ROME – A group of Chinese-born Italians from different walks of life spread across the country have signed papers describing their lives as Italians during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 232-page book they all co-authored – published in Mandarin and Italian – is entitled Noi Restiamo Qui: Come La Comunita Cinese Ha Vissuto L’Epidemia (We Will Stay Here: How the Chinese Community Is Living Through the Epidemic).
“China and Italy are linked in many ways and the coronavirus is one of them,” said Hu Lanbo, a resident of Rome since 1989, who launched and edited the project and wrote two chapters of his own. He referred to China and Italy as the first two countries to face a major outbreak of the coronavirus.
Hu said the idea came to him in the early days of the Italian outbreak.
“An Italian woman called the office where I worked to ask if we could help her find a mask for her son, who has leukemia,” said Hu. “The little one was in the hospital and he had to wear a mask, but at that time masks were hard to find in Italy, especially in the size of a child.”
Hu mentioned the problem on WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, and got lots of helpful advice. Finally, he said, two Chinese women in Rome gave him 50 masks from which they kept for their own children. But awareness also rose and soon a group of mothers raised 80,000 yuan ($ 12,000), enough to buy 20,000 masks that were donated to Rome’s main children’s hospital.
“When I talk to other Chinese people in Italy, I realize that almost every individual, family, or organization plays a certain role in providing a mask or helping in some other way, and the idea for the book came from that,” Hu said.
“Here in Italy we have a reputation as a closed community, but if that’s true, why is the reaction of the Chinese community so generous?” she asked. “We are in a unique situation: we have a Chinese-given cultural education, a collective spirit, but we are also part of Italy and we feel a responsibility related to that.”
Hu said he invited members of the Chinese community who live permanently in Italy – the group includes some in the tourism industry, actors, translators, designers, writers, musicians, educators and mediators, from Palermo in southern Italy to Turin in the north – to tell the story the story of how the pandemic changed their lives. He said 20 people submitted stories that appeared in the book, including one poem. Most of it was written in Chinese and translated into Italian.
“The common thread is that we all recognize that we are facing the same challenges facing the Italians and we must work together to face them,” said Hu. “Cultural differences have not stopped our desire to understand each other.”
Hu said the book will act as a portrait in due time.
“It is now eight months since the start of the pandemic in Italy and three months since we received the last donation for the book,” he said. “We’ve captured a piece of history by telling the stories of our lives during an unusual period, and that gives this book meaning.”
In the first chapter of the book, Hu summarizes the volume production goals he was working on.
“We live here in this country called Italy,” he wrote. “It’s not that we’re not afraid, but we don’t have the heart to leave … We love Italy as if it were our homeland and leaving it would break our hearts.”
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