Sepia Saturday 241: Writing and Letters

Sepia Saturday 241: Writing and Letters

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Nellie Gasparri

I went back and forth on this week’s theme since I have plenty of letters, but very few pictures to go along with them.  The letter is written  to  Nellie Gasparri in the photo on the left (b. 9 May 1924, Dysart, Cambria County, PA, USA, d. 9 Oct 2007, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, PA, USA), my first cousin, once removed, or my mom’s first cousin (her mother’s sister’s daughter).  It was written by  Angelina Guerrini who is Nellie’s Aunt (her father’s sister).  From what I know from living family members, Nellie never learned to read or write in Italian, but had a friend who read/wrote back letters for her.  This particular letter was one in a series of letters written to Nellie that she saved for many, many years.  After her death, relatives found them and didn’t know what to do with them, so they ended up with my mother somehow who fairly recently found them in a drawer while cleaning and passed them on to me.  I had studied Italian at University as well as taking a semester abroad, so about 12 years ago, I was just about fluent.  It’s faded a lot since then, so in order to translate these, it’s quite a process.  First, I try to figure out what was written and type that up – it can be a struggle between the handwriting and spelling/grammar issues, but fortunately it’s just about the same region where I took my semester abroad, so that helps!  Then, I run the translation through Google Translate to see what it comes up with, correcting the Italian side to fix spelling issues.  Finally, I go through and do my own translation on top to fix odd phrasing that Google doesn’t really translate well and make it sound more like it was written in English.  Some of the phrases don’t translate well from Italian to English, and I tend to go for a more literal than flowery approach in terms of translation.  I’m always open to correction, so if you happen to be Italian and want to help me out, please leave a comment!

If you’re interested in the other letters, they can be found here:
A Letter to Great Grandma
Searching for a Son
Angelina’s First Letter

San Valentino, 6 April 1947
After several days of delays, I have come to respond to your dear letter that I received with much pleasure, to hear that you remember me with much affection and that you are in good health as are your brothers.

As for me, always little is well, but nothing is so serious, just a little bit of organic deterioration.  My husband and my daughters are doing well.  My husband is 60 years old, and I’m 50.  Grandmother is also well, she is 84 years old.  I haven’t had the courage to tell her the news of the death of her son, and I think that’s because my brother has found a wife so cruel that the old woman could not ever see her and stay in good health.  They have a 4 year old daughter and live quietly, but I ought to say very little to you about the awful things they did to this poor old woman.

If you send something to grandma, send it to me or write it to me because she doesn’t know how to read or write and she’s deaf such that to have her understand, it takes time, and even when you repeat it, she substitutes whatever she wants.

Dear Niece, I am happy to hear you explain in your letter so many things that I wanted to hear about you and your brothers.  Now all that remains is the desire to have a little written also from him and I’d even like to have a photograph, but first we must send you ours.  I would like to know about the brother that isn’t in the army.  Your aunt told me he works – what does he do?
I received the letter from your aunt with the photo of your father.  It made me happy and at the same time a little sad that he isn’t around anymore.  I don’t know how to find peace.  You tell me that you work in an office. I’m happy to hear that, and I hope you enjoy it.

I’m sad that I can’t give you any help being so far away.  You sent us the package and you said you can send another but what can I send you?  Do you want anything that I could send to you?  Tell me please!  Let me know if you read my letters yourself or if you have someone read them to you the way I do the with your greetings to me, your friend Gina Canali.

Thousands and thousands of dear greetings and kisses from us that you will pass on also to your brothers, your aunt, and even these coming days I’ll write more to you.
Many dear kisses from me, your aunt, Angelina Guerrini.

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13 Comments

  1. Even if you’re not exactly correct, your translation reads easily and sounds sensible. I love the part about the deaf woman “substituting whatever she wants” – A LOT of people with good hearing do that too!

    1. Sheetar

      A lot of the paper with these letters is just like that – tissue thin, and the ink, over the years, has really saturated both sides of the paper. It gets tough to figure out which side you’re reading!

    1. Sheetar

      LOL I didn’t know how else to translate that, so I left it literal. I suppose you could read it as “natural aging” or something like that, even if organic deterioration feels more accurate some days!

  2. La Nightingail

    Kudos to you for an amazing job of translation – especially deciphering the handwriting, let alone the rest. But the reward seems to be worth it. A little at a time will hopefully work well for you. Good luck!

    1. Sheetar

      Thank you! It’s really been fun, getting little glimpses into their conversation in the letters back and forth. It’s something we didn’t even know about before, that Nellie had written family in Italy, so with every letter, there’s something new!

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