|A Poet's Journey|
|Written by Donna Pucciani|
|Thursday, 01 September 2011 00:00|
As a teacher and resident of the Chicago area for nearly four decades, I had no idea that a visit to my old college roommate in New Jersey and our trip together to Ellis Island would lead me, years later, to the tiny village of San Donato where my grandparents were born.
From Ellis Island I procured a copy of the ship's manifest of my grandfather's arrival in New York on October 31, 1903. My research on Carlo Pucciani led me to correspond with the Cosenza State Archives, where Dr. Maria Nucci was kind enough to suffer my letters in awkward Italian and send me the wedding and birth certificates of my ancestors back to the late 1700's.
My grandpa had sixteen siblings, but he was the only one to come to America. My need to find the others let me to the San Donates Picnic in Clairton, Pennsylvania, stopping on the way to meet Jeanne Pucciani Cutillo and her famil in Akron, Ohio, and continue my journey with them. No Pucciani's were at the picnic, unfortunately, but networking introduced my by phone to Andrea Capolupo, who had grown up in San Donato with two cousins of mine, Pasquale and Rosetta Pucciani.
Since then, I have met several Pucciani's, including Michael from New York, who drove to Chicago to meet me and map our our mutual discoveries. And finally one snowy afternoon in Chicago I phoned Pasquale and we talked--he in Italian, I in English--and somehow discovered our shared bisbisnonno. We have visited him and his wife in Bergamo twice, and they generously drove us down to meet Rosetta in Cosenza and Uncle Ernesto, a priest at the monastery in Paola, who kn ew my nonna and helped a great deal with my research. We strolled the cobbled streets of San Donato together in the rain, and I cannot describe my feelings as I touched the door of nonno's carpenter shop and stood before the house where nonna lived a century ago. From Pasquale's family home, we could see tiled roofs tumbling down the mountain among the chestnut trees, and beyond them, the sea.
I still have found now trace of nonno's siblings. But discovering my Italian cousins has been one of the most emotional experiences of my life. I've just completed a book of poems about my family and our village. The language of scholarship and research has given way to the language of the heart.