Tag: <span>letters</span>

Sepia Saturday 241: Writing and Letters

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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Italian Letter 16 Feb 1947

So, it might seem a little odd that I’m posting these letters to the public.  Two of the people referenced in the letter (Angelina’s daughters) may still be alive and what a thrill it would be to have the internet somehow connect us.  You hear that Thia Guerrini, Rina Guerrini?  If you’re reading this, I would absolutely love to hear from you.  We’re related by marriage, and my cousins would get a real kick out of hearing from long-lost cousins in Italy.  If they were alive, they’d be in their 80s this year (2014).  It’s a long shot, but hey, you never know.

Moving on!  The letters are also interesting for their historical information.  Nellie Gasparri, (my first cousin, once removed) apparently sent a package along with her letter to her aunt Angelina.  The reply letter from Angelina is what I’ve got posted here – she enclosed a separate, smaller piece of paper thanking Nellie very specifically for the coffee since, she explains, it was something they hadn’t seen in Italy for many years since the war.  She also mentions that they’re missing many things, and that her daughters appreciated the clothes Nellie sent.  Basic living supplies seem to have been pretty scarce in San Valentino (Sorano).  There’s also mention of Nellie’s Aunt who I can assume is her mother’s sister, my grandmother, Norma Innocenti.  Just like the last letter, the same grammatical/spelling errors persist (penziero instead of pensiero, “ai” and “o” instead of hai and ho for the verb avere, and a couple various misspellings).  It’s slowly making these easier to read since the handwriting is becoming more familiar.  At the end, Angelina writes a little blurb to also thank the friend (of Nellie’s I assume?) who wrote the letter, Gina Canali.  In my translation, I added some punctuation to help with flow and took a few liberties with some of the not-easily-translated Italian phrases.  I love perfectly literal translations, but it never flows well.  Without further babble, here’s the translation, and images of the letter.  Click any image to enlarge.

February 16, 1947.
Dearest Niece,
Days ago I received your letter and even the package that you sent. I just received it and it was delivered in good condition. I can only thank you for the thought that you had for us. Your cousins Thia and Rina thank you for the clothes that we really needed because in Italy we are lacking clothes and many other things after the war. Your cousins are ages Thia 18 and Rina 17.
Dear Niece, if it’s easier for you to write American, write that way since there is someone who reads to me. As for the letter that I wrote to your aunt, I hope that she has received it and my greetings and if she writes to me again it would make me happy. I’m glad that you are in good health. As for us, my daughters and my husband are well, but for a while I haven’t felt well but don’t worry that it’s serious.
Dear Nellie I would like to know so much about you all. Make your brothers write to me too and tell me how you’re doing now that you’re left without your father. I have so much sorrow for you all. We are far away and I cannot give you any comfort. I would like to have a memory of my brother if it’s possible (a photograph of yours); it would be much appreciated. For this time, I can only greet you and kiss you, united to my family. I tell you that your aunt thinks of you always,
Angelina Guerrini.

Don’t ever forget that my address is only this:
S. Valentino di Sorano
Pro di Grosseto
Only So
Do you understand?
Greetings again to your friend that wrote the letter,
Gina Canali

(enclosure, on green paper)
Dear Niece,
I thank you so much for the coffee, here it’s been many years and you don’t see it any more and I tell you again there are many things we’re lacking here in Italy. Nellie in as much as I remember your address it’s not as it was before. Did you move? It’s been a while since your aunti wrote to me the other time where she is. I want to tell you many other things and ask you many things but I’m afraid I’ll bore you. Write to me at length and tell me many things. Again, many kisses, your aunt,
Angelina Guerrini

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More Letters from Italy

While on a recent trip home to celebrate the holidays (a belated celebration since my husband wasn’t home on December 25th), my mom found another stack of letters written in Italian to Nellie Gasparri, my first cousin, once removed. The way mom explained it, when Nellie died in 2007, the folks cleaning out her house found these letters, didn’t know what to do with them, and handed them off to my mom for safekeeping.  This is just one of the letters that I managed to translate.  My knowledge of Italian (where I was fluent about 10 years ago) has degenerated to about the level of a 5 year old, but I can manage a decent translation with the help of Google Translate and a dictionary.  The hardest part is reading the handwriting, misspellings and all, and working through the local phrases, grammar, etc that can vary WIDELY from town to town.  Fortunately, this is pretty close to the area where I studied abroad, so that makes it easier.

I added punctuation and paragraph spacing to make the letter easier to read in the translated version.  Interesting to note, Silvio Gasparri, the man to whom the letter is written, died 18 July 1944, two years before the letter was written.  Nellie, his daughter, had corresponded with one of Silvio’s sisters in Italy a number of times, but the earliest letter we have in that set is from 16 February 1947.  I suppose it’s possible that two years went by without any notification to family in Italy about Silvio’s death.  The overall tone of the letter is pretty sad – a mother wishing for news from her son, hoping that everything is okay, but wondering if something bad happened.

Click any image to open up a larger version.

Montebuono, November 3, 1946.

Dearest son,

It’s been a long time, even years, that I waited for news, but I always waited in vain.  I thought something has happened to you.  Until now I thought that maybe one day I would have had your news as we rejoin hands.  There is always news from other Italians in America, but I have always waited in vain.  Think, my son, on the great pain I suffer.  Think of my age that I’m 81 years old and have no hope of seeing you again before I die.  It could be a consolation to have news from you, comforting for me and for all.

I have written you twice after the end of the great holocaust of the war but I have had no response.  I am forced to make a search for you through the American President.

The situation in Italy is bad.  Life is very expensive such that if you don’t live anymore, you pay a lot.  Expensive and you don’t earn anything.  You believe that you need to go almost nude and drained, but who cares.  I would be happy only to hear from you.

Please write soon, my son, that you would lift a great sadness from my heart.  I hope that this letter reaches you and finds you and your family in good health.  I won’t even say that I’m well because age prevents it but it will make do.  Pietro and your family are well. I won’t say anything more for the moment.  I will write you more at length another time.  I give you a hug and a kiss.  You and my grandchildren should be great.

Now I sign, your affectionate mother,

Rosa Lombardi.



A Letter in Italian

When my grandmother passed away, mom saved a bunch of papers we found in her home.  Among these were letters written in Italian that none of us could translate.  I was in my second year of studying the language and really wasn’t proficient yet.  But, now, twelve years and a study abroad in Italy later, I’ve finally got back at it and have started working on these.  The genealogy research I’ve been doing has paid off as well, since I’ve finally been able to identify everyone in this first letter which is really neat.  I can’t say the translation is perfect – some of the handwriting and nuances of the language can’t be made into a perfect translation, but I think this is pretty close.  If you happen to have any suggestions on how to make my translation better, I’m happy to accept corrections!

The letter is from Angiolina (Ducceschi) Cioletti, addressed to Eugenia (Arcangeli) Innocenti.
Marsilio is Eugenia’s cousin and lived with Eugenia and her children through 1940.
Amos is Angiolina’s husband.

Worth noting, Angiolina uses the word “figlie” when referring to her children, meaning they’re all girls (and census records tell me that they were indeed).  When referring to Eugenia’s children, she uses the word, “figli” meaning that they’re either all boys, or of mixed gender (in this case, one boy and two girls).   She uses the phrase “Vi Fo Sapere” instead of “Vi Faccio Sapere” (I want you to know).  “Fo” is a regioinalism particular to Tuscany.  Angiolina and her husband came from Piteglio, from what I can find, which is in Tuscany.  “Bath Room” is written out in plain English instead of Italian.  Towards the end, she uses the letter z instead of s in Penziero (Pensiero) and Verzo (Verso).  The stamp has been torn off the envelope – grandma was a stamp collector, so it’s possible that this one ended up in her collection, even though she would’ve been 7 at the time this was written.

Haledon NJ 20 September 1928Dearest friend,

I come to write you these few lines on paper to tell you that I am fine. Me, my husband, and my children and so I hope that it is the same with you, your husband, and children. Now I want to tell you that we are together in New Jersey and we’re here willingly, and we’re very happy. We have a house with 5 rooms and the bath room makes 6, and we pay $22.50 a month, cold and hot water, and all the amenities. Also, the place is beautiful for the kids. There is no danger. The house is all fenced in. Also Amos is content with his work. He works every day and brings home $6.50 a day, but he works at night, 13 hours of work, but the work is not as tiresome as in the mines. Especially when he came to work every day at Flinton, Marsilio works all day and I hope that he is still, but we hear that the mines are going very badly. Respond to me. I wanted to write you for a long time, but I never took the time, but I thought about my friends. I have always and will now give my greeting to all of you, your husband and children, from me, my husband, and children. Here I sign, your unforgettable friend, Angiolina, my mother Cioletti. I greet you if you’re ever near to me, it would be nice to have a short walk.

Here is the Address

268 Belmont Ave
Haledon, New Jersey