A story illustrating an ancestral custom – ‘A Chjamata’

There is in Corsica, an ancestral custom which perfectly denotes the sense of honour, duty and morality of the inhabitants of the island.
When the head of a family dies, the objective of ‘a chjamata’ is to reunite all the men of the village, during a work period. This happens on a Sunday, and the villagers carry out in one day, what the deceased would have taken several weeks to do. This event, continues until the children’s majority, and often even well beyond.

Carbuccia 1913.
Barbarella had unfortunately resorted to this gesture of righteousness and generosity. Her dear husband died within a few hours, victim of a hernia, leaving their family and whose youngest boy, was only ten years of age. The child was called Jules-Baptiste. Happiness, tranquility, comfort, everything had changed dramatically, from that cursed moment which had left Barbarella a weeping widow – lost, ruined and not knowing what to do in order to raise her orphans.
Of course, ‘a chjamata’ did not leave her in misery. Her family was generous and kind, but she was a proud woman and did not want to receive charity. The village’s priest asked her to come and work at the presbytery. Was it out of charity or necessity, or had he fallen in love with Barbarella ? Anyway, he only employed the young widow who had accepted this degrading position, for a few days.

From Carbuccia to Véro, even in those days, the news was travelling fast.
Julia dismayed, was to learn that her dead brother’s wife had entered the priest’s service. This was inacceptable – it meant dishonour. Never before had such a black mark stained their family. Whether one worked for a priest, or for a king, one was still a servant. And, for the Bellini from Cardetu, it could not be tolerated that one of theirs become a servant for anybody.
Jumping into the first diligence, Julia found herself in her native village, where she had to reunite her close relatives, in order to set up a family council.
Julia proposed to bring up Augustine. She would also pay a pension to her sister-in-law, insofar as her means would allow her to do so.
François-Marie was a young man, he could earn his living working daily.
The older unmarried daughters would live with their mother.
Jules-Baptiste, the dear last child remained to be catered for.
Caroline, the eldest sister proposed to take him into her family. She had been married for a long time, and had a young boy just slightly younger than Jules-Baptiste. Obviously, life was difficult then too, however Caroline’s husband was a civil servant, and he had land and livestock.
Caroline had taken on to bring up her young brother – and this is what she did, in a certain sense.

The difference lay in the fact that her son Dominique, was sent to school and university, whilst Jules was sent to mind the goats, cut wood and work in the fields. Barbarella suffered terribly from this situation, however she couldn’t do anything about it. In Corsica, it was frequent to give the same first name to brothers and sisters. This is how two Jules were found in the Bellini family. 
Jules-Baptiste and Jules François-Marie – and a multitude of Jean ‘something’, in every home. So, if Laure and Barbarella had lost a Jean-Baptiste during the first war, Jean-Dominique remained for the joy of all.
Jean-Dominique, who did not want to follow the example of his father, had continued to do substantial studies, and had found a job at the Compagnie des Messageries-Maritimes, where he was an intendant. As is correct, the intendant was a friend of the canteen keeper, and his name was Calisi.
Which of the two of them had the idea to establish an affair of maritime food supplies ? Perhaps it was Nivière or Giacobbi, who were also part of this team in 1902 ? It is unknown. Neither is the reason for which Jean-Dominique, who had participated in the launching of this business, had refused to be a member of the company. The fact remains, that Calisi remained lord and master and Jean-Dominique was his employee.
This situation was not to his displeasure.
Jean-Dominique had not wasted time in making sure a job as a barman would be reserved for his nephew, on a liner carrying out the main lines.
Jules-Baptiste arrived from Corsica on the day of his sixteenth birthday. It was the first time he left his island. In fact, he had never gone anywhere, and things were going to change. Marseille welcomed a tall, shy boy – whose clothes were ridiculous from poverty. A boy who spoke little, for he had spent his time in the fields or watching the herd. And, in the evenings, neither his brother-in-law nor his sister had the courage to chat a little to him. He went to bed very early, because he had to get up very early.
Jules-Baptiste was to reserve a disgust for speech all his life.
From the liner coming from Corsica, he was brought to a German boat, the Sobral.

The big adventure was about to begin.
The little orphan who sometimes only eat a handful of bad chestnuts, was now going to discover the high living of the greatest liners, and was about to live an out of the ordinary existence.
Caroline’s son went on to pursue higher education. He became Commissaire départemental de la Corse. This was Dominique Gubanti.

Source: Monique Bellini / Augustin Chiodetti
MBGC Editions published in: Extrait de Certains de la Diaspora

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