‘Beaten and spat on because of who we were’

Have your say

“They called me ‘The Holy Virgin’ because I didn’t understand the jokes they [older men] were telling. And then I was a ‘Pape’ because I was a Catholic.

They used to say to me, ‘Get back to Mussolini’, ‘You’re a Pape’ and this and that. Then one day I just couldn’t take it any more and I just answered back. What it was, one of them had started – they were always cursing and swearing – well, I wasn’t brought up like that and in my parents’ home, maybe my father did swear but I never, ever heard him. It was never, ever done in front of any of the children and I said: ‘If you don’t mind, I’d rather you didn’t use that language when I am about.’ I said, ‘I just don’t like it.’

I wish I had never opened my mouth. Because they ganged up on me. And they battered me to pulp. They got me on the ground and they used me like a football.”

n Antonietta Paci, born and raised in the Southside where her family owned an ice cream shop. She died before Dr Ugolini’s book was published.

“At the time the blackout was on we were frightened to go out at night but I was never accosted once in the streets. Where we got an awful lot of abuse was standing at the back of the counter.

One night in particular, a man came in. He was a wicked man; he had one leg. He asked me for a fish supper but he got it in the face by the time I was finished.

I had a tartan skirt on. He called me all the Italian so-and-sos: ‘Get back to Italy, take that tartan skirt off. You’re not entitled to put a British skirt on. You’re not a Scots person.’ He went on till I could stand it no longer.

My mother said, ‘Fiorinta, please. Don’t start.’ She was frightened; she was scared.

But I lost my temper and he got the supper in his eye.”

n Fiorinta Gallo, 84, born and raised in Leith where her parents owned a fish and chip shop. She lost her father on the Arandora Star.

“I was 16 and my brother was 12 and I had to take him away from school. For one thing he would have got beaten up if he’d have stayed at school.

I had to be a mother to him, I had to look after him; I had to do everything for him. And I kept the business going. I was the only girl in Edinburgh that was on her own, that had no parents behind her, that kept the shop open.

I couldn’t get any money that my father had in the bank, it was all... ‘frozen’ they called it then.

With him being an alien and all that, I couldn’t get his money. I was underage, nobody would give me credit. And I had to work hard to have the money up front to buy things and... at that age, I mean, it was dreadful what I went through. I was beaten and everything in the shop. Spat on.

It was dreadful. It was really... and ones that you thought were your real good friends. I was brought up with them yet [one girl’s parents] they forbid her to speak to me any more, you know and things like that. At that age that really hurt, I was on my own. On my own.”

n The late Antonietta Paci.