old and rare book ‘The Goldsmiths of Malta and their Marks’ (1972) which was published by Chev Victor Fredrick Denaro; a pioneer in the study of ancient silver in Malta. In this book, one finds significant information about the ancient trade of silversmiths which goes back to the period of the Knights of St John. Meanwhile, this publication includes also all the local silversmiths’ stamps together with their relevant details; starting from the Knights period up to 1972.

    “This book is very precious to me particularly because it helps me to identify the silversmiths of the antique objects which I work on. This will also determine the period of the objects’ manufacture with more precision, and thereby I can understand better which materials and which procedures were involved in its making,” explained Aquilina.

    The restoration of antique metal objects requires high expertise and attention since one small mistake could ruin them completely. Indeed, in these last years Aquilina was responsible for the restoration of various treasured items which include: the restoration of the silver crown of the icon of the Madonna of Carafa that is located within the Co-Cathedral of St John in Valletta, the restoration of the silver leaves that form part of the decoration of the relic of St John the Baptist which is situated in the Museum of the same Co-Cathedral, and in the restoration of the sword of the titular statue of St Catherine in the Parish of Zejtun.

    (This article was published in the ‘Art, Antiques and Restoration’ Supplement of The Times of Malta dated 12th November 2014)

    2014.11.12 / no responses / Category: Times of Malta

  • Isn’t it time to solve some of St Gregory’s mysteries?

    Figura 1. Il-parrocca l-antika ddedikata lil Santa Katarina, llum maghrufa bhala Ta' San Girgor, fiz-Zejtun..JPGFigura 2. L-iskrizzjoni li tinsab fil-parrocca l-antika taz-Zejtun li tiddeskrivi l-attakk li sehh fl-1614..JPG

    Figura 8. John M Debono biswit l-ghadam li nstab fil-passaggi (Ritratt - Times of Malta).JPGFigura 10. Grezzju Vella qed juri l-post minn fejn dahal ghall-passaggi sigrieti..JPG

    Figura 9. L-inizzjali u d-data li gew imnaqqxa fuq gebla gewwa l-passaggi sigrieti.JPGFigura 14. Sezzjoni mill-armarju li bhalissa l-oggetti misjuba huma mizmuma fih..JPG

    The old parish of St Catherine in Żejtun, popularly known as St Gregory’s, is entrenched with deep-rooted mysteries which up to date remain unsolved.

    Some of these dilemmas have been discussed during the second national symposium which was organized by NGO Wirt iż-Żejtun, right in this church, particularly since it is related to the theme that was being commemorated and discussed – the 400th anniversary from the Turkish raid of 1614 on Żejtun and other areas in Malta.

    The eight speakers who participated in this national symposium come from various fields of study and therefore each of them presented interesting and significant relative information from different perspectives.

    Among the matters treated, one finds the old inscription which for many years was believed to represent a narrative of what took place on that eventful day of the 6th July 1614, when 60 Ottoman galleys set anchor at St Thomas’ Bay and the port of Marsascala, and from there, 6000 Turkish soldiers attacked Żejtun and the surrounding areas. According to this inscription, the Turks pillaged the villages, and the churches and chapels which they came upon, until they were finally reached by Maltese soldiers and the cavalry, and had to retreat back to their ships. Some Maltese were injured but none died, whilst some Turks were killed and others were captured as slaves. However, when referring to some local archives, and also to those who were written by Ottoman authors, one will find details which do not necessarily concur. So what is the real story?

    Other curious issues relate to the 1969 discovery of three secret passages within the old church of St Gregory, wherein a number of human bones were also found. Even the discovery itself poses several questions on the true story of their revelation. Indeed, when the passages were located in 1969, right in the beginning of the third corridor, some engravings bearing initials and the date 1909 were noticed, thereby suggesting that these corridors had already been discovered before. Rumours say that after the last discovery, the parish priest had searched among the village elders who had those initials until he traced a certain Carmelo Zahra, known as ‘ir-Rangu’, who confessed that he had entered into these passages when he was a young boy together with some other individuals. He claimed that they had seen skeletons dressed as soldiers in these passages and that they had some weapons and flags with them. Moreover, he said that some people from this group removed these objects and took them away, and threatened the others in order not to mention anything. Indeed, many had been surprised at the frugal objects that were found with the bones in 1969. Could Zahra have been telling the truth?

    The remains that were collected during the last discovery included a wooden shoe sole with a high heel, a small gilted wooden cross of Byzantine design, odd bits of a gilted wooden frame (perhaps an icon), three coins: two bronze with the cross of the Order, the other gold, but very worn out that it cannot be deciphered, pieces of pottery of the 16-17th century, fragments of animal bones, and a part of a chain mail armour vest. Presently these are stored in one of the rooms within the church and it seems clear, both from their state of preservation and from the display box in which they stand, that no one has bothered to look at them for whole long years. In fact, very few individuals knew about their existence. It is a pity that these objects are hidden away from researchers and from the public. Don’t they deserve to be conserved and studied and later on displayed appropriately?

    Likewise, there are various versions of how and who came upon the opening to the secret passages. One of these claims that this person was none other than Ġann Mari Debono, the sacristan of the church, as published in the Times of Malta dated 15th April 1969. However in 2011, Grezzju Vella talked to journalist Fiona Vella and recounted a slightly different story wherein he declared that he had exposed the opening and entered first in the secret passages.

    Certainly, the human remains have also led to another mystery since to date no one knows how and why they were found in these secret passages. A ballad written by Walter Zahra soon after the discovery of 1969 imagined these people to have been the victims of an Ottoman attack after they had gone up to hide in the secret passages and were found by the enemy. Yet by time, this invented story transformed itself into a legend and many villagers believed that this was the truth. However, in 1978, Seshadri Ramaswamy and Joseph Leslie studied these bones and presented a report on their paleopathological studies. They concluded that these bones had been buried in some other place since they had observed that some of the vertebrae had a plug of soil in the vertebral canal. Hence, according to this theory, during a particular period, the secret passages in St Gregory’s church might have been used as an ossuary. Many have asked what sense did it make to carry the bones up to these passages when they could have been stored elsewhere. Yet many more demand why a carbon dating examination has not yet been performed on these bones in order to date these remains and end some of these rumours?

    In the coming months, the information that was delivered during the presentations of this national symposium will be published by Wirt iż-Żejtun in the book ‘The Turkish Raid of 1614′. Presently, one may enjoy a pre-publication offer on this book by ordering it through the NGO’s website www.wirtizzejtun.com

    (This feature was published in The Sunday Times of Malta dated 24th August 2014)

    2014.08.24 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Mara li għexet seklu

    Frances Grima biswit ritratt ta' zewgha Carmelo Grima.JPGFrances Grima waqt ic-cerimonja meta nghatat il-gieh ta' Dama.JPG

    Minn dejjem kont inħossni affaxxinata bil-bniedem, fosthom kif dan irnexxielu jgħix għal dawn l-eluf kbar ta’ snin, akkost li d-dinja nbidlet qatiegħ mal-milja taż-żmien. Mhux il-ħlejqiet kollha irnexxielhom jagħmlu dan. Infatti nafu sewwa li wħud minnhom għosfru kompletament, daqs li kieku qatt ma kienu. Għal perjodu twil, l-istudjużi kienu jemmnu illi kienu l-ħlejqiet l-aktar b’saħħithom li kienu l-iżjed kapaċi li jsalvaw…. imma ħarsu ftit kif spiċċaw id-dinożawri! Intant illum, wara aktar riċerka u iżjed skoperti, l-esperti f’dawn l-oqsma ntebħu illi fir-realtà kienu dawk il-ħlejqiet li kienu kapaċi li jadattaw ruħhom għaċ-ċirkustanzi differenti li rebħu l-isfidi taż-żmien. U fost dawn il-kreaturi l-aktar adattabbli, naraw il-bniedem, li bl-intelliġenza tiegħu għaraf mhux biss kif jinbidel hu imma saħansitra kif jittrasforma l-ambjent ta’ madwaru biex jaġevola lilu nnifsu.

    Dawn il-ħsibijiet għaddewli b’ħeffa minn moħħi hekk kif kont fi triqti biex immur niltaqa’ ma’ Frances Grima, mara, li dis-sena tkun għexet seklu. Kont kurjuża biex nara u nifhem minn xhiex għaddiet matul id-99 sena tagħha u kif issawwret ħajjitha madwar il-bidliet li d-dinja ppreżentatilha, fosthom ir-realtà qarsa ta’ żewġ gwerer dinjija.

    Nistqarr li b’kunsiderazzjoni għall-età tagħha, ippretendejt li ser nara mara li tidher ħafna aktar anzjana u li forsi ma kinetx ser tkun tista’ tiftakar wisq ġrajjiet tfulitha. Imma minflok, hekk kif iltqajna u bdejna nitkellmu, intbaħt illi Frances kienet persuna pjuttost indipendenti u b’memorja brillanti. Ħafna nies miż-Żejtun jafuha bħala l-mara ta’ Carmelo Grima li għal diversi snin kien Segretarju u fundatur ta’ l-Għaqda Banda Żejtun, u għal żmien qasir ħafna inħatar ukoll bħala President ta’ din is-Soċjetà, sakemm ħalla din id-dinja fid-19 ta’ Novembru 1977, ħamest ijiem wara li huwa għalaq 63 sena. Min-naħa tiegħi, xtaqt insir naf aktar minn għandha dwar min kien dan ir-raġel imma wkoll dwar min kienet din il-mara li akkumpanjatu matul ħajtu.

    Memorji ta’ l-Ewwel Gwerra Dinjija

    Twieldet fi żmien l-Ewwel Gwerra Dinjija, fit-23 ta’ Novembru 1914. Naturalment, peress li kienet għadha żgħira, ma tantx tiftakar minn din il-gwerra li ntemmet fl-1918, forsi anki minħabba li f’din it-taqtiegħa, Malta ma tantx iġġarbet wisq. Iżda Frances xorta għandha memorja ta’ żmien ta’ skaresezza, fosthom dik li wieħed raġel kien imur b’qoffa kbira jqassam il-ħobż lin-nisa tal-impjegati tal-gvern u li hi kienet takkompanja lil ommha fi Sqaq il-Mitħna ż-Żejtun, sabiex jistennew fi kju ħalli jixtru flixkun pitrolju biex ikollhom biex isajjru.

    Il-mara ta’ Carmelo Grima (Għaqda Banda Żejtun)

    Iltaqgħet ma’ Carmelo meta kien għad kellha biss 12 il-sena u hu kien għaxar snin akbar minnha. Inizzjalment kien jolqotha minħabba li kien wieħed mill-ftit li ma kienux jitrattawha ta’ tifla żgħira. Hu kien iħobb jitkellem magħha u aktar ma bdew għaddejjin is-snin, hi bdiet tinġibed lejh peress li kien ġuvni attraenti, dħuli, bieżel u moħħu jilħaqlu. Carmelo kien jaħdem id-Dockyard u kien involut ukoll f’xi għaqdiet fiż-Żejtun fejn fosthom kien il-fundatur ta’ l-Għaqda Banda Żejtun u anki tal-Għaqda ta’ Għajnuna ta’ Bejnietna – Żejtun li kienet tagħmel parti mill-Workers’ Benefit Society, u permezz tagħha il-bandisti u s-soċi tal-Banda Żejtun setgħu jingħataw għajnuna finanzjarja f’każ ta’ mard jew problemi oħra fuq ix-xogħol.

    Iżżewġu fl-1934 fil-Parroċċa taż-Żejtun u kellhom erbat itfal: Irene, Rosemarie, Joseph u Godfrey. Id-dar tagħhom kienet tinsab fil-pjazza taż-Żejtun u b’hekk huma setgħu faċilment isegwu dak kollu li kien jinqala’. Il-koppja Grima kienu jimxu id f’id flimkien: hi qatt ma ndaħlitlu dwar dak kollu li xtaq jinvolvi ruħu fih u hu dejjem sostniha f’dak li xtaqet tagħmel, anki meta dan ma kienx jitqies man-norma tal-bqija tas-soċjetà. Skont hu, l-importanti kien li minn dak li tagħmel, titgħallem xi ħaġa minnu u jekk dan kien jinvolvi l-istudju, tant l-aħjar.

    It-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija – bomba fil-pjazza taż-Żejtun

    L-aħħar tarbija tagħhom, Godfrey, twieled fl-1942, waqt it-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija. Dwar dan iż-żmien Frances għandha bosta rikordji, fosthom uħud tassew diffiċli biex tinsa. Infatti hija esperjenzat it-traġedja li ġrat fit-2 ta’ Mejju 1942, meta ajruplan tal-gwerra xeħet bomba li ġiet fil-pjazza taż-Żejtun u għadd ta’ nies spiċċaw feruti u oħrajn mejta. Dakinhar hi tiftakar ċar li kienet għadha kif ħaslet lil Godfrey u ħallietu fi pram biswit it-tieqa għall-arja. Iżda hekk kif bdiet tlibbes lil Joseph, mill-bogħod għarfet il-ħoss joqrob ta’ ajruplan tal-gwerra Taljan.

    Ħin bla waqt, mit-tieqa tad-dar, tibda dieħla foga tqila sewda u għalhekk hi ħatfet liż-żewġt itfal tagħha u niżlet tiġri bihom biex toħroġ barra. Imma dlonk waqfet sobtu meta minn taħt il-bieb ta’ barra rat daħna sewda dieħla fid-dar. Bħal kif kienu sikwit wissewhom jagħmlu, hi marret tistkenn ma’ wliedha taħt l-arkata tal-bieb. Imma meta l-ħin beda għaddej, il-kurżità għelbitha u ħarġet barra. Hemmhekk hi lemħet lill-ispettur flimkien ma’ numru ta’ pulizija u suldati u basret li kienet inqalgħet xi waħda kbira. Iddeċidiet li titlaq tħaffef għand ommha li kienet toqgħod fil-qrib u kellha xelter. Imma hekk kif kienet miexja, semgħet lil bint il-ġara tagħha, Maria Hyzler, issejjħilha mill-isprall tax-xelter li kien fil-kantina tagħhom, fejn talbitha biex tiċċekkja jekk Frances setgħetx tara lil missierha, imma hi ma lemħitux. Ironikament, Dr Hyzler kien jippreferi jmur jistkenn fil-knisja waqt dawn l-attakki għax hu kien jemmen li din kienet aktar soda u sikura mix-xelter tagħhom. Pero’ dakinhar ma laħaqx daħal għar-rifuġju tal-knisja fil-ħin u b’hekk huwa spiċċa wieħed mill-vittmi ta’ din it-traġedja.

    Mhux ta’ b’xejn li f’dak iż-żmien kien jingħad li fuq il-bombi kien ikun hemm imniżżel isem il-ħajjiet li din kellha taħsad. Kien ikun destin u jkollha tkun għalik. B’leħinha miksur Frances ftakret ukoll fil-mewt taż-żewġt itfal li kienu joqogħdu ħdejhom, Grace u Maryrose, li kienu ħbieb ta’ wliedha. Sa ftit tal-minuti qabel Maryrose kienet qiegħda ħdejha tiggosta lil Godfrey iżda mbagħad waqt dan l-attakk, hija nqatlet flimkien ma’ oħtha bl-isplużjoni tal-bomba, proprju fil-bieb tad-dar tagħhom.

    Voluntiera mas-St John Ambulance

    Probabbilment dawn il-memorji ta’ niket kellhom sehem mill-fatt li wara l-gwerra, Frances bdiet tattendi l-korsijiet tas-St John Ambulance fejn eventwalment hi għamlet 50 sena tgħin bħala voluntiera. Kienet ħabibitha Carmen Ellul li ħajjritha tipparteċipa l-ewwel darba u għalkemm inizzjalment hi żammet naqra lura anki peress li kellha familja ta’ erbat itfal x’tieħu ħsieb, meta żewġha Carmelo ħeġġiġha biex tmur, Frances għamlet il-kuraġġ u bdiet tattendi l-lezzjonijiet tal-First Aid. Għalkemm Carmelo kellu l-impenji tiegħu, huwa sab mezz kif joqgħod mat-tfal sakemm hi lestiet il-kors u għaddiet mill-eżami. U meta ftit wara, hi ġiet mistiedna biex tmur għal taħriġ ieħor fil-Home Nursing li kien ser isir il-Belt u minnufih wara anki għal kors fiċ-Child Welfare, kien mill-ġdid bil-kooperazzjoni tiegħu li hi setgħet tiffinalizza dawn l-istudji.

    Sadanittant, il-Commander tas-St John Ambulance, il-Kulunell Abela, beda jħeġġeġ lil dawk li kienu tħarrġu magħhom sabiex jingħaqdu mat-tim. U akkost li f’dak iż-żmien, in-nisa miżżewġa li jmorru jaħdmu barra, in-nies ma kinetx tħares wisq sewwa lejhom, speċjalment fir-raħal, żewġha xorta rrakkomandalha biex tissieħeb magħhom. Għalkemm Frances kien mingħaliha li se tidħol bħala volontarja mad-Diviżjoni tal-Belt, meta ra l-impenn tagħha, il-Kulunell Abela talabha biex tiftaħ u tieħu ħsieb id-Diviżjoni taż-Żejtun peress li hemmhekk kien għad ma kienx hemm waħda, u hi aċċettat. Il-membri u l-istudenti bdew jiltaqgħu fl-Iskola Primarja taż-Żejtun minħabba li fi żmien il-gwerra din kienet bdiet tintuża bħala sptar tal-armata Ingliża.

    Għall-ewwel l-affarijiet bdew mexjin ħarir anki għax fiż-Żejtun ma tantx kien hemm għaqdiet minn fejn tagħżel. Iżda wara ftit bdew l-intoppi, partikolarment minn xi membri tal-Azzjoni Kattolika, li bdew iwissu lit-tfajliet li mas-St John Ambulance kienu qegħdin jitgħallmu l-pastażati. U dan għaliex biex jitħarrġu fis-salvataġġ tal-persuni, huma kellhom jitgħallmu fuq il-funzjonijiet tal-organi u tal-partijiet differenti tal-ġisem! Aktar tard infetħet ukoll l-għaqda tal-Girl Guides u peress li din kienet ibbażata fuq ambjent aktar avventuruż, xi tfajliet bdew jippreferu jingħaqdu magħhom milli joqogħdu jisimgħu u jitħarrġu dwar il-mard. Iżda d-daqqa tal-mewt għad-Diviżjoni taż-Żejtun seħħet meta tnisslet il-Brigata Laburista għax hemmhekk l-interess kien wisq kbir u b’hekk is-sezzjoni tas-St John Ambulance ta’ din il-lokalità sfaxxat. Xorta waħda Frances baqgħet tagħti sehemha minn diviżjonijiet oħra fejn hi kompliet titħarreġ u tgħallem lill-oħrajn għal diversi snin wara.

    Dama tal-Ordni ta’ San Ġwann f’Ġerusalemm

    Intant, fl-1997, fl-età ta’ 80 sena, Frances Grima rċeviet rikonoxximent sinifikanti għal din il-ħidma volontarja tagħha, meta wara li ġiet irrakkommandata mis-St John Ambulance għas-servizz u l-għajnuna tagħha tul 50 sena sħaħ, hi ngħatat il-ġieħ bħala Dama tal-Ordni ta’ San Ġwann f’Ġerusalemm mid-Duka ta’ Gloucester fl-Ingilterra.

    Kif tgħix seklu?

    Matul is-seklu sħiħ li għexet, Frances esperjenzat żewġ gwerer u bosta tibdiliet kemm fir-raħal u kif ukoll fil-pajjiż. Meta staqsejtha kif wieħed jirnexxielu jkampa ma’ dawn il-kambjamenti kollha, hi fil-pront weġbitni li dan iseħħ billi wieħed jitgħallem jimxi mal-kurrent u jieħu d-dinja kif tiġi. Bħala persuna b’moħħ miftuħ li taf issegwi anki l-ħajja moderna ta’ llum, Frances stqarret li fil-passat, is-soċjetà tagħna kienet għadha kemmxejn lura, kellha ftit li xejn edukazzjoni, u kollox kienet tqis bħala dnub. Però min-naħa l-oħra, għalkemm hi kienet kburija ferm bil-livell għoli tal-edukazzjoni li laħqu bosta individwi fiż-Żejtun f’dawn l-aħħar snin, hija kienet pjuttost xettika dwar il-laxkezza fil-moralità tas-soċjetà preżenti fejn issa donnu xejn mhu xejn.

    Naturalment hi tapprezza ħafna wkoll il-progress teknoloġiku li ġab miegħu bosta kumditajiet. Infatti Frances tiftakar żmien għal kollox differenti fosthom il-kundizzjonijiet ta’ faqar ta’ bosta Żwieten meta dari xi nies kienu għadhom jimxu ħafjin fit-triqat, sajf u xitwa. Dwar dan il-perjodu, Frances stqarret miegħi li bħalha żagħżugħa, hi kienet taħseb li dawn il-persuni kienu jimxu ħafjin għax hekk kienu mdorrijin. Imma Carmelo mhux darba u tnejn li fetħilha għajnejha li dawn l-individwi fir-realtà kienu qed jgħixu f’dak l-istat minħabba li ma kellhomx flus biżżejjed biex jixtru żarbun. Però dwar din il-kwistjoni, hu ma tantx irnexxielu jikkonvinċiha għax hi baqgħet tal-fehma li dawn in-nies kienu jippreferu jgħixu f’dak l-istil liberu. Imma l-konferma u t-tagħlima ħaditha meta darba minnhom waslu f’Malta xi żraben mill-Ġappun, maħduma mill-lakstu, li kienu jiswew tliet xelini l-wieħed u minn dakinhar ‘l hemm, ħadd ma baqa’ aktar ħafi.

    Tkellimna dwar bosta affarijiet oħra sakemm finalment wasalna biex nagħlqu. Għalkemm Frances ma jonqosha xejn fid-Dar tal-Anzjani taż-Żejtun fejn tgħix illum, ma stajtx ma nintebaħx bis-sens kbir ta’ nostalġija li hija għadha tħoss lejn ir-residenza tagħha fil-pjazza minn fejn dari setgħet tesperjenza dak kollu li jsir fil-qalba tal-lokalità tagħha. Id-diskors dar mill-ġdid fuq żewġha Carmelo li għalkemm il-mewt firditu minnha, l-imħabba, l-apprezzament u t-tagħlim li hi ħadet mingħandu matul il-ħajja miżżewġa tagħhom, għadu magħha sal-ġurnata ta’ llum. Barra minn hekk, hija tgħożż ħafna l-kuntatt regolari li għadhom iżommu magħha wliedha u wħud mill-ħbieb tagħha.

    Qabel ħallejtha, dort mill-ġdid lejn Frances Grima sabiex insellmilha u nirringrazzjaha talli laqgħatni għandha u talli qasmet miegħi dawn il-memorji tagħha. U hemm, biswit it-tieqa, fejn issa kien waqa’ d-dlam tal-lejl, nilmaħ mara li għexet seklu, li b’kuraġġ u b’integrità, qiegħda diġà tipprepara ruħha għall-ġurnata ta’ wara.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela KOBOR IL-MALTI (Parti 13) fit-Torċa tat-3 t’Awissu 2014)

    2014.08.03 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Il-ġrajja tal-arġentier

    Joseph Aquilina - 1 Lampier tal-1776 li jinsab fil-Knisja ta’ San Pawl, ir-Rabat Malta

    Joseph Aquilina - 2 Joseph Aquilina - 4

    Illum ser nerħulha għal għonq it-triq ta’ sensiela ġdida li ħa teħodna fuq vjaġġ ieħor li din id-darba se jlaqqagħna ma’ kobor il-Malti. Wieħed mill-għanijiet prinċipali ta’ din il-kitba se jkun li jitfa’ dawl fuq il-poplu tagħna li minnu sikwit joħorġu nies ta’ ħila kbira imma li kultant, ftit li xejn nisimgħu bihom. Infatti jweġġagħni dan il-poplu tagħna li għandu ħabta jogħxa bil-kapaċità tal-barrani filwaqt li joħnoq taħt l-għanqbut lil demmu stess! Min-naħa l-oħra, dawn l-artikli se jkunu qed jiftħu tieqa wkoll fuq numru ta’ personaġġi magħrufa li għexu f’perjodi oħra u li forsi llum jitqiesu bħala parti mill-passat. Minflok, nixtieq nuri li l-ispirtu ta’ dawn l-individwi għadu ħaj fostna ħafna aktar milli nistgħu nimmaġinaw…

    Xi ftit tax-xhur ilu kelli l-opportunità li niltaqa’ mal-arġentier Tarcisio Cassar fuq il-post tax-xogħol tiegħu li kien miżgħud b’għadd ta’ għodod u xogħolijiet lesti għall-bejgħ. Huwa laqgħani bi ħlewwa liema bħalha u dlonk qabad jagħtini ħjiel dwar is-sengħa antika u tradizzjonali tiegħu. Ftehemna li nerġgħu niltaqgħu darb’oħra sabiex nintervistah imma dan qatt ma seħħ għax xi ftit taż-żmien ilu, Tarcisio ħalla din id-dinja u jiena tlift iċ-ċans li niret mingħandu l-għerf li ħallewlu missirijietu.

    Għaldaqstant meta dan l-aħħar intlabt minn Wirt iż-Żejtun sabiex nintervista lill-arġentier Joseph Aquilina, ħtaft mill-ewwel l-okkażjoni. Waqt il-laqgħa li kelli ma’ Joseph intbaħt li jiena trabbejt u għext viċin il-post fejn dan l-individwu ħadem xogħolijiet kbar, imma b’danakollu ma kellix l-iċken idea tiegħu! Ma kienx hemm dubju li kien wasal iż-żmien biex nolqtu żewġ għasafar b’ġebla waħda u minnufih involvejt ruħi biex nistħarreġ l-istorja li tinsab wara din is-sengħa.

    Joseph ħadni lura lejn is-snin tletin hekk kif rama jirrakkuntali dwar iz-ziju ta’ missieru, Carmelo Caruana, li kien arġentier Bormliż. Jidher li qabel it-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija, Bormla kienet waħda mill-bejtiet tax-xogħolijiet tal-arġenterija u hemm wieħed seta’ jsib nies ta’ sengħa mill-iprem. Wieħed minn dawn kien Xandru Cassar u miegħu eventwalment laħqu wkoll uliedu, Joe u Salvinu. Peress li dawn kienu ġirien ma’ Carmelo, huwa ma damx ma beda jieħu interess f’dan il-qasam u aktar tard, meta fl-1938 ġab il-liċenzja ta’ arġentier, huwa beda jaħdem bħala lavrant magħhom. Iżda l-gwerra ċaqalqitu minn Bormla u Carmelo mar joqgħod iż-Żejtun, fi Triq Marsaxlokk, fejn fetaħ ħanut u baqa’ jaħdem fih għal ħafna snin.

    Anki missier Joseph, li kien jismu wkoll Joseph u bħal zijuh kien Bormliż, trawwem f’din is-sengħa u bħal Carmelo, huwa għamel karriera twila jaħdem ma’ Xandru Cassar. Madanakollu ġie żmien meta l-paga ta’ sebgħa liri fil-ġimgħa ma setgħetx titma’ sewwa lill-familja tiegħu li diġà kienet tikkonsisti minn tliet ulied, u b’hekk huwa ddeċieda li jiftaħ għal rasu. Peress li anki hu kien ta’ ħila kbira, ma damx wisq biex qabad fix-xogħol tiegħu bħala arġentier mill-ħanut li fetaħ fi Pjazza Santa Marija, iż-Żejtun. U minn dal-post bdiet ukoll il-ġrajja ta’ Joseph li ftit ftit ma damx ma ddakkar minn missieru u ta’ tifel li kien huwa beda jitħajjar jipprova jaħdem xi ħaġa żgħira. Infatti ta’ 12 il-sena, wara li tispiċċa l-iskola, huwa beda jinxteħet wara l-bank tax-xogħol ta’ missieru fejn kien jitħalla jsensel il-kuruni tar-rużarju li n-nies kienet tordna f’dak iż-żmien.

    Dinjet Joseph kienet diġà bdiet ixxaqleb lejn din is-sengħa tal-arġenterija imma d-destin ried li r-ritmu li jidħol fiha, ikollu pass ħafna aktar mgħaġġel. Dan seħħ meta għodwa minnhom, daħal spettur tas-servizzi soċjali fil-ħanut tagħhom, u sab lil Joseph wara l-bank. U akkost li missieru spjegalu li ibnu kien qiegħed jitħarreġ biss u mhux jaħdem miegħu, dan l-ispettur tah ħmistax ċans biex jagħmillu l-ktieb tax-xogħol. Ħabta u sabta, fl-età ta’ 14 il-sena, Joseph sab ruħu jinqala’ minn fuq il-bank tal-iskola sabiex minflok jidħol fid-dinja tal-adulti. Huwa stqarr li dak iż-żmien ma ħadhiex bi kbira li kellu jitlaq l-iskola iżda aktar tard, meta kiber fis-sengħa tiegħu u sab ruħu fi stat li jrid jikkomunika ma’ nies f’pajjiżi oħra, Joseph intebaħ li fir-realtà kien ikun aħjar li kieku tħalla jkompli l-iskola sal-aħħar.

    Missier Joseph kien bastun fuqu u sikwit kien iwissieh li din is-sengħa riedet tittieħed b’serjetà kbira għax kien hemm ħafna x’titgħallem u daqstant ieħor fejn tiżbalja. Għalhekk għall-ewwel, it-tfajjel kien joqgħod kemmxejn lura milli jipprova xi ħaġa ġdida. Imma ġara li darba minnhom, avolja kien jibża’ ferm minn missieru, huwa ppjana li jagħmel waħda minn tiegħu ħalli jara sa fejn kien kapaċi jasal. Kien żmien ir-Randan u waqt li lejla waħda, missieru rħielha lejn il-knisja biex jisma’ l-eżerċizzji, Joseph mar għand ommu u talabha tagħtih iċ-ċurkett tat-tieġ ħalli jaqsmu u jerġa’ jsewwih sakemm missieru jiġi lura. Ommu ma ħasbithiex darbtejn biex tagħtulu u hu kollu eċitament erħilha jaqsam iċ-ċurkett fi tnejn, iqabbad il-flixkun tal-gass, jipprepara s-saldatura tad-deheb u ħafif ħafif, jgħaqqdu lura mill-ġdid. Il-pjan tiegħu rnexxa qatiegħ tant li ommu baqgħet skantatha għax ma setgħetx issib tarf minn fejn binha kien qata’ ċ-ċurkett u reġa’ għaqqdu flimkien. U hekk kif żewġha ġie lura hija qaltlu bil-kapaċità ta’ binhom u dan tant impressjona ruħu li minn dakinhar ‘l hemm, it-tiswijiet li bdew jidħlu l-ħanut kienu jispiċċaw kollha direttament għand Joseph. Finalment l-iben kien rebaħ il-fiduċja assoluta ta’ missieru u minn hemm baqa’ għaddej u ġab il-liċenzja ta’ arġentier fl-1968.

    Fatt kurjuż huwa li meta wieħed isir arġentier, il-Konslu tal-gvern jagħtih boll personali sabiex bih huwa jimmarka x-xogħol tiegħu. Dan il-boll jibqa’ marbut ma’ dak l-individwu partikolari u ħadd qatt aktar ma jista’ jużah. Sabiex jispjegali aħjar, Joseph urieni ktieb rari mmens ‘The Goldsmiths of Malta and their Marks’ li ġie ppubblikat fl-1972 minn Chev Victor Fredrick Denaro, pijunier tal-istudju tal-fidda antika Maltija. F’dan il-ktieb kien hemm informazzjoni dwar is-sengħa tal-arġentiera Maltin li tmur lura sa minn żmien il-Kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann u twassal sa snin aktar riċenti. Fosthom wieħed jista’ josserva l-marki tal-boll differenti tal-Maltin li ħaddnu din is-sengħa, inkluż dawk ta’ Joseph u tal-familjari tiegħu. Intant, kien permezz ta’ dawn id-dettalji li darba minnhom huwa skopra min kien għamel il-bieba tat-tabernaklu tal-Parroċċa taż-Żejtun, hekk kif waqt li kien qed jaħdem fuq il-parti ta’ ġewwa tiegħu, Joseph intebaħ bill-boll tal-arġentier Lebrun li kien jinsab imnaqqax fuq naħa minnhom ta’ dan ix-xogħol.

    Għalkemm jiena kont naħseb li l-arġentier jaħdem biss fuq il-fidda, ir-realtà hija ferm differenti. Fil-fatt l-arġenterija għandha taqsimiet enormi fejn tespandi u fosthom tinkludi: xogħol tal-fidda, tad-deheb, u tal-filugranu, is-separazzjoni tad-deheb u l-ħidma tal-fidda, u anki l-ingastatura tad-djamanti. Illum, ħafna minn dawk li jagħmlu dan x-xogħol ta’ arġentiera, jkollhom jispeċjalizzaw f’xi taqsima partikolari. Imma dari l-istorja kienet mod ieħor, hekk kif wieħed kien ikollu jmidd idejh u jitħarreġ fuq diversi fergħat ta’ din is-sengħa. Hekk tgħallmu l-antenati ta’ Joseph u l-istess għamel hu. Madanakollu hu nsista aktar minn darba li s-sengħa tal-arġentier hija bla tarf u wieħed mhux la kemm jibda jaħdem kif ġieb u laħaq. Trid diversi snin ta’ taħriġ qabel tibda taħdem waħdek u huwa għalhekk li min ikun jixtieq jieħu dax-xogħol bis-serjetà, idealment jibda minn meta jkun għadu żgħir.

    Joseph tħarreġ fuq din is-sengħa bil-mod tradizzjonali fejn ix-xogħol isir kollu bl-idejn. U anki jekk illum jeżistu diversi magni li jħaffu aktar u jnaqqsu ferm it-tbatija minn dan ix-xogħol, huwa baqa’ dejjem juża l-metodi antiki minħabba li jemmen li hu hekk biss li jista’ jinżamm il-prestiġju u l-valur tal-ħidma tal-oġġett. Infatti huwa saħaq li x-xogħol li jsir bil-magni jitlef ħafna mis-sinifikat tal-oġġett għax dawn jisirqulu l-għerq tal-kreattività u tat-tiswira distinta tal-id tal-bniedem tas-sengħa. Sabiex nifhem aħjar dan il-kunċett, Joseph beda jurini l-għodda u l-mezzi li juża biex jaħdem u hemmhekk għaraft il-paċenzja, il-galbu u t-talent li wieħed jirrikjedi biex jazzarda jaħdem f’dan il-qasam. Intbaħt ukoll li l-kreattività ma tintużax biss fl-oġġetti li jinħadmu imma anki f’aspetti oħra, hekk kif wieħed li jagħżel li jibqa’ jaħdem bl-idejn, ikollu jara x’ser jivvinta biex isewwi jew joħloq l-għodda neċessarja. Intant bqajt skantata mhux ftit meta fost l-għodda li kellu, Joseph ġabli mazza tqila mmens u martell tal-inkavar li huwa kien sawwar minn numru ta’ boldijiet li kien ġabar fl-1969 mill-inħawi tal-Gżira, fl-inħawi ta’ Wied il-Għajn, fejn kien qed jitqatta’ l-bastiment Angel Gabriel, li kien inkalja fil-post fejn aktar tard kienet inbniet il-lukanda Jerma Palace.

    Il-Maltin minn dejjem kienu mdorrijin jirranġaw b’xi mod jew ieħor u hekk ukoll għamlu fiż-żminijiet ta’ wara l-gwerra meta fil-pajjiż kien hawn nuqqas ta’ kollox. Fil-fatt Joseph irrakkuntali illi fi żmien iz-ziju ta’ missieru Carmelo, in-nies kienet daret għall-muniti tal-flus biex tkompli tipproduċi l-oġġetti li xtaqet, anki jekk dan kien att illegali. Min jaf kemm liri tad-deheb inħallu sabiex minnhom jinħadmu xi par imsielet, ċrieket, labar u brazzuletti! Fost dawn jingħad li l-lampier il-kbir tal-fidda li jinsab imdendel quddiem l-artal maġġuri tal-Parroċċa taż-Żejtun kien inħadem minn numru kbir ta’ muniti li waħda mara tat lill-knisja bħala donazzjoni sabiex jitwettaq dan ix-xogħol. Bl-istess mod jidher li saru l-par lanterni antiki tal-fidda li llum jinsabu fil-Mużew tal-Parroċċa taż-Żejtun.

    Ħsibt li s-sorpriżi kienu spiċċaw imma konna għadna biss fil-bidu, hekk kif Joseph beda joħroġ diversi ritratti sabiex jintroduċini mal-oġġetti li huwa ħadem. Infatti huwa ħadem diversi affarijiet b’xogħol immartellat, kollu fuq stil antik, li llum jinsabu fid-djar tal-aqwa kollezzjonisti Maltin. Madanakollu, apparti l-kwantità ta’ zukkarieri, buqari tal-ħalib, kafettinieri u oġġetti oħra li ħarġu minn taħt idejn Joseph, kien musbieħ partikolari li fetaħlu l-bibien biex il-krejazzjonijiet tiegħu jsibu ruħhom anki barra minn Malta u fosthom għand persuni distinti bħar-reġina tal-Ingilterra li ngħatat wieħed minnhom mill-gvern ta’ Malta fl-1964, waqt l-okkażjoni taċ-ċelebrazzjoni tal-Indipendenza, u għand il-Pakistan International Airlines meta pajjiżna ġab l-ewwel ajruplan tal-Air Malta.

    Joseph kien involut ukoll f’numru vast ta’ xogħolijiet fil-knejjes, kemm ġodda u kif ukoll ta’ restawr. Fost dawn nista’ nsemmi: il-kuruna tal-fidda bbanjata bid-deheb tal-ikona tal-Madonna ta’ Carafa li tinsab fil-Kon-Kattidral ta’ San Ġwann, il-belt Valletta, ir-restawr tal-weraq tal-fidda li jiffurmaw parti mid-dekorazzjoni tar-relikwa ta’ San Ġwann il-Battista li llum qiegħda fil-Mużew tal-Kon-Kattidral, ir-restawr ta’ lampier tal-1776 li jinsab fil-Knisja ta’ San Pawl, ir-Rabat Malta, u xogħol fuq ix-xabla ta’ Santa Katarina fil-Parroċċa taż-Żejtun.

    Issa li Joseph Aquilina l-arġentier għandu 67 sena, huwa stqarr li mhux darba u tnejn li jħares lura lejn il-passat tiegħu u jħossu sodifatt ferm bl-esperjenzi differenti li dan ix-xogħol laqqgħu magħhom matul is-snin. Barra minn hekk huwa jħossu kburi li rnexxielu jkompli b’suċċess is-sengħa li ħallewlu missirijietu, flimkien ma’ ħuħ Emmanuel li wkoll jagħmel l-istess xogħol. Intant, għalkemm ix-xogħol tal-idejn qiegħed dejjem jinqata’, kemm minħabba l-iżvilupp teknoloġiku u anki sforz l-importazzjoni ta’ oġġetti barranin li jiswew prezzijiet anqas, Joseph jinsab kuntent li ibnu Anton wiret mingħandu l-imħabba u t-talent lejn din is-sengħa, tant li llum anki huwa għandu l-liċenzja ta’ arġentier. B’hekk huwa jittama li l-ġrajja tal-arġentiera tradizzjonali lokali fadlilha futur f’pajjiżna.

     

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela KOBOR IL-MALTI fit-Torċa tal-4 ta’ Mejju 2014)

    2014.05.04 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • The Grape South

    San Niklaw Estate vines - 3 San Niklaw Estate cellar - 1San Niklaw Estate winery A bottle of Despatch wine

    In these last years we have been witnessing a major trend towards a return to one’s roots. Possibly we are realizing that the frenetic modern life is alienating us from the real meaning of what it means to be alive and from the significant feeling of belonging. Retracing ancestral footsteps often leads to a closer connection with nature and to a yearning to liaise directly with the land in order to breathe once again the fragrance of the soil blending in with the aromatic scents of plants, trees, fruits and flowers.

    The Cauchi brothers have always looked forward to a visit to San Niklaw, their parents’ country residence and adjoining chapel dedicated to St Nicholas with its surrounding land on the outskirts of Żejtun. John, Thomas and Jeremy still remember the days when their grandmother used to bring them to San Niklaw to prepare the chapel for the pastoral visits by Archbishop Mikiel Gonzi. The boys were particularly attracted to the chapel’s bell and as soon as they were led in, they rushed to ring it at whatever time they could, even though their grandmother warned them not to as this gave a false impression to the neighbouring farming community that mass was about to begin.

    On the other hand, the children were free to roam in the fields and to enjoy the wonder of exploring different areas in the stretch of land which has belonged to their family for centuries. They rambled around in search of anything of interest in this private space full of curiosities one of which is an authentic ‘qiegħa’; a circular structure which in the old days was used by farmers as a threshing floor to separate the wheat grain from the chaff by a donkey or ox pulling a stone roller.

    Indeed, the last generation could do very little with the land since their careers had taken them on different ventures. However, once their father retired from work and could dedicate more time, the family started to discuss the possibility of enhancing the value of their estate and the surrounding environment by stimulating the dormant land to produce crops once again. Since none of them were farmers, they had to come out with a project which they could enjoy doing and which eventually they could get good at. Ultimately, their passion for good wines and food culminated in the idea of cultivating their own vines.

    They began everything from scratch, kicking off this endeavour by attending to viticulture lectures. Meanwhile, they cleared the land from the wild vegetation and they prepared it for cultivation. They restored the weakened rubble walls and measured the land in order to plan the layout of the vines. Samples of soil were analysed to distinguish which type of root stock was ideal for their land. Once this information was obtained, they visited a foreign nursery and selected some of the best vine clones which promised to do well within San Niklaw Estate’s terroir.

    This selection consisted of four types of root stock, each with their particular qualities. Vermentino vines have hardy leaves and are resilient to the south-east wind and to the salty sea-breeze which spreads to this zone from the nearby sea in Marsaxlokk. They produce a light-skinned wine grape which has a distinct luscious aroma of apples. Sangiovese vines are adaptable to many different types of vineyard soils. They produce red grapes which have the potential to turn into elegant wines with forceful flavours of strawberry and spice. Syrah vines’s produce is influenced by the climate in which they are grown and this will affect the style and flavour-profile of their wines. Indeed, these wines are renowned for their powerful and full-bodied characteristics which are derived from their dark-skinned grapes that give out strong aromas of blackberry, mint and black pepper. Mourvèdre vines are more capricious. They need very warm weather, a low leaf-to-fruit ratio and much more care, since they are susceptible to many viticulture hazards. However, their red grapes produce very interesting wines of a ruby colour and with unusual tartufo and earthly notes.

    As the first leaves sprouted on the sowed branches, it seemed that the earth within San Niklaw Estate had accepted to support this new enterprise. Yet this was confirmed some months later when the initial small yield of grapes succeeded to produce a very satisfactory wine. Year after year, the Cauchi brothers developed their experience further and today, their skill at wine-making has flourished considerably. They have opted to use the philosophy of seeking out the best growing conditions for their vines and then let the wines make themselves.

    As harvest time gets closer, a random sample of grapes is collected from the vines and the juice which is obtained will indicate the acidity and the sweetness of the vines’ produce for that year. When the grapes are finally ready for harvest, they are all picked within the same day. The white grapes’ stems are removed with a machine and then the grapes are squeezed. Only the white grape juice will go into the barrels. Contrastingly, red grapes are placed into the barrels with skin and all, after the stems have been eliminated. This is because in red grapes, it’s the skins that have all the color and flavour. Barrels made of French oak are used for San Niklaw’s Estate’s wine fermentation, and these are laid to rest within an old rocky cellar.

    Three red and one white wine have eventually been produced by the Cauchi brothers and each one of them has its own particular characteristics. However it is the wine named Despatch which has the most fascinating story behind it. Indeed, the labels displayed on its bottles portray a ship bearing this name which in the 19th century belonged to the family and was used to transport cotton that was harvested from these fields in order to be traded in Marseille and Barcellona.

    After this pleasant success, the Cauchi family has decided to extend this project into an activity of eno-tourism wherein visitors are welcomed to taste their products and to nibble at some freshly prepared traditional food. Interestingly, they have has also ventured to strengthen some other traditions, including the organization of the feast of St Nicholas which takes place on the 6th December. On this day, family members, friends, neighbours and people who get to know about this event, gather in front of a brightly lit and adorned chapel of St Nicholas and after the mass is celebrated, everyone gets an opportunity to taste San Niklaw Estate’s fine wines.

    (This article was published in the Beer, Wine and Spirits Supplement of the Times of Malta of the 25th April 2014)

    2014.04.25 / no responses / Category: Times of Malta

  • Meta toħlom akbar

    Il-Bibbja tirrakkonta l-istagħġib tar-rgħajja meta waqt lejl tas-skiet, is-sema ddawwlet b’dawl mhux tas-soltu filwaqt li anġlu ħabbrilhom li kien twieled ir-Re li Alla kien wiegħed li ser jibgħat. Wieħed jista’ jimmaġina l-emozzjoni tagħhom hekk kif dawn ġrew lejn il-post indikat u hemm sabu lil Marija u lil Ġużeppi jbennu lil binhom Ġesù li kien għadu kif bexxaq għajnejh u lemaħ lid-dinja tagħna.

    Minn dak iż-żmien ‘l hawn kienu bosta l-popli li ttantaw joħolqu mill-ġdid din l-atmosfera mbierka u unika fil-ġranet ħelwin tal-Milied. Probabbilment il-bozoz tad-dawl żgħar u kkuluriti li nżejjnu diversi postijiet bihom, għandhom il-għan li jikkreaw mill-ġdid l-atmosfera tad-dwal li deheru fis-smewwiet f’dak il-lejl imqaddes, filwaqt li l-istatwa tal-bambin Ġesù tintuża bħala rappreżentazzjoni tat-tarbija divina.

    F’dawn il-ġranet naraw ukoll il-ħeġġa ta’ bosta individwi li jagħmlu minn kollox biex iqanqlu dik is-sensazzjoni antika ta’ stagħġib u ferħ li l-Milied biss kapaċi jġib miegħu. Ħafna minna, biex inferrħu lil xulxin, insibu ruħna niċċelebraw ir-ritwali li mxew minn ġenerazzjoni għall-oħra. Imma mbagħad issib ukoll lil min jaspira aktar minn hekk, issib lil dawk li jazzardaw joħolmu akbar, lil dawk li joħorġu l-barra mit-tradizzjoni sabiex b’azzjoni mhux tas-soltu, jerġgħu jqajjmu dik ix-xrara ta’ stagħġib u ferħ li mhux la kemm wieħed jinsa.

    George VellaWieħed minn dawn huwa bla dubju l-Kavallier George Vella, Żejtuni ta’ 80 sena li llum joqgħod Birkirkara, u li dil-ġimgħa stedinni għandu sabiex jirrakkuntali dwar tliet attivitajiet partikolari li hu flimkien ma’ sħabu ħarġu bihom fi żmien il-Milied tas-snin sittin. Qabel inġbarna fl-istudju tiegħu ħalli ngħarrxu fost il-ġabra ta’ dokumenti, kotba, ġurnali u ritratti li hu pprepara għalija, George ma naqasx milli jdawwarni dawra mad-dar tiegħu sabiex jurini biċ-ċar ir-rabta tiegħu ma’ din il-festa, espressa fosthom permezz tal-kwantità ta’ presepji differenti li għandu, bil-bambin li xtara minn Betlehem lura fl-1956 u bis-siġra tal-Milied li huwa stess żejjen b’għadd ta’ ornamenti, bozoz ikkuluriti, u mużika ħelwa.

    L-ewwel tifkira ħaditna lura għall-1960 ġewwa l-bini tal-Juventutis Domus Sagra Familia fiż-Żejtun, fejn f’dak iż-żmien, George Vella kien is-segretarju tal-għaqda li kienet tmexxi l-attivitajiet tal-post. Ta’ min isemmi li oriġinarjament din il-binja li tinsab fi Triq San Girgor, kienet il-palazz ta’ l-Isqof Ferdinand Mattei li kien jużaha bħala residenza għas-sajf u anki biex minnha jkun jista’ jsegwi l-pellegrinaġġ annwali ta’ San Girgor li kien jgħaddi proprju minn din it-triq (kif għadu jiġri sa llum). Kien fl-1911 meta Dun Spiridione Grixti u Angelo Baldacchino staqsew lill-Arċipriet taż-Żejtun, Dun Lawrenz Degabriele, sabiex jingħataw il-permess ħalli jiftħu ċentru ta’ tagħlim fejn it-tfal iż-żgħar setgħu jitgħallmu d-duttrina u fl-istess ħin fejn iż-żagħżagħ setgħu jinġabru u jinżammu l-bogħod mill-perikli tal-ħajja, skont it-tagħlim ta’ San Ġwann Bosco.

    Għall-ewwel inkriet dar ċkejkna fi Triq San Girgor u d-Domus infetaħ uffiċċjalment fl-24 ta’ Frar 1912. Iżda aktar tard, fit-13 ta’ Diċembru tal-1920, ġie ffirmat il-kuntratt tal-akkwist ta’ dan il-palazz u d-Domus ġie trasferit għal dan il-post. Intant, madwar 40 sena wara, fl-eqqel tal-ġlieda politiko-reliġjuża, il-parteċipazzjoni fid-Domus min-naħa tat-tfal u ż-żagħżagħ bdiet tonqos ħafna u biex jerġgħu jiġbdu lura l-interess tagħhom, George Vella flimkien ma’ xi membri oħra, fosthom Generoso Vella u Joseph Turban, iddeċidew li minflok jagħtu r-rigali tal-Milied lit-tfal tal-membri, lill-abbatini, u lil dawk li kienu jattendu d-Domus minn ġewwa ċ-Ċentru bħas-soltu, huma kienu se jibgħatu lil Father Christmas idur madwar ir-raħal sabiex iqassam ir-rigali fid-djar tat-tfal stess, akkumpanjat mid-daqq tal-banda taż-Żejtun Boy Scouts.

    P1120394L-ewwel wieħed li messietu x-xorti li jilbes ta’ Father Christmas kien Joseph Mansueto li fl-1960 ħareġ fuq karru miġbud minn tractor armat b’żewġt iċriev kbar li kienu qed jiġbdu warajhom żlitta kbira ħamra mimlija bir-rigali u mdawwra bi qniepen elettriċi. Din l-idea mal-ewwel intlaqgħat tajjeb kemm mit-tfal u kif ukoll mill-membri tad-Domus u wkoll mill-ġenituri tat-tfal. Infatti minn dik is-sena ‘l hemm, il-membri tad-Domus u t-tfal kienu jibdew jaħdmu fuq dan il-karru minn xi xahar qabel, peress li kull sena l-forma tiegħu kienet tinbidel. Fost il-forom użati nsibu sputnik, rocket spazjali, ferrovija, żlitta miġbuda miċ-ċriev, żwiemel ħajjin eċċ.

    Maż-żmien tant ħadet din id-drawwa, li biex tkun tista’ tilqa’ t-talba biex jitqassmu r-rigali kollha fl-istess ħin kellhom joħorġu tnejn min-nies lebsin ta’ Father Christmas. Huwa interessanti li wieħed ikun jaf li meta wieħed kien jintagħżel biex jilbes ta’ Father Christmas għal waqt din l-attività, dan kien jitqies bħala unur kbir peress li l-individwu magħżul kien ikun dak li ta l-akbar kontribut lid-Domus matul dik is-sena. Ftit ftit il-kelma ġriet u d-Domus taż-Żejtun beda jirċievi talbiet anki minn inħawi oħra f’Malta sabiex il-Father Christmas bil-karru tiegħu flimkien mal-banda tal-Boy Scouts imorru jferrħu u jqassmu r-rigali anki lit-tfal t’hemmhekk. Naturalment, ma damux ma nibtu attivitajiet bħal dawn mal-inħawi kollha tal-gżejjer tagħna, tant li din id-drawwa għadha għaddejjha fostna sa llum.

    P1120380It-tieni ġrajja li rrakkuntali George Vella seħħet fit-23 ta’ Diċembru 1963 meta wara talba li saret mid-Domus, id-dipartiment tar-relazzjonijiet pubblici tal-Hafmed NATO kienu rregalaw lill-poplu Żejtuni siġra kbira tal-Milied twila madwar 30 pied li nġiebet apposta min-Norvegja u tpoġġiet fi Pjazza Diċembru 13 (qabel Pjazza Brittanika). Dakinhar saru festi kbar hekk kif madwar is-siġra mixgħula, inġabru għadd ta’ Żwieten u anki uffiċċjali għoljin tan-NATO flimkien mal-familji tagħhom. Wara li tkantaw xi għanjiet tal-Milied, intfiet il-pjazza kollha fid-dlam u f’ħin minnhom, Tony Mifsud, li għal dik is-sena kien intagħżel biex jilbes ta’ Father Christmas, għamel daħla trijonfali liema bħalha, hekk kif wasal fuq żiemel abjad biex iqassam ir-rigali lit-tfal minn taħt din is-siġra kbira. Ċertament dan ukoll kien avveniment kbir għaż-Żejtun u dwaru kienu tkellmu l-gazzetti kollha ta’ Malta u kif ukoll il-mezzi tax-xandir.

    Iżda l-kbir kien għadu ġej għax it-tielet ġrajja li kellu lest għalija George kienet waħda tassew fantastika u stagħġibt mhux ftit kif jiena, bħala Żejtunija, qatt ma kont smajt biha qabel. Kollox beda waqt logħba table tennis, hekk kif Ltn. Commander Cliff Perry, R.N., b’ammirazzjoni lejn ix-xogħol li kienu qed jagħmlu dawn il-membri tad-Domus biex joħorġu b’ideat ġodda, huwa offra ruħu biex jagħti sorpriża kbira lit-tfal taż-Żejtun. Din kienet tikkonsisti fl-opportunità li għal dik is-sena, il-Father Christmas tad-Domus seta’ jitwassal minnu permezz ta’ ħelikopter tar-Royal Navy. Naturalment, okkażżjoni unika bħal dik ma kienux ser jitilfuha u George flimkien ma’ sħabu, intefgħu jippjanaw din l-attività l-ġdida.

    P1120383Ħafna mill-anzjani Żwieten jiftakru lil dan il-ħelikopter itir fuq iż-Żejtun fil-ġranet ta’ qabel il-Milied tal-1964, fosthom Carmelo P Baldacchino, li għaddieli xi ritratti li ħa ħu Ġeorge stess, Johnny Vella, dakinhar li seħħet din l-avventura. B’għaġeb kbir tat-tfal tal-iskola l-ġdida primarja taż-Żejtun (magħrufa bħala Carlo Diacono) f’ħin minnhom jidher ħelikopter b’maskra kbira ta’ Father Christmas fuq il-buq tiegħu u mżejjen b’dawl ikkulurit, u wara li ttajjar ftit fuq l-iskola, huwa deher nieżel fil-bitħa mdaqqsa tagħha u minnu ħareġ il-Father Christmas biex iqassmilhom ir-rigali li kellu jistennewh fi żlitta fil-qrib.

    George jiftakar ċar li t-tfal tbellħu meta raw dan kollu jiġri quddiemhom u tgħidx xi fratterija qamet, kulħadd jiġri ‘l hemm u ‘l hawn biex jara x’qed jiġri u biex jaċċerta ruħu li kien ser jaqla’ rigal. Wara dan kollu, il-Father Christmas ta’ dik is-sena, Anthony Sinagra, rikeb ġewwa ż-żlitta tiegħu u erħielha jqassam ir-rigali madwar iż-Żejtun kollu. Sadanittant il-ħelikopter reġa’ ntrefa’ fis-smewwiet u minnu nxteħtu għadd ta’ bżieżaq fuq l-inħawi tal-iskola. Ftit wara, il-ħelikopter deher jieqaf mill-ġdid fl-ajru fuq l-istitut tas-Sorijiet ta’ Ġesù Nazzarenu fiż-Żejtun u hemm niżlet xita ta’ ħelu għat-tfal li kienu residenti f’dan il-post.

    George kien emozzjonat ħafna b’dawn il-memorji iżda meta rani daqstant interessata, ma damx ma beda jirrakkuntali dwar għadd ta’ ġrajjiet oħra hekk kif minn armarji, kxaxen u kaxxi, huwa beda joħroġ diversi tifkiriet ħalli jispjegali aħjar dwar dak li kien qiegħed ifehemni. Fosthom skoprejt li matul ħajtu huwa żar diversi postijiet madwar id-dinja minħabba x-xogħol tiegħu fejn anki hemm ma naqasx l-element tal-avventura. Kien ukoll kittieb u riċerkatur fejn fosthom huwa kien ġabar u ppubblika t-tagħrif tal-Pronostiku Malti għal 25 sena sħaħ.

    Ċertament laqgħat ma’ individwi bħal dawn juru biċ-ċar kemm niesna huma riżors importanti ta’ esperjenzi u informazzjoni li jistgħu jitfgħu dawl fuq is-soċjetà, il-kultura u l-istorja tagħna. Nistgħu ngħidu li bosta mid-djar tagħna jistgħu jiġu kkunsidrati bħala arkivji fihom infushom mibnija personalment b’dedikazzjoni kbira minn nies differenti, skont l-oqsma varji ta’ l-interessi tagħhom. Personalment nemmen li flimkien mal-istorja ġenerali, dawn il-ġabriet tat-tifkiriet imxerrda fost diversi familji, kapaċi jippreżentaw sfumaturi sinifikanti sabiex wieħed ikun jista’ jara stampa akbar ta’ ġrajjiet pajjiżna.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela ĠABRIET IT-TIFKIRIET (it-8 Parti) tat-Torċa datata 22 ta’ Diċembru 2013)

    2013.12.22 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

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