Christiana, Denmark, 1980
Christiana is a commune in Copenhagen, Europe – much like a gated community, of sorts. It’s a gathering of people living together that share common interests like income, work, properties and possessions. Christiana’s current population is 850. In the year 1980, it was 852.
Mum left her family and friends behind in Tasmania to move to Europe with my Uncle. At 19 years of age, that is a courageous move to make. People that know Giovanna would know that for her, that’s nothing. There’s worse things than moving to Denmark as a teenager with no parents and no rules. Mum and her brother hitch-hiked through Europe (and if you know my Uncle, there are worse things than that. He’s a hoot). They explored Germany, the Greek Islands and the rest of Europe before finishing up at Christiana. This was their home for the next three years. I have respect for any person that has the bravery to hitch-hike in 2016. It is considered risky these days and we are indoctrinated with the idea, from a young age, that we have to be more careful than ever before.
Berlin, Germany, August 1989
The Berlin Wall was built by the German Democratic Republic in 1961, separating one side of Berlin from the other as a result of the aftermath of World War II.
Mum was asked a question regarding her most amazing life experience. Her eyes flicked to the ceiling as she contemplated this question. “Well, I was there when the Berlin Wall came down,” she said.
“What?” My mouth flopped open and my eyes grew wide with amazement.
“Yes. I was there and they made me pay $20 to get through to the other side.”
Berlin, 1989 – the whole population were crowded against this wall that had separated the people of their own country for 28 years. While reminiscing, Mum said that people were surrounding the wall with hammers and anything they could find that would break that wall down. When the gates were opened by officials, the people of Berlin were overwhelmingly excited and friendly. People were inviting Mum and my Uncle into their houses for coffee and people were hugging each other. Plenty of tears fell. And even though they had to pay $20 to get through, it was the best experience of her life.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 1989
Giovanna Christofi – a 20-year-old female travelling on an international flight from Denmark to Yugoslavia. Her only company was an acquaintance known as the Kazbah pizza man from home. Mid-flight, passengers were beginning to ask questions about the path of their flight. Where they were landing was certainly not Yugoslavia.
Passengers were ushered off their flight into an airport that was far from their desired destination. The Arabian men were armed with serious weaponry, and they were urging everybody to immediately disembark. They carefully removed all luggage from the flight before re-fueling, ensuring no passengers remained on board, and departed for their desired destination.
Once the armed men had flown away, passengers were informed that the men, who were passengers on the flight, had slyly hijacked the plane, alarming nobody except the captain and crew. The captain was forced to land his plane safely in Dubai and unload all passengers and baggage, so they could steal the plane for their own use. When I asked Mum if she was scared, she said, “no, not really. We had no idea that something was wrong until we were off the plane.
“Mum, do you realise that if this happened today then it would make national and probably worldwide news?”.
“It wasn’t really a big deal back then,” she said.
Hobart, Tasmania, February 2014
I sat in the waiting ream having already flicked the pages of every Woman’s Weekly magazine from 2010 to 2014. The nurse came and sat next to me. I had already been sitting there for 6 hours. She was asking the clichéd questions that you ask a 15-year-old. What school do you go to? What’s your favourite subject? Do you play sport? What do you want to do when you grow up? She was lovely, but I just kept thinking, where have you put Mum?
When Mum finally came out to me, the friendly nurse directed us both into a tiny room. We sat down and they both stared at me. I was wondering what I was in trouble for, because all I’d done all day was read magazines and stare out the window. Then the nurse, who clasped her hands in her lap spoke. Her words were clipped and tight.
“Ellie, your mum has breast cancer.”
And then it was just white noise. I heard important words like; treatable, stage one, surgery and she will be okay, yet my mind was flicking through all the dreadful things I knew about cancer. After six hours of being alone, it was a kick in the guts.
After some serious surgeries and almost two months in recovery, life began to regain some normalcy. Mum fought daily, determinedly and today I am thankful to say she’s still just as sassy as ever.
As I write this, I think about what amazing lives our parents, grandparents and loved ones have had. It is worthwhile asking your grandparents what their school was like, and they might tell you that they got smacked with the cane numerous times a day. Ask your mum or dad about people they’ve met or the places they’ve been. Something extraordinary might inspire you. My mum has certainly inspired me.
For all you know, your parents could have eaten a chocolate cake in Amsterdam that had an extra funny ingredient in it. And I shall say no more.
Dedicated to the luminous light in my life, my Mumma xx