AN OMAGH family got a wonderful surprise when they visited the office of a mayor of a village in Italy and saw an Ulster Herald interview with their mother framed on the wall.
The picture of Fiorenza McGartland was part of a ‘Thursday Interview’ article that appeared in the Herald back in August 2001 when she told the incredible story of her life.
Mrs McGartland was formerly Fiorenza Cardarelli from the village of Bassiano in the Latino region. Mayor Domenico Guidi’s grandmother’s maiden name was Cardelli.
Fiorenza Cardarelli came to Ireland in 1953 to work at a time many Italians emigrated in the years after the Second World War. She was born in Bassiano in 1922 the year that Benito Mussolini’s fascist blackshirts marched into Rome.
Soon after Mussolini joined forces with Hitler, and Mrs McGartland recalled her father breaking his legs while fleeing supporters of the Nazi regime. She also took shelter in the mountains with her aunt and narrowly escaped with her life when a German soldier’s bullet whizzed past her head as American forces were liberating Italy.
Her early days in Ireland were also eventful as she worked in Dublin and Bundoran before moving to Omagh to work in Rex Café. However for a number of years she had avoid the RUC, or face deporatation, before her residential permit was being sorted out.
She married local man Tony McGartland and they had five children, three sons Dino, Piero and Tony and daughters Patricia and Tina.
The family lived in Culmore Park and Mrs McGartland became very involved in local community and was popular member of Omagh Community centre. However she never forgot her Italian roots and regularly visited her homeland. She passed away at the age of 93 on May 11, 2015.
Her son Dino explained, “Two years ago my family were in Bassiano and my aunt who lives there, arranged for us to meet the local mayor (Domenico Guidi ). He was a friend of my mother and he offered his condolences as she had passed away.
“He brought us into his office and to our amazement on the wall was a framed cutting of the UH article taking pride of place on the wall. He gave us some publications of the history of Bassiano and its families as a gift.” All five of Mrs McGartland’s children recently visited the village, the first time they did so together since they were children. They reciprocated the Mayor’s gesture.
Dino added, “We gave Mayor Guidi a plaque in memory of my mother and the gift of a Belleek China plate from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. The presentation took place in his office and he was delighted. It is a small village with 1,300 people and a very close knit community. We get a great welcome there and two of my mother’s sisters still live there and many first and second cousins. It is lovely to have those momentos in the Mayor’s office with the memory of our mother.”