AAHA = Amicale Alexandrie Hier et Aujourd'hui (www.aaha.ch)
GATHERINGS AND REUNIONS
Sacred Heart Girls
Yesterday, Alexandria, between 1954 and 1955
From left > right : Vilma Corcos, Edna Cassar, Sonia Zammar
(Lebanon/Germany), Lilian Cassar,
Sylvana Attard, Madeleine Farrugia
Today, Reunion in Malta after 47 years (June 2002)
The same Sacred Heart Girls from Alexandria in Malta
From left > right : Lily Savona -Cassar (Sydney), Edna Grigg-Cassar (Melbourne), Sylvana Attard (Rome), Vilma Gellert-Corcos (Rio de Janeiro) and Magda Henderson-Farrugia (Sydney)
Glenn Grigg , June 2002
, June 2002
small group was like many others coming to Malta.
Some had been before, some had not.
Some recognized they had a connection to the island-nation.
Eash knew that either they or their spouse was an MBE
– Maltese Born in Egypt. The
group members came from Brazil, California, Sydney, Melbourne, Rome and Milan.
and Lily both had MBE heritage. They
had visited Malta during their many trips to Europe. Both their families had left Egypt for Australia.
Sal and Lily married and settled in Sydney.
Lily and Edna shared the same surname before marriage, Cassar.
Their fathers were first cousins and Lily’s mother was also a first
cousin to Edna’s father. To
understand it a pencil and paper is essential.
Coming from a family with one cousin, the interlocking family
relationships is something I have never grasped easily, even after thirty years.
other downunder traveler is Magda. Magda’s
maiden name of Farrugia, confirms her MBE status. Magda’s home is also Sydney.
She is recently widowed and joining her cousins Edna and Lily to renew
acquaintances with other ex-students of Sacred Heart School in Alexandria.
family had left Egypt for Rio de Janiero. Her
family had Italian and Greek ties but with best friends with names of Farrugia,
Attard and Cassar, Malta had always
been an intrigue unfulfilled. Like
all Europeans in Egypt, Vilma was confident in many languages but Brazil meant a
new one - Portugeuse. The parents
of her husband, Sander had transported his family to Brazil at about the same
time and their relationship meant another language remote from Egypt was needed
- Danish. Her travel business
requires her to work in eight languages in all of which Vilma is skilled.
in Rome, Sylvana had the least distance to travel. She had recently retired after working for FAO in Rome.
She had never been tempted to visit Malta despite being an MBE.
girls, Edna, Lily, Magda, Vilma and Sylvana had been together at Sacred Heart
School. Their friend Giosi, a
cousin of both Lily and Magda and living in Milan since leaving Egypt completes
the female members of the group. Four
men were from Egypt - Sal, Lily’s husband; Leslie, Edna’s brother;
Edna and Leslie’s first cousin; and Harry who had been everybody’s friend in
Egypt and again forty-eight years later.
The remaining three men had married girls from Egypt, Sander to Vilma;
Antonio to Giosi; and myself to Edna.
was the last to arrive on our first day in Malta.
Roly had left Egypt as a seventeen year old to study as an aeronautical
engineer. He had worked for British
Aerospace and his team designed the tail on the Concorde.
His career took him to California to work for Douglas and McDonnell
Douglas. Roly’s flight arrived at
1.30am. Although Roly had
flown from Los Angeles to London and spent the day in London before flying on to
Malta, I woke him after only three hours sleep.
He was to greet the next arrival, Magda who was to fly-in from Cyprus at
6.30am. Roly had rehearsed his
meeting with his cousin – he was to be her Maltese driver and anticipated not
revealing his identity. Alas,
although they had not seen each other since 1952 his rehearsal was wasted as the
minute Magda saw him he was recognised.
three wonderful days touring, swimming and eating our bus drove us to meet a
boat for transportation to Comino. The
normally twenty minute crossing took approximately six hours as we had asked to
swim and visit highlights around Comino. We
swam off Gozo and had lunch within St Mary’s Bay where we would later be
accommodated at the Comino Hotel bungalows.
A second swim was enjoyed at the magnificent Blue Lagoon before
travelling on to the bungalows.
sun filled days were enjoyed at Comino where the spacious bungalows provided
delightful views and access to the sea.
Cocktails from our bar stocks were enjoyed in various bungalows.
Dinner on the first night at the Comino Hotel was highlighted by
Harry’s surprise presentation of the national flags of each group member and
the Maltese flag for later presentation to Leslie for his help with getting the
group to Malta. The second
night’s dinner was tinged with sadness as we said farewell to Roly who would
leave the next day. Throughout the
tour Roly’s enthusiasm and joy at being with friends and family he rarely has
the opportunity to see was evident and his words of farewell included his pride
in being of Maltese background and thankful for his father’s wartime sacrifice
to defend the island. Being an MBE, Roland was thrilled to have understood
some of his father’s experience sixty years beforehand.
The night included one more highlight as we boarded the staff boat to
Gozo to visit the festa at the Sacred Heart Church in Fontana.
The pageantry, colour and excitement were a wonderful surprise to those
who had not seen such a part of the Maltese experience before.
The following day Roland did leave and there were no dry eyes ashore and
certainly the waving Roly shed many as he disappeared out of sight on his way
back to California via Sliema and London.
one further wonderful night on Comino we had to leave as the ship, Sapphire was
to sail from Valletta with us on board. The
first half of this day was destined to be a rush like no other.
The boat left Comino on schedule at 8.45 and the hotel’s General
Manager, Marco Abdilla was there to farewell us, as he had been during each hour
of our marvelous stay. The half
hour bus journey to Sliema took longer than expected and we endured a lecture
from the customs officials who could have left earlier if we had arrived as
anticipated. An open bar
caused most to miss the sights of the Grand Harbour only seen from the water.
Fortunately I have the photos to prove the grandeur of Valletta and the
Three Cities when viewed from the water.
days later the Sapphire returned us after visiting Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii,
Messina, Taormina and Mt Etna. An
unheralded arrival caused the group to again miss the wonderful entrance to the
Grand Harbour. My photographs of
the departure had taken on greater significance.
was due to fly in from Rome to join us. Harry,
Vilma and myself drove to the airport to meet her.
Harry insisted on buying a newspaper to hide behind and was disappointed
both Maltese newspapers were tabloid. He
wanted bigger. From the moment the plane touched down Harry’s newspaper
covered him. When Sylvana did
emerge from the baggage hall she was guided to an empty seat next to a man,
seemingly engrossed in his newspaper . The
newspaper eventually came down and Sylvana turned to recognise Harry, apparently
unchanged in forty-eight years.
night Vilma, Edna, Lily, Sylvana and Magda attempted the set up for a duplicate
of a 1955 photograph. The faces
were similar but wide angle lens were not required in 1955.
If it took so long to set up in Alexandria for one photograph they would
have missed the evacuation boat and probably the revolution too.
Harry stood in unconvincingly for a missing sixth female.
began at La Favorita in Marsascala. Rizze,
sea dates and many many other delicacies were a prelude to the opportunity to
thank Leslie for his interest and constant help to ensure the group enjoyed
their stay. Leslie’s pride in
Malta had reached everyone and all agreed to his suggestion that Malta was
perhaps the closest to the land the group had in common, the Egypt that they had
left in the fifties.
the next two days the group dispersed to their own corners of the earth but with
memories that will not dim. Sander
and Vilma’s return to Brazil via Copenhagen was the last farewell and like all
the others it was filled with sadness to be parting but gratitude to have had
such a wonderful time together. Malta
remains but each future visit will bring back the wonderful memories of a
special group of people scattered to various parts of the world but brought
together with their families by memories and a common background in Egypt and a shared experience in Malta.
Malta reunion, June 2002
Back row, from left > right : Sander Gellert, Lily Savona, Roland Cassar, Vilma Gellert, Magda Henderson, Hrant Leylekian
Front row, from left > right : Antonio Pezzoni, Giosi Pezzoni, Edna Grigg, Glenn Grigg, Salvino Savona.
Participants were as follows :
Glenn and Edna Grigg (Cassar) - Melbourne, Australia
Sal and Lillian Savona (Cassar) - Sydney, Australia
Sander and Vilma Gellert (Corcos) - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Madeleine Henderson (Farrugia) - Sydney, Australia
Sylvana di Filippo (Attard) - Rome, Italy
Antonio and Giosi Pezzoni (Pennisi) - Milan, Italy
Hrant (Harry) Leylekian - Los Angeles, California, USA
Roland Cassar - Atascadero, California, USA
Leslie Cassar - Sydney, Australia
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