Background

Willow House: Amneris

Posted on 06 November 2012 | Narrative

Amneris is one of the few Willow House residents who was not raised in or around York.

AmnerisShe is very much Italian, and certainly proud to be so. This becomes clear when I mention Rome; her face lights up and her broken English accent tingles with excitement and nostalgia: “I love Rome.”

Yet in 1951 she chose to leave those sunny climes to embrace a very different way of life at the cotton mills in Lancashire. Work in Rome was scarce, she tells me, and many Italians left their country to seek employment.

“What were your first impressions of England?” I ask. Somehow, I’m not surprised by the reply, “I found the language difficult for the first two years … and the ‘brutto tempo’ – the horrible weather…”

But not all is negative in Amneris’s view of England; “I love the Queen.” What is it about this lady who seems to captivate many of the women’s hearts in this room, I wonder? “She is a fantastic, wonderful woman. She gives me a sensation of happiness. Two years ago, I shook hands with her in London!”

I then discover that Amneris opened a coffee bar in Burley-in-Wharfedale with an Italian friend of hers when she was younger. She taps her nails rhythmically on the chair, nods and smiles, telling me that she enjoyed this enterprise. “It was exciting; we were two, tempestuous Italian girls. We fought like hell because we loved like hell.”

Despite her Italian heritage, it is hard not to notice the Yorkshire accent slipping into her crackly English and the fascinating hybrid effect of these two very different cultures. When I ask her if she likes the English people here, she enthusiastically affirms with an “Ooh Ay!” which certainly testifies to her strong roots here in this Northern part of England.

This story and the others featuring on our website this week (w/c 5th November 2012) have been gathered by volunteers at the University of York.