Beyond 2020 pt2– Italy

courtesy of Alessia Russo

Alessia Russo is from Italy and now attends Sciences Po in Reims.  Spring 2020, she was unexpectedly quarantined for two months at home with her parents and two older brothers in her native village in the north.

So, according to you, how was this year universally impactful?

Alessia: So, 2020 was definitely… an eventful year. Something unexpected— when I think of the beginning 2020, it was the second semester at Sciences Po, and honestly it was the best time of our lives. It went from partying and socializing to quarantining at home.

One lesson I definitely got from 2020 was not to take anything for granted.

The year was particularly impactful in that even though people were physically so far apart, it united them against this common thread that for once wasn’t another country or another person but this virus.

Back in March, I went back to Italy. There, the Covid pandemic was hitting really badly. Italy was the first Western country to suffer a lot from it, especially in terms of death toll. So, we had a really strict lockdown where I literally didn’t step out of the house— not even for a walk— for two-months straight.

It really felt like the world was crumbling… because we were the first, we didn’t know what was going to come of this, we did not see the light at the end of the tunnel. We just kept seeing people who were dying.

In particular there’s one city in Bergamo, in the northern part of Italy. It’s basically one of the worst hit cities by Covid all over the world in terms of mortality. Their morgues were so filled with people that had died because of Covid that the military had to bring coffins out of the city. There’s this photo of the military trucks almost parading out of the city filled with coffins.

At the same time, when we hit rock bottom, every day at 6pm, all the Italians would sing. Even if we could not get out of our houses, the virus was winning against us, we still had to be strong.

Honestly, being on the balcony at 6pm every day for those moments was something that touched me profoundly. In that sense, I think 2020 was impactful by making us connect and bond more strongly.

Each person experienced the universal shock of their own personal way –we seemingly all went through highs and lows:

Personally, 2020 gave me the chance to be together with my family for two whole months which hadn’t happened in 10 years because I have two older brothers and alternatively, we’ve all been traveling and studying abroad so normally I would get to spend no more than a week with them.

probably the last time I’ll be living with my parents

Because of Covid, we were actually stuck in the same house for two months. And that’s probably the last time that’ll ever happen. It’s also probably the last time I’ll be living with my parents for two months as they’re growing old and I’m entering adulthood. It really made me realize not to take anything for granted— maybe that could’ve been the last happy time all together with family. Sometimes it gets a little melancholic and all, but I guess that’s how it really shaped me, personally.

Also, in the sense of prioritizing or rather reconsidering my priorities. Putting less emphasis on meaningless/ banal things that seem so important in the short term, but in the long term you don’t really care— you’re not going to have a big remorse over doing or not doing that thing. So, that definitely was another lesson of 2020.

If 2020 was a book, each chapter an account of one’s own personal experience of the year, what would be the title  of your chapter? 

If I had to pick a title for my chapter of 2020, it would definitely be “Remembering What Matters”, in the sense, as I said before, it really allowed me to reconsider what’s important every day in life and what it isn’t. Things we take for granted everyday like our liberty to just walk out of the house, to see friends, hug friends, share a drink… those things aren’t taken for granted anymore.

What’s a memory of yours from this year you hope to preserve forever? 

As I was saying, there were many instances and examples of people uniting and connecting and helping each other out across the world. One that profoundly touched me was back in April, full lockdown in Italy when situation was pretty bad. We were singing out on the balconies and videos went round all around the world saying “oh, there are Italians singing on the balconies” and this German neighborhood decided to sing an Italian song, “Bella Ciao”.

You probably know it from Casa de Papel but was a song sung during World War II by the Italian Resistance members against Nazis and fascists. So, this little German neighborhood got out on their balconies and sang and played this song in honor to their Italians brothers to show us their support. And at the same time, Germany was taking in patients from Italy that had Covid. Since our ICUs were filled, Germany was symbolically taking some patients in. That was really touching because that song was sung by Italian resistance members against the German Nazi leaders back seventy years ago, and seventy years later, these two nations are helping each other out during this really harsh moment.

How will you remember 2020 twenty years from now? 

Honestly, regarding how I will remember 2020 twenty years from now, I can only imagine telling my kids— I’d probably have kids, and they’d likely be teenagers… I don’t even know what it’ll be like in 20 years. I’ll probably be telling them “you know, I was a teenager and wanted to go out and party, but I couldn’t because there was a pandemic, and I spent months at home”.

I have this feeling it’s just the beginning

I could almost imagine saying to my kids “don’t go out tonight— I couldn’t leave the house for months; you can miss this night”. Jokes apart: I’ll definitely remember it as a crazy year, but at the same time, I feel like right now 2020 has been this enormous and eventful year and it will be in our memory… but I have this feeling it’s just the beginning.

Maybe I’m very negative, but there’s going to be so much more going on in the next twenty years or so, that 2020 will just the “that’s when it all started”, the starter to a whole chain of events. so, it won’t be the ugly year but rather “oh, it wasn’t so bad in 2020, now it got worse”.

How will having lived 2020 impact the year to come –either in terms of new general normalcy or rather how you envision the effects on you own life post-pandemic? 

really live by the “Y.O.L.O.” slogan

Finally, for 2021, I’m trying to really live by the “Y.O.L.O.” slogan, because it’s true. The fact that I haven’t really gotten to see my friends as much as I’ve wanted, I almost feel like I was robbed a couple months of my life.

I really want to get the most out of my 2021 in seeing friends, connecting with people, and traveling— well, that’s probably more towards the end of 2021. But really going out there and spending the least possible amount of time at home since 2020 was the year of “you stay at home, you find yourself, you find your balance”.

Now, I’m ready to step out again.

About the Article

A  look at the pandemic and how one person rode out the quarantine with her family in Italy.

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