(1/3) Both my parents worked in the same textile factory from the age of 13. Mum was a weaver, Dad worked with yarn. Our town in the North of Portugal survived entirely on the textile industry, but once companies started moving offshore for cheaper labour, everything started collapsing. Eventually, the factory stopped paying people on time, so my mum had to work extra jobs – she cleaned houses before her shift and did sewing work at home after her shift, working from 6 am to 11pm. And we still had to buy everything on credit and then pay our bills at the end of the month. That’s what everybody did to survive.
When I was 15 and my brother was 3, my parents decided it just wasn’t possible to continue in Portugal. They realised they couldn’t give us a future by staying, and that they would never be able to afford higher education for us, which was something they had always regretted not being able to have for themselves.
My parents didn’t know anyone in Australia, but they found a woman in the village who had a son here and asked if he would mind helping when we first arrived. She said yes, so when we arrived we had this lovely welcome from total strangers – Joao and Fatima, who picked us up from the airport, let us stay with them for about 3 weeks, and then helped us to do all our paperwork and to find a house to live in. They were wonderful, a tremendous help, and we’re still great friends, even after all these years.
I don’t think the gratitude ever really goes away, it’s immeasurable.
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