"This is the Italy I love," wrote a commenter on Twitter.
They are three Italian grandmothers named Nicolina, Vincenza, and Maria, and they surely never imagined they’d become famous on the social networks in their country. Yet, today they have, thanks to a simple act of love.
The three have gone viral on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, just a few days after they decided to have a photo taken in which each of them is holding an African immigrant child on her lap.
The photo was taken in their hometown, Campoli del Monte Taburno, located in southern Italy, an hour northeast of Naples. The town is home to a welcoming center for migrants, and by taking this picture, the elderly women demonstrated that they are in favor of giving a warm welcome to these people who arrive from Africa by crossing the Mediterranean.
The photo, in which the smiling grandmothers are shown sitting on a bench in the town and taking care of the little kids (one is sleeping, one is snacking, and one is looking around), was first published in a Facebook group called “You’re from Campoli if …” (“Sei di Campoli se …”, in Italian). Although it’s a closed group with only 891 members, the image quickly spread through social media.
Messages of support didn’t take long to appear. “I see that the world is still able to show humanity: grandmothers who act like grandmothers for children at a welcoming center. Above all today, when 150 people probably lost their life at sea, it heals my heart,” wrote someone on Twitter.
One of the grandmothers’ actual grandsons chimed in, according to the website Open: “To think that 37 years ago, I was on that same lap, wrapped in that same smile, and now miles away and a few years older, I’m very happy to be able to share the same emotions with a child I don’t know, but who deserves it all and more. You’re beautiful, grandma, obviously all the people in the photo are beautiful.”
“This is the Italy I love”
“This is the Italy I love,” said another user. “This is my land!!! Solidarity, but above all, Love.”
These messages speak of the desire to serve and to help migrants, something Pope Francis has encouraged. In comments in Italian after the praying of the Angelus on July 28, the Pope expressed his sadness for the deaths of 116 people in the waters of the Mediterranean, and asked the international community to cooperate to “avoid the repetition of similar tragedies and to guarantee the safety and dignity of all.”
The photo of the grandmothers has generated a lot of conversation and discussion in Italy, and above all, is a wake-up call to our conscience. No one can remain indifferent in the face of a drama of such magnitude. The legal obstacles set up to keep non-governmental organizations from patrolling the sea to help save migrants in danger near the coasts of Libya, where most of the migrant ships set sail, have failed to lower the number of people who try to cross over to Europe, and haven’t diminished the number of deaths due to shipwrecks.
It is estimated that there have already been 600 migrant deaths at sea this year in what is considered the most deadly migratory route on the planet.