Revista Casa D’Italia, Juiz de Fora, Ano 3, n. 24, 2022 – Danilo da Silveira Souza | Um brasileiro que emigrou para a Inglaterra [EN]
It is a pleasure to write this article and share with you a part of my journey. My name is Danilo, I was born in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, and I left my hometown over three years ago when I relocated firstly to Italy, and then to England. I currently live in Whitburn, a small village in Sunderland, on the North East coast.
I would say the biggest challenge of this writing is the same one I faced when I decided to follow my dreams of living abroad: where and how to start? Well, I think the answer was and still is abstractly simple: from the beginning.
My parents’ families have Italian roots, we are descendants of the Falcometa and Ambrosio families, and my story is intrinsically connected to this fact. I grew up listening to oral history about my ancestors, but I did not understand this very well and did not give it much thought. Everything changed when I became a History undergraduate student in the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, where I was exposed to a broader discussion about how Brazil was constructed and the processes it involved.
This was when I started valuing and understanding my family history and roots much more. Motivated by my mother, Terezinha, I completed modules on the Italian language also at the university. In the early stages of my time as a university student, I came to England for the first time to visit my father, Adalton, who has lived in greater London for a very long time. I came to England again with my brother Lucas and three friends some years later, this time as an exchange student. Carol, who is now my wife, joined us in London months after.
Living abroad was a turning point for us as a couple. We felt more connected, happier and freer, so we decided: we will stay and live here. However, we were still very young back then, we had not even finished all our academic years, therefore this option was not really feasible. It was nothing but a dream.
After moving back home in 2011 and resuming my pursuit of a degree, I had the pleasure of becoming an intern at the University’s Historical Archive. I learned a lot about the importance of historical documents there and also had contact with researchers involved in the study of primary sources. During this time my mother obtained an old passport which belonged to one of our Italian forefathers and was probably used in a trip to Italy. This was remarkable, I spent a long time analyzing this piece of history with the knowledge I had recently acquired. It shed light on the origins of the Falcometa family, not exactly as we interpreted it though, as I will explain later on.
Carol and I kept our dreams alive throughout our academic journey and subsequent professional life. It became more evident to us that we should not have moved back home permanently, a feeling that became even stronger in the summer holidays we spent in Europe in 2017. We came to a conclusion that we were going to try and pursue our dreams as soon as possible, we just did not know how we would fulfill all personal and legal requirements for it.
Opportunities presented themselves, it seemed that we had a clear path to follow, nevertheless, we always ended up going back to square one as soon as we took any action. We realized that things would not work out as we anticipated and nothing would be simple, to a point where we thought all was lost and we had no alternatives moving forward. Luckily Carol had an epiphany one day: “Danilo, both sides of your family have Italian roots, you are also a Falcometa!”. It was a light at the end of the tunnel. Applying for Italian citizenship by descent, besides being an honour and privilege, would enable us to follow different life options. The problem was, we lacked everything. We did not know where to start, we had no knowledge of the procedures and all documents involved or even how to obtain them. Fortunately a friend, Camilla Barbosa, was miles ahead of us and gently shared a lot of information on the matter on different occasions. We also studied a lot about it through the amazing work of two Italian-Brazilian influencers called Fabio Barbiero, who published books and a good amount of content about the topic on https://minhasaga.org/ and Priscilla Guerra, who publishes about the different aspects of daily life in Italy via https://www.blogcoisasqueeusei.com/ .
From then onwards, we focused the very limited free time we had as teachers on researching the Falcometa family. The first challenge we faced was the passport I previously mentioned. It refers to the city of Reggio Calabria, which we interpreted as my ancestor’s birthplace. We were highly surprised to receive a negative response from the Comune’s Stato Civile, implying that the family was not from that city. In the end we discovered that the passport merely referred to the administrative capital of the region, which meant we had still made no considerable progress.
After much confusion we went straight to the primary sources. We managed to obtain relevant documents in a registry in Brazil and from there essential pieces of the puzzle, such as my ancestor’s date and city of birth, were found. Carol did her own research on the digitized microfilm data belonging to the Stato Civile of the correct commune, and found my ancestor’s original birth certificate – a positive start, finally.
We would never have excelled in our research any other way. The only source we had access to – the passport – contained details we considered incomplete as we did not comprehend what we were looking at. Besides that, making Italian names more “Brazilian” was a common practice that affected thousands of immigrants in the Brazilian ports. This phenomenon would have made it impossible for us to find anything about my ancestors based on the information we possessed. For instance, the Falcometa surname was originally Falcomatà, all family members who we found records of also had their first names changed to a Brazilian fashion.
The members of my research team about the Falcometa were: my mother Terezinha, responsible for asking as many questions as possible to my grandmother Silvanda Falcometa and other relatives; and Carol, responsible for mapping and planning all documentary requirements. My brother Lucas was also an ally in this quest, he decided he would also go to Italy with me. Carol on the other hand would stay in Brazil whilst everything was sorted. Equipped with knowledge and a good plan we completed the first stages and focused on the final arrangements for my departure.
Lucas and I moved to Piedmont in winter, where we were surrounded by the fascinating and charming snowy mountains. I faced many challenges, struggles, but also had wonderful moments and self-fulfillment over there. It was brilliant to have the chance and time to experience Italy, its people, culture, cuisine, history and others. I fell in love even more with the land of my ancestors, I even wanted to live there and change everything we had planned.
I spent my time in Piedmont analyzing thoroughly all possibilities we would have moving forward. It was not an easy choice, but we decided to stick to the plan. We applied for jobs in the ESOL industry, and would start a new life in England as teaching assistants in a school in the very heart of London. Everything was panning out well, and then we moved on to the ultimate stage, where would we live?
Suddenly things went south again. We contacted several Real Estate agencies and landlords in the capital, but had no prospects of getting our own place. We tried all possible solutions; however, moving with our two dogs – Uhtred and Luna – was a no go. This was not the only difficulty we had in trying to relocate to London; a very high cost of living compared to the wages of the new job was another hindrance, among others, which could turn the dream into a possible nightmare. Taking all this into consideration our search for a safe haven was still on.
I spent days compiling a list of places we could call home. I ensured to cover the fact that we have two dogs, our cultural background, infrastructure, cost of living, employment rate, public transport, safety, airports, etc. I attempted to be as meticulous as possible, until we reached an option which both of us liked very much: Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Amidst all of this my brother and I finally got the great news that we had officially become Italian Citizens, my biggest achievement in life! Being able to reconnect with our past through this journey and see our family roots stronger than ever as a result is an honour. The Falcometa family moved from Calabria to Brazil in the late 18th century in search of a better life, it is thanks to them that I now have many life choices also as an immigrant. Jure Sanguinis.
Sadly, my time in Italy came to an end as I set sail to England – you could also say that I took a flight. Carol traveled from Rio to France with our dogs. My father, Adalton, took me across the English Channel by car so I could reunite with my family after such a long time. From London we went on to our new life in the North East.
We foresaw that we would have to start our professional lives from scratch. We opted not to stay in London and take the job offer, and this time we did not apply for any positions beforehand. Our idea was to do so once our lives became functional again. Everything was new to us; we were still getting to know this part of the country.
Our first impressions of Newcastle and the people of the North East won us over, therefore we decided to stay. Starting over was not easy at all, there is no information or records of you on any database. Renting a place for example was extremely difficult due to the standard credit checks (we did not have any), employment status (we were not yet working), requirements such as references, documentation, bank accounts, etc. That is where things get even more complex: to open a bank account you need to provide a proof of address, which you only get by having a permanent address, which in turn requires that you have a bank account to pay your rent, fees, etc. The same applies to getting a job, it is common practice to check professional references for previous jobs, criminal record (DBS check), a bank account and proof of address are also required many times.
This is all very simple for a native or for someone who has lived here for some years, but nonetheless extremely challenging for those who just arrived. It is like Giovanna Ferraz once wrote about emigrating: “Living abroad is getting to a city and country where you are a nobody. I am not saying this to frighten or underestimate people. I mean that no one knows you, your history, journey, your tastes and fears. It is like you were born in a new country, but having some dark circles, wrinkles and back pain due to your age…”. We did not expect to also face a pandemic though; thankfully we are safe, healthy and adapted well to all lifestyle changes it brought.
Going back to our journey, we sorted everything relatively quickly. I started working in a new industry, as a Motor Insurance advisor, where I stayed for some two and a half years. I currently work in Corporate Banking as an Onboarding Manager. Carol started out as a volunteer in the local library and also as a volunteer for a charity book shop. She has been working for the same bank for over two years and currently works in Corporate Banking as an Onboarding Manager as well.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, we now live in Whitburn, a historical village located “between” Sunderland and South Tyneside, a few kilometers from Newcastle. We are surrounded by the North Sea, a wonderful coastal path, green belts, farms, beaches and a very calm neighbourhood. People here, be it locals or immigrants like us, are usually very friendly. The weather is challenging, it is very windy and cold for most part of the year. We have easy access to culture, sports, entertainment, etc. That does not mean it is a perfect place. The United Kingdom as a whole still has a high standard of living, but also faces many of the socioeconomic and political challenges of our time.
All in all I would say that things only happened when we changed our perception and attitude towards our dreams. We still have a lot of objectives and challenges ahead, but certainly found ourselves in this journey.
Danilo da Silveira Souza
Juiz-forano residente na Inglaterra. Graduado em História pela Universidade Federal de Juiz de fora, atuou como professor de Inglês como segunda língua por sete anos no Brasil. É hoje Onboarding Manager em Corporate Banking no Reino Unido. Apaixonado por História Local, Heavy Metal, Futebol e Ciclismo.