Me, The First Little bee graduate

Born in S. Agata De’ Goti (Benevento), Nicoletta is a former Little Bee, supported by the "Beehive" project of the Monastery of Saint Rita of Cascia. Her family is poor: Nicola, her dad, does odd jobs; her mum, Agata, runs up debts with the shopkeepers of the town so that her four children lack nothing; and brothers Gennaro and Giovanni and sister Annamaria who, one day, leave with her, headed for Cascia.

My name is Nicole Pollastro, I was born in S. Agata De’ Goti, a small town in the province of Benevento, I come from a large and poor family: my father, Nicola, who has never had a fixed job in his life, allowed us live from one day to the next by doing odd jobs to earn what little it took to survive, but often that was not enough; my mother, Agatha, a housewife, got into debt with the town’s food shops and butchers so that we would not lack anything; and, finally, we four children - Gennaro the oldest, me, Annamaria and Giovanni.
The love, affection, unity among us made up for the economic difficulties, the discrimination, the exclusion and the prejudice we had to face every day at the hands of our peers and of the people of the town.

My sister Annamaria was just in Primary 5 when her German teacher, Mario Argento, knowing about our problems, called my mother to school to discuss the possibilities of sending us to boarding school in Cascia, to Saint Rita’s. My mother had always been afraid of boarding schools and social workers, afraid that they would take her children away from her, as has happened with the children of my father by a previous marriage, but fortunately, she was well reassured that this would never happen.

I still remember that night in August, while my mother cuddled to wish us good night, when she asked us if we wanted to go to boarding school; at first it seemed like a joke then, when we realized that she was serious, I was the first to say yes. I didn’t want not run away from my parents, but from the environment around us, from the meanness of people, and from the indifference of the institutions of the town, where no one did anything to help us. Annamaria and Giovanni were easily swayed because it seemed like a game to them, probably because they were too young to realise what was going on, but Gennaro only joined us a year later, because he felt our lack, he said that we had left him alone, so he plucked up courage and came too.
At the beginning of the school year in September, we were separated from our parents for the first time, we said goodbye at home, and a nun in the town, Sister Romana, accompanied us to the boarding school. How much sadness in our eyes and at the same time how much hope, hope for a better life!

That trip was never-ending, Cascia was surrounded by mountains, the air was cold, so cold that Sister Melania changed our clothing. After lunch spent together, we said goodbye to Giovanni, who was going to Roccaporena, to the boy’s institute which was a few minutes’ drive from us.
At the beginning, these were sad days that were difficult to overcome for all of us. Then, time passed quickly and we settled in more and more, the sisters did not make us want for anything, and the assistants that followed us in our studies also acted as mother. I was followed by M. Laura, who had a very important role in my development. The other girls, the Little Bees, were like sisters for us; we helped each other, all had a difficult past behind them and we trusted in each other, there was a good relationship, we were no longer alone.

In the meantime, my parents called us every day from the house of a neighbour because they did not have a phone - they could not afford to pay the bill - and, as soon as they had the opportunity, they caught a train, even without a ticket, and came to see us. They never abandoned us, there were always close, but above all they taught us to love, to love each other.

We went home to them only in the school holidays, at Easter and a month in the summer; we returned home with the bus in the early afternoon and my father was already in the square at 6 in the morning waiting for us, proud of us. Only now that I am a mother can I begin to understand, the loneliness, sadness and sacrifice that my parents had to deal with when they found themselves alone, without their four children.
With our school years attended in boarding school, we all managed to get a junior secondary diploma: Annamaria got her diploma as a seamstress; Gennaro got his as an electrical mechanical; Giovanni got a science diploma, and I got mine in accounting and bookkeeping. It was precisely at the time of the diploma that I entered in crisis: leaving the boarding school, which by now had become my family, and going back again to the starting point was a thought that gave me no peace, it made ​​me feel bad.

I went to the head of the boarding school, Bernadette, and I found the strength and the courage to tell her with humility that I would like to continue my studies, and that I did not want to return to my town. At first, she was a bit surprised, usually the girls could not wait to get home, but for me it was the opposite; then she asked me what type of study interested me and I replied: I would like to become a nurse to help others.
She was happy with this choice, she saw me in that role, but she told me that they had never helped anyone after the diploma; nevertheless, she said she would talk with the Mother Abbess Superior and the nuns, and then she would let me know.
While preparing for the exams, Sister Melanie called me one day, suggesting that I work in their summer camp for two months in the laundry, encouraging me by saying that with the money that I would earned I could in the meantime enrol in university, then she kept repeating this phrase: "Nicole, let’s start like this, don’t worry, providence will help us". In moments of difficulty, I always remember these words. That day I was the happiest girl in the world, I had the opportunity to build a better future for myself, I could see the realisation of my dreams coming closer!

In September, a certain Mrs Ida from Milan showed up at school; she was one of many generous benefactors and felt the desire to do a good deed by donating money for the benefit of those girls who in that moment had to face difficulties and obstacles on leaving the school and facing life. Among others, Sister Melanie also mentioned ​​my name and I will never stop thanking her: with that money I was able to pay the first month's rent because the nearest university was in Foligno, and thus I began the course to become a nurse.
I always managed to finish my exams, I never had to repeat a year. And so, in 2005, I graduated! To help me with my thesis, there were the Augustinian fathers who had also helped me in this journey, especially "Father Luciano", the director, the assistants and my family, while the nuns were waiting for me in the Beehive, where there was a great party in my honour, even if that day was a party for all, for all those who had believed in me and who, together with me, had made ​​sacrifices in order to see that day arrive.

It was a great emotion, the first "Little Bee" to graduate, a great satisfaction that I saw in the eyes of the sisters, brimming with tears of joy. My father teased me, telling me: "Here’s the doctor of the family, I’ll never let you give me an injection, stay far away from me!"
A year after graduation, I married Lorenzo, a great guy who’s a parachutist in the army. I met him one summer when I went to my parents, he's also originally from the province of Benevento. The sisters gave me my wedding dress, really beautiful! Then along came Maria Rita, I could not call her otherwise, it’s a vow that I have dedicated to Saint Rita; Maria, because she was born on the eighth of May, the month of Our Lady. She’s now four years old and is the joy of my life. We live in Tuscany, where we have bought a house and I have been work in a hospital for three years. I lack nothing, I'm happy, every day I look up to the sky and thank Saint Rita for giving me all this.

I have kept in touch with the sisters, when I can I go to visit them, and we often hear each other by phone; they are and will always be in my heart. Once again, and I’ll never get tired of doing so, I want to say out loud ‘thank you, thank you and thank you all’.

With love, Nicoletta Pollastro.


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