Saturday, 12 November 2016

Swedish Anna lost her home in the earthquake in Italy but will stay to help rebuild

My Swedish friend Anna has been hit by the recent earthquakes in central Italy.  She and her family have lost their home and there is almost nothing left of the village where they lived. It will take time to build everything up again and in the meantime thousands of people are homeless, including Anna and her family. They now live with relatives, but are of course very concerned about the future.

Anna Pilotti is a strong and brave woman. She and her family were hit by the earthquake on August 24 when she managed to save their children and run out at the last second. Swedish media wrote about her. Since then she has been involved in further quakes and now the family has no home left. When I called her after the quake on October 30th, they had not slept for three nights.

The situation is desperate. 40,000 people without homes in central Italy. Many have no jobs left, and there are still people alive in the affected villages because they can not move. Anna tells me about a family that has animals there and can not just leave them.

Anna - how are you and your family?
We feel pretty good .... As you understand, certain moments are dark and sad, and everyone in the family has a different way to cope with those moments so it is not always easy. From extreme situations like this we learn to talk, to always tell the truth, to be patient and listen - and also to understand one another perhaps more quickly than before. There is no time and space for trivia - you understand what I mean? This is positive, we are living more in the moment and we also live moments with much laughter and we can see the value of love and awareness that what makes you strong and make life easier.

Nearly 300 people died in the earthquake in August, yet you have chosen to live near your home. What has it been like to live with this fear?
I have been thinking of what you call fear. And I can say that in the moment when you need to escape, to save the family - you don't feel fear! You are so 100% in the moment that nothing else exists than just that you have to act. A radical presence where all thoughts disappear and you know what to do. Fear is something that can come to you when you hear and see things that remind you of fear, when you see the devastation on TV and other things that remind you of what has just been. Most people talk about fear. I know there is another side to fear, I have tools that allows me to easily get out of the "hypnosis". I have respect for nature, I know that I have to share this place with the forces of nature, and I know I have to make choices like nature. Can I accept it will not work to stay here. I am not afraid but I do have respect.

How do you see the future?
Obviously it is very hart sometimes. It is tough to have to leave your home with all the things inside that you don't know if you will ever get back again. I had moved all my things from Sweden there too so all everything is left in there; photos, memories, clothing, household goods. jewelry .... everything.  Maybe I can get photos from friends and family but some old ones it is not possible to have because they are too old. I'm happy if I can have some pictures of my children and family - for the rest, we will manage. 

Furniture is sad but it is weird to say that clothes feel more important. For my husband, it is different. The house had belonged to his family for over 100 years... But now that he has seen that the "soul" of the house no longer exists, that it is unsafe and and can't be rebuilt to what it was before and he got miraculously released! And you should know that he is a person who really loved his house his house, and ... well, it was his castle.  So he made a journey within himself that I would not have thought he would make. Now he is ready for something new and that is positive. We have much more to share now than before. We have a project together that we believe in, even if it will take time to reach our goals.

Picture of Anna and the children's room after the first earthquake in August.
How is it to live on a camping / tent village?
Well, after two months of camping for people like us, who absolutely had never thought to stay at a camping, I can say that I still would not choose it as a conscious choice for a holiday. Yet, I am extremely grateful for the support and generosity of these people have demonstrated to all of us. We have been sleeping wonderfully well!  4 people in 15 square meters! Maybe because we were close, perhaps because we knew it was made of wood. You feel the quakes more inside wood but you know it will not collapse.

In such a place you hear everything from everyone ; everything from lovemaking, people going to the toilet, children playing and people's conversations - as if you all were together in the same room! We have laughed a lot - you can not do anything after a while - it's like Faulty Towers x 10 :)

How can we help you? You, your family and the other victims of these earthquakes?
Oh, Annika, I do not really know right now. I think there are projects to help the villages. We want to ensure that the village will be built in wood so that they won't fall, because rebuilding in stone, mortar and cement would be a disaster! So this is a job where we need to work a lot to change Italy and the decision makers. This is big!

I have been in contact a bit with IKEA on how they might help with the schools, benches, reconstruction, we'll see. For me and my family the first priority is to find accomodation in the short term and things that our children need first of all. We have 2 girls of 11 and 13, so everything from games to clothes are of course welcome. We as adults are ok.

Good luck, Anna! And please let me know if the readers and myself can do anything in the future!

Anna and me in Rome in October 2015