Paul Gareffa, 38, is a resident of Cherrybook these days, but his ancestry boasts a proud Italian family story. That family story begins in a little village called Cirella, near Reggio Calabria, Italy. That story perspired its way through the sugarcane fields of Queensland before centering itself in the Hawkesbury region, mainly in Freeman's Reach, Windsor and Riverstone.
What strikes me most about Paul's story is the intergenerational power of that characteristic Garreffa determination and hard work. Also not a small amount of business acumen.
Paul is pictured here with his daughter, and he spoke to me about his family history and pride in his Italian culture and descent.
Paul’s own life story begins on the family property: “My first memory is being on the farm with all my aunties and uncles, cousins, Nonno and Nonna; enjoying life, playing and running through the farm.”
Originally, Paul’s grandfather ventured to Australia five years - yes, five years - ahead of the rest of the family. He worked on sugarcane farms in Queensland, “to set things up”, before travelling south to work as a labourer on construction of the Spit Bridge, Mosman. By the time the rest of the family sailed via Fremantle to Sydney, Nonno Garreffa was living in St Ives.
Paul says, “They bought a farm at Freeman’s Reach, and had a shop in Windsor. My dad used to go in to the fruit markets. They then sold the Freeman’s Reach property, and settled in Riverstone, where they set up the farm with flowers and vegetables. My dad and uncle set up Riverstone Grower’s Market. My father also had a market in West Ryde, called Kulnura Grower’s Markets.
“What I loved about having a family business was the fact that it was all ours. I was proud to be part of something that was built by my family. It’s how I have learned to run my own business ventures.”
In Paul’s local area, there were a good number of Italian families who knew each other. Paul says that they were mostly also from Cirella, like his own family.
Paul has travelled Italy extensively, from north to south, and has been to his family’s village where he can find his favourite things to eat.
“It has the best food. I love to relax on the beaches and immerse myself in my awesome culture. The village is located on the Ionian sea side. I love the fact that I can be lazing on the Mediterranean beaches within two hours.”
The living arrangements of families across the world have many different manifestations and cultural differences, and Paul’s family demonstrated the “village” existence well, with his immediate family living in one house on the property with his maternal grandmother, while aunts and uncles lived in other houses on the same property.
I asked Paul how he connects to his culture and passes it to his daughter.
“We keep in touch with our culture via activities such as making wine, making tomato sauce for pasta and meat, and my favourite is making salami. We have big family parties and gatherings, celebrating and eating food. I try to pass things along to my daughter; she has been to my father’s village. I try to teach her Italian words and customs. She is only two and a half years old, but I will forever educate her on her past, and her Italian heritage.”
By the way, the phrase in the title of this article means, "Have faith".
This article, like every other article in the archives, could not have been written without the assistance of its interviewees, their families and my supporters. To help me keep them coming, contribute a teeny $2 a week at the DH Patreon page by clicking here.
Many thanks: Paul Garreffa and the Garreffa family, Kath Johnston, and Caterina Morabito Fahey. Photograph by Kath Johnston for HDI News.