Words by Pat Eggleton
It’s hard for me to remember how ill I was when I met Rosa: I had been ignoring a problem for some time, putting it down to ageing, and, just out of hospital and supplied with good medication, I was pale, thin, unsteady on my feet and tearful. So pale, thin and unsteady, in fact, that Rosa went home and told her family that this lady didn’t have a lot of time left on this earth.
Rosa came to me upon the recommendation of friends because I needed help around the house. She arrived with her sister-in-law that first time and, before the two ladies could start work, an inspection of my cleaning equipment had to be carried out. First these two generals of the household cavalry explained the necessity of going into battle armed with not one but two mops and a drainer-bucket. Then they cast experienced eyes over my array of cleaning products – floor cleaner, wood cleaner, glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, bleach and hob cleaner – and made a list of about half a dozen more essential items that I didn’t even know you could get.
Finally my collection of cloths – all bought on impulse at the supermarket on days of good intentions – was examined and this, at least, passed muster. A friend who was also here gamely dashed over to the supermarket to buy all the necessities and half an hour later, the two intrepid ladies set to. And my goodness, how they worked! I could only look on in amazement as they attacked floors, balconies, shutters, windows and doors, cleaning nooks and crannies that I hadn’t realized existed.. The floors were mopped over six times and I feared the tiles would crumble from the shock.
After seven hours Rosa and her relative decided they had finished, but only for the day. I couldn’t see any object that had escaped a good scrubbing but Rosa insisted on coming back the next day to check everything. This she did and she came on many days after that, too, and we began to talk. Rosa is from Albania and, as she told me about her life, I realized how strong she had had to be. During that winter we became friends.
But she didn’t only clean and tell me about her life. She would suggest going out to look in certain shops or for a stroll to a nearby bar. Thus it was that I walked for longer periods every day and eventually discarded my walking stick. After three months we travelled to the Carnival at Acireale and I knew I was better because I walked around the town with Rosa and her husband for the entire day.
“Patti is your miracle, Rosa”, said my doctor, for whom Rosa also cleans.
By Christmas 2008 Rosa and I had become so close that I spent Christmas Day with her and her family. On that day I learned more of their story which, with their permission, I’d like to share with you now.
Twelve years ago, Rosa's husband came to Sicily, perfectly legally, to work. He learnt Italian quickly and, once he was settled, wanted to send for Rosa and his three children. However, he could not quite fulfill the financial requirements for bringing the whole family into Italy, so found himself having to make an agonizing decision, for one of the children would have to wait. Finally he decided to send for Rosa and his eldest child, a girl at a vulnerable age, plus the youngest child, a boy. The middle child, a girl, was left with a relative but when this relative became ill, she was taken in by a family she didn't know well. Rosa and her husband of course grieved for their second daughter and after a few months Rosa became so depressed that she ended up in hospital.
Eventually officials in the town hall heard of the family’s plight and, realizing that this was a hard-working family who wanted only a chance to give their children a better life, made up the financial shortfall. Then, after a separation of nine months the middle child travelled to Modica to join her parents. The family showed me a video of the welcome ceremony held for her by her school here and in it Rosa, her husband and all their relatives are crying for joy at being reunited.
Miracles happen in south-east Sicily and here, too, a small town has proved that sometimes authority has a heart.