Donata Spagnoletti was born in Molinara on 13th May 1935. She lived with her parents and grandparents. Her grandfathers and father served in the military during WW1 and WW2 respectively. Early childhood memories include having donkeys and calves stolen from their properties, which were a great loss to the family. The enemies would also come to the houses demanding eggs and other goods. Dugouts were built for protection. Letters and telegrams from those in the war were eagerly awaited by the families during this time. Fortunately, they returned home safely.

When Donata was about 7 years old she commenced going to school from 9am until 1pm. She remembers her mum or nonna would be waiting for her outside with some sheep that needed to be taken and watched in the fields. They would bring her lunch which was usually some bread with an apple or broad beans or other things in season. She helped with many jobs around the house including feeding the donkeys, pigs, calves and cows. At night and in winter the animals and their feed were kept in the stall and when the weather was nice they were taken outside during the day.

When she was about 14 years old, she would come in from her outdoor chores before the others and make pasta for dinner. This involved kneading by hand and using a large rolling pin to prepare the dough.

At the age of 19 (1954), she received a letter of proposal from her cousin Francesco Cirocco who had immigrated to Australia in 1952. He had written the letter to his parents who then delivered it to Donata’s parents. Her mother disapproved of her going to Australia but her father said, “let her go as she will probably have a better future there”. Hence, she accepted the marriage proposal, and a proxy wedding was organised, as she wasn’t allowed to travel to Australia before the marriage was in place. A proxy wedding is where the bride or groom, or both are not physically present and are represented by another person.

On the 28th of May 1955 the proxy marriage took place in Molinara with Francesco’s father representing him. On that day they walked to the church for the marriage ceremony and then walked back to Francesco’s family home where they celebrated with the relatives. A chef from the town catered for the event.

She then had to wait until December 1956 to travel to Australia by ship as her husband needed time to organise accommodation for them. She travelled with two other relatives who had also been married by proxy and a lady with two young children whose husband had gone to Australia before her.  The ship she travelled on was named Australia and it disembarked in Melbourne on 13th January 1957. Here, the ladies were met by their new husbands who drove them to Adelaide where their homes were old cottage apartments which they had renovated in Chapel Street, Norwood. These cottages are still currently lived in. Here, they set up home with what they could in search of a new life. However, having no English language was the biggest hurdle for the ladies in the early years, and still can be a problem at times now. One of the first things she purchased was a second-hand sewing machine, which we still have today.

Over the following few years other relatives joined them and hence a strong network was formed.  However, Donata’s parents and siblings never migrated. In November 1957 their first child was born and then in January 1960 they purchased a home in Magill which was larger and had more room to carry out the traditional activities like making passata in summer, wine in autumn and pork sausages in winter and room for a vegetable garden which was important. These traditions are still continued today and have been handed down to future generations. In April 1961 their daughter was born and the family complete.

Donata has fond memories of their neighbours, Mr and Mrs Jenkins and their daughter Kay who was in her late teens. They were very kind and helpful and would take her along to do the shopping as her English was still limited. Kay would spend time with Donata’s son and daughter which helped them grasp the English language prior to commencing school. She also took them to the Royal Adelaide Show and Christmas pageant.

Francesco always wanted to live on a property and be his own boss so in July 1966 they purchased an orchard in Lenswood on 41 acres and made the brave move to the Adelaide Hills. They stayed there until 1992. After many years of hard work they retired and resettled back to the suburbs where they still live close to family and friends.