As hard as I try and rack my brain, I can’t remember the actual day that I started this journey. I do however; remember discussing this with my Italian friend, Lynne Russell who didn’t qualify. A “50 percenter” like me, she said, “do it for the both of us. No jealousy. She was happy that one of us could and would have EU status. Italian citizenship is based on “jure sanguinis” (by descent). I was eligible because my grandfather was still an Italian Citizen at the time of my Mother’s birth, which makes her and “some” of her descendents, Italian Citizens.
My fondest memories are of my Grandparents, Carmelo and Antonia Fasulo Battaglia, who came to visit us from Florida each year. Each time they came, they took me along with them to visit other family members from Italy. What a wonderful feast of food. Just like the movie Babettes Feast or Big Night. Half the time I didn’t know what I was eating. The entire table was filled with plates of food that I had never seen before. One time, I thought I was biting into some meat. It was breaded and brown. It could have been veal cube steak. Later, I found out it was eggplant. I was too young to like it. I did love the homemade ravioli though. Dessert was Italian cookies, fruit and coffee. I was allowed to have wine but not the coffee!
My great Aunt Philomena took me aside to show me her ravioli tools which she was so proud of. This must have been my epiphany, where I found my love of cooking. These scenes play in my mind as if they were just months ago and these memories are my most favorite childhood memories. My great aunt served regional food that I savor to this day. I would sit and listen to them talk Italian all night and not know a word except, “mangia”. That word is universal, “to eat”. They were Italian immigrants from Sicily and came through Ellis Island. My grandfather came over on the SS Campania in 1909 from Montemaggiore.
In doing my research about my Grandfather, I decided to go online in the Erie County (NY) Vital Records office, a tip that my friend Kathy Brown gave me. She had said there were so many Carmelo Battaglia’s and didn’t know which one was my relative. I saw the date which appeared to be two months before my Mother was born. I was crushed, painfully crushed as that is the most important document that would disqualify me. I, being tenacious like a barnacle was resolved not to give up. Even to the point of writing a letter that my mother’s conception in the womb before his naturalization date, qualified me!
Several months later we took my Mom to the Erie County Records room. They gave her several documents and she recognized her Dad’s signature on file. There were seven Carmelo Battaglia’s. At the bottom of the paper was Giuseppina, (Mom’s real Italian name), her sister, Maria, brother Giuseppe. The date that appears online was only the date he made “application” for Citizenship, not the actual official Naturalization date as it appeared. I burst out in a scream! No tears just real joy, and gratification.
This was the 1st document that proves my grandfather was still an Italian Citizen when my Mother was born in the U.S. He was still under the allegiance to King Victorio Emmanuel of Italy. Had he become a U.S. citizen before my Mom’s birth, I would not have qualified at all.
Although I had collected a marriage certificate years earlier and some other minor papers, they would be useless without this one. And, what makes this an original is that a cover letter is stapled to the photo copy and that would act as an “original” and that the papers could not be separated. One big hurdle down, several small steps left. Once that document with the cover letter arrived in the mail, I now made my official appointment with the Italian Consulate in Miami. My husband made a “mind map” of all the documents we needed. It was quite a free form diagram on a huge sheet of cardboard from Home Depot. My visual aid for organizing this undertaking. This gave me the gusto for full speed ahead. My appointment was 14 August 2010. I had one year to get the rest of my documents with Apostille seals.
Without going into detail on each document, I will say that most of the documents were fairly easy. The only document that proved difficult to get is my grandparents’ Marriage certificate was obtainable only through a court order. More of a paperwork issue but with relative ease and some time, we got it much easier than one can imagine.
I needed 10 documents from New York State, 2 from Florida, 2 from Georgia. Several had to be obtained from NYC and that was a good excuse to fly to New York City for the day and have some fun, celebrating with some wine with each new certificate. Linking all the documents was like a treasure hunt. Each one had new information, new names, dates and each person was connected.
14 AUG 2010:
We flew to Miami and stayed in our favorite Art Deco district of Miami Beach. Cuban food was on our mind as we searched for just the right place. A walk on the beach was restorative. Before going to bed, I looked over my papers for the 100th time.
This was worse than a job interview or a mortgage closing. Everything had to be in my file or I might have to wait another year for another appointment. Morning came quickly and I had forgotten to bring my makeup. Well something had to be left behind. No trip of mine is complete without forgetting some essential tool! There was a Walgreens down the street from our hotel and they have everything.
We got into the car and sped down the street. I ran into the store and got some eyeliner. I was a mess. Hot outside and blowing A/C on in the car. I knew this date for a year, why couldn’t I be on time? On time, means coming early. It was now 10.00am and I had just opened the door of the Consulate’s Office. I was there, despite my ringing wet clothes from the August heat, and high tension.
Trying to collect my thoughts I began wondering if I was going to be interviewed by a man or woman, young or old, and was he or she from Italy. Silly stuff. Just something I always do to get my mind off of the present. Finally, they called my name. Of course my husband wanted “in” on the activity so he followed me into the Consulate office, there was no stopping him. Maybe he thought he was acting as my legal aid. I was received by Virginia Valore, Head of Citizenship. She was unaffected that my husband was joining me and acknowledged that he was more than welcome. I was immediately at ease and knew that this was a kind woman. Guessing at this moment that this was not the only appointment where applicants came with spouses, they probably brought their entire family for this historic day. I was not so fortunate to have my Mother with me. I begged and pleaded and could not get her to come. Josephina said, “Why?” I’m 100% Italian. I don’t have to prove anything. This is the resistance I met with and wild horses couldn’t get her to budge.
Ms Valore looked over all the documents and said, “You qualify”. My racing heart wanted to break out with a YES, with a clenched fist, but I restrained myself. She looked at the Naturalization date and said, “Your Mother was born just two months before your Grandfathers naturalization. Close call indeed“. Now came the snafu. My Marriage certificate and my birth certificate were supposed to be translated into Italian.
My head dropped and I looked at my husband and knew where the mistake happened. We had called a well-known expert in this field and he said it was not required in the Miami office. So much for the experts and the fact we didn’t see it online. Each Italian consulate office has a website. Never did I think we would be turned down and have to make another appointment. There are some horror stories believe me with the slightest of issues. Some minutes went by and we didn’t know how this was going to end. She graciously said that I would have to have them translated into Italian and send them to her office as soon as possible.
I was a bit discouraged and now another delay. We did not have to make another appointment, we were spared. As soon as the Miami office received the two documents written in Italian they would send the entire paperwork to Italy for approval and then the information would be recorded. Mrs. Valore told me that she came from Italy where my Grandfather came from and this was surreal. She also told us that earlier in the week she had to turn someone down as they did not qualify and they all cried. She escorted us out of the office and we thanked her. I had a huge sigh of relief and we celebrated again.
After flying home and getting the papers translated (two weeks) we Fed-Exed them to Miami. They might have gotten there by September 1st. Within 6 months I had conformation from Italy, (March) I now had my official Italian Citizenship.
CERTIFICATO DI CITTADINANZA
I am only half Italian but on this day I was beginning to feel 100% Italian. The next week I flew to Miami and obtained my passport. The culmination of a wonderful journey and I have EU access to 21 countries. I feel a stronger bond with my Italian relatives more than ever now.
Grazie mille, Grandpa!