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The White Cliffs of Dover

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Ena grew up in Milan, Italy in the 1950s. She always dreamed of travelling to the UK. Little did she know how long she would stay here!
 
Working in an office, I really wanted to go to England to study the language. The newspaper Corriere della Sera advertised for a Mother's Help. I was hesitant at first (being very shy), but I applied and was offered the job. I was going to England! I left my family in Milan and every moment was to become part of my adventure. I sailed to England in 1957, taking the train to London, where I was to live in East Finchley. My employer, Mrs Fox, translated books from French and German to English, and vice versa. If I struggled with my English, we would communicate in French.

Feeling very lonely, I missed my family and sometimes cried at night. I worked in the house, studied at evening classes, mastering English grammar and vocabulary. When I said to Mrs Fox's mother-in-law, "Everyone speaks so fast", she replied, "No - it is because you don't understand the language".
 
I visited the British Museum and saw the Rosetta Stone. The National Gallery too - there are many Italian paintings. I enjoyed classical music concerts, and I saw John Gielgud in 'Hamlet'. And a play starring Vivien Leigh. Such an exciting time! Through classes I made friends, one young man offering me some Indian food, which I quite enjoyed. Now I only eat Italian and English. The roast joints eaten here are superb - and I love English trifle.
 
In intended to study English for one year, take exams and get good certificates. I also studied literature, watching films too if they were part of the curriculum. I was busy with my job and evening classes, and I struggled with exhaustion. My doctor, also Italian, said I must rest. So, I went home to my family. My Mother cried at my weight loss, but my Father was too diplomatic to say anything.
 
On my return to England, I applied to the Home Office for an extended stay, which was granted. Again, working too hard. I became ill and was admitted to hospital. My doctor suggested I stay at a Convent in Wales run by The Missionary Sisters of Verona. I took walks, read and rested until well enough to return to London and my studies. My employer had kept my job open for me, but I really needed to just study. However, college fees were expensive. I took Commercial Business and Correspondence exams, also a Cambridge Proficiency, passing them all with good marks.
 
I met a young man who I became very fond of - unfortunately we lost touch. Then one day, I received a letter from him saying he wanted to marry me! It was all so sudden. I was unsure, but he came to London and I soon realised I did want to marry him. My husband-to-be came from Yorkshire and had a good job ... so, I would not be returning to live in Italy.
 
During Lent, we couldn't marry in church. So we married in a Registry Office in 1965 and planned our church ceremony, which my family attended. My Father loved England, saying it was "the most civilised country in the world". We started our married life in Shadwell and became parents to our daughter.
 
Sad times came along when my mother died suddenly, and I lost my husband following a long illness. We were married for just eleven years. Our daughter was at school, and I was glad I had a job to go back to. I decided to learn German, and ended up teaching Italian part-time at the Leeds Polytechnic and at colleges around Yorkshire. I was so pleased to pass my driving test! Planning to retire and return to Italy, I actually stayed here and became a companion. Taking walks, crosswords, reading or chatting was enjoyable for us both. Whilst visiting my daughter in Manchester, I broke my foot and (being on crutches) I felt helpless on returning home. MAECare rescued me, helping and shopping for me, they were wonderful! I joined their activities and look forward to when we can return.
 
Little did I know when I first saw the White Cliffs of Dover that I was going to spend a lifetime in England!
 
Ena was talking to Maureen Kershaw. Ena is part of Moor Allerton Elderly Care, which offers support and services to older people in the Leeds 17 area. Contact them at 0113 2660371 or info@maecare.org.uk

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