Migrants - European stories
Notre Europe wanted to contribute to the edition of the illustrated stories of six European migrants in France, as part of the collection Migrants’ stories.
Created and set up by the association Paroles d’Hommes et de Femmes, these Europeans’ Stories tell us the stories of Mario Guzzi from Italy, Margarete Rennert from Germany, Jacek Rewerski from Poland, Laura Garcia Vitoria from Spain, Mirela Potez-Murar from Spain and Jacky Da Costa from Portugal.
Each of their stories is based on the same structure: their childhood in the country of origin, the historical and economic context, the reasons of their departure and their departure, and finally their integration in France. These tales give us a personal and political insight of free movement within the EU, of the experience of European migrants and of the vision developed by these European citizens.
Mario Guzzi – Italy (Dijon)
Mario Guzzi was born in 1942 in Panettieri in Calabria. From being a little Calabresian fascinated by America to being a master cobbler living in France, he has patiently worked away at building his dream with the pride and know-how of a craftsman. Son of a cobbler, Mario grew up in a little isolated village in Calabria. Poor but happy, at the age of eleven he learnt the trade from his father, who showed him all his secrets. As a teenager, he was sent to France to join his sister and his brother-in-law for a few months. There, he discovered another world, a new state of mind and some freedom. Having decided to go back, he left Calabria for Moselle. Mario gradually learnt French, began to work as a mason and then managed to ply the trade that was his, as a cobbler. He married a young French girl and moved to Burgundy for good, where he became a master craftsman, training dozens of young apprentices. French and Italian, Mario has kept links with his country of origin and has passed his Italian culture down to his children.
Margarete Rennert – Germany (Sarcelles)
Margarete Rennert was born in 1935 in Bad Homburg, near Frankfurt. Antifascism, feminism, trade unionism and antiracism are some of the causes that have been features of her life. Margarete grew up under Nazism with a mother opposed to the Nazi regime but forced to yield to it. During the war, they were alone in Frankfurt, between bombardments and shortages, compulsory work and the bullying of the Hitler youth. Upon liberation, Margarete pushed her mother to follow the French prisoner with whom she had fallen in love during the war and to leave her father. She dreamt of France and no longer wanted to hear about Germany. Having settled in the Parisian region, they were subjected to insults because of their nationality but Margarete gradually learnt to defend herself and became ‘Margot la Tigresse’ [Margot the Tigress]. Married and a mother at the age of 16, then remarried, she fully engaged win the demonstrators of 1968 before rediscovering her independence by divorcing at the beginning of the 1970s. After a difficult return to Germany, Margarete went back to France, settled down in Sarcelles and become a trade union delegate, fighting for the rights of employees and the rights of women in companies. Now retired, she is a fully involved in her town, Sarcelles, where she lives with “the world at her feet” by committing to teaching new non French-speaking young arrivals to read and write and promoting dialogue between cultures.
Jacek Rewerski – Poland (Angers)
Jacek Rewerski was born in Gdansk in 1955. Having dreamed of travelling from a very young age, he managed to escape from communist Poland with his parents and experience his dream of discovery without every letting go of his roots and his will to explain them to other people. Jacek grew up in Sopot near Gdansk, in a family marked by war and resistance towards the Germans and the Russians. Communist Poland and his father’s wish not to join the party meant that his family had modest and difficult living conditions. In 1968, the family took the opportunity to leave to work in Algeria. Jacek then experienced his dream of adventure for the first time. It was about the discovery of another culture but also about the discovery of western Europe and what it offered. After a brief return to Poland, Jacek and his family managed to head back to France to settle in the north. He did geography studies there but felt a huge gap with the Polish community of the north. A naturalised Frenchman, he benefited from a study trip in Poland during the State of War. He supported the Polish resistance and Solidarnosc and created links with France. Back in France, he settled down in Anjou, worked as a teacher and created the association ‘Solidarité enfance Pologne’ [Solidarity childhood in Poland]. Describing himself as a ‘Franco-Polo’, as his children call him, he is committed to telling people about Poland and its real history.
Laura Garcia Vitoria – Spain (Paris)
Laura Garcia Vitoria was born in Calahorra in La Rioja in 1947. Justice, independence and freedom are the causes that are big parts of her life. Laura Garcia-Vitoria grew up in Franco’s Spain in a republican family. Smothered by the weight of the church and social differences and inhibited by the place of women in society, Laura was forced to stop her studies and marry a man who mistreated her. Left for dead by her husband, she left Spain and found the refuge that she had dreamed of in France, the chance to begin to live. Pampered at university in the company of migrant students, despised by the French for whom she worked as an au pair, she pursued her studies with courage and determination in order to build a new home for her son. After a long fight to regain custody of him, she worked with passion in education. A pioneer researcher in new technologies, Laura Garcia Vitoria works in the knowledge economy. Seeing France as her intellectual mother but feeling Spanish deep down, she is fighting to ensure that humans are at the heart of new technologies and not the other way round.
Mirela Potez-Murar – Romania (Soissons)
Mirela was born in 1962 in Sighişoara in Transylvania. From a life of subservience to her parents-in-law and the Romanian state to freedom from that subservience, she fought for her autonomy and her independence and for that of other people. Brought up in the communist Romania of Ceauşescu, Mirela grew up in a closed country without much choice in terms of her prospects. Dreaming of being a school teacher, she was directed towards electrical engineering. Pregnant at the age of twenty, she got married and had to submit to the authority of her husband and family-in-law. She had no pay, did not manage the household budget, could not buy anything and could not bring up her daughter, who lived with her parents-in-law. After years of dictatorship and economic decay, Romania freed itself from its dictator and acquired a new freedom. As the country’s situation was not getting better, Mirela feared being sacked but the revolution gave her the courage to take charge of her life. She divorced and took her first real decision. She passed her driving test. Separated from her daughter, she decided to join her sister in France, where she met her second husband. She moved to Picardy and fought to be able to ply the trade that she wanted to and currently works as an advisor helping to get women and young people into work and using her own experience to help other people.
Jacky Da Costa – Portugal (Besançon)
Jacky Da Costa was born in 1947 in Barco, in the middle of Portugal. From being a seminarist in Portugal to being in charge of logistics in France, he has created links between his two European countries. Jacky Da Costa grew up in a small village at the foot of the Portuguese mountains. The last but one of a family of ten children, living conditions were very modest. However, he benefited from the privilege of going to school and worked at the church by serving and helping the priest. The seminary allowed him to continue his studies. During the 1960s, wars of independence were raging in Mozambique and in Angola. To escape military service, Jacky went to Besançon, in France, where he found some of his family. Living in basic lodgings, he started working in construction. Gradually conditions improved. He changed jobs and worked in Christian associations helping new Portuguese migrants. After the carnation revolution, he chose to stay in France as the gap between the two countries was too big. He got married, pursued his career and continued his commitment via the pastoral care of migrants and writing articles in different Portuguese newspapers.