Memories of Latina and Capua
The only source of cash of a refugee in an Italian refugee camps was to do
some work, either in the camp, or outside (everybody only got about $10
upon arrival, but after that there were no regular welfare payments, which was
however compensated by a large unofficial freedom to travel around and to
seek arbitrary employment). Soon after our arrival, I found a job in the camp office.
I had to interview all newcomers and write up an English report on each of
them containing their personal data and how they managed to get there.
Most newcomers at that time were Polish and Albanians.
I can understand Polish quite well, but none Albanian. Most Albanians didn't
speak any foreign language at all. Fortunately, there was an Albanian guy available
there who spoke quite well Italian. He acted as my interpreter and I had to
transform somehow into English the information he provided in Italian (under
more normal circumstances, I claim that I know only Czech and English, and
some Russian and German).
Latina is on the coast of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea - the beaches and
swimming were excellent there. Not far from the other side of the city
were mountains which were the destination of many of our hikes. If one
was happy to eat a lot of pasta all the time (and wise enough to throw all
the half rotten chickens that were sometimes served with the pasta to dozens
of homeless dogs that roamed the camp), and didn't mind to live in somewhat
dilapidated buildings with only a cold water most of time, it was
sort of a paradise.
Later on, I asked that my family be moved to the Capua camp closer to Naples
so that I could do some science at the
University of Naples. In Capua the
Mediterranean coast was farther away (the weather was getting colder anyway),
but we were surrounded by medieval and antique monuments on all sides for
a change. What I especially remember was the wonderful pre-Christmas
atmosphere in the old narrow streets of Naples, something that is
difficult to describe, it must be experienced. Goods from the small
stores spilled into the streets, the air was chilly, there
was sort of bluish semidarkness in the narrow streets since
early afternoon with a lot of electric lights later in the evening,
noises were somehow damped. I had little money to spend,
but I liked to walk through this fairy-tale-like world for hours.
Then I remember the farmers' stands with piles of watermelons and
various pumpkins that lined the streets of many villages and smaller towns
almost till Christmas.
And there was also some poverty among the antique monuments of Capua Vecchia
Santa Lucia. People whom I asked about the whereabouts of some almost
forgotten Roman underground temples in places where normal tourists hadn't
apparently ventured for decades were visibly ashamed of their poverty (almost
as if it was not in their power to overcome that poverty however hard they
(There is still a lot of memories and thoughts about the absurdities
of our world that I would like to add here or somewhere else on my site
when I have time again. ... This promise was made in the fall of
1996 ... it may still take some more time to fulfill it ...)