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Published: June 18th 2012
Blue Lagoon My grandmother grew up during the air raids on Malta in WW2, she immigrated to Australia from Malta in 1955 at the age of 13. During World War II, Malta became the most bombed place on earth. At the outbreak of World War II, Malta was Britain’s most important Mediterranean naval base. As such, it was to protect east-west supply lines while blocking the passage between Italy and North Africa. When Mussolini plunged Italy into the war on June 10, 1940, Malta knew for sure that it was destined to play a frontline role. Malta’s worst period of the war was in early 1942, when the air raids never ceased. In April alone, 6700 tons of bombs rained down on the island and on the 15th of that month a special message from the British king, George VI, informed the people of Malta that they had collectively been awarded the George Cross for their unyielding bravery “…to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.” The Maltese minimized loss of life during the war by constructing air-raid shelters and relocating large numbers of the population from Valletta and Grand Harbour to
Between Comino and Cominotto island
My Great Grandmother and Grandmother
On their rooftop backyard in Malta before the family immigrated to Australia.
safer parts of the island. It took the Allied assault on Sicily in 1943 to effectively end Malta’s close involvement in the war. The island acted as a fighter base during the operation to capture Sicily’s airfields and once this had been achieved the Axis powers were unable to continue their harassment of shipping in the central Mediterranean. For Malta, three years of war had been intense. The islands had endured some of the most ruthless bombing of World War II and it was primarily because the buildings were of stone that huge sections of the towns were not destroyed in the air raids. Nearly 1500 Maltese civilians were killed in the air raids. After World War II, Malta's Emigration assisted emigrants with the cost of their travel. Between 1948 and 1967, 30 per cent of the population emigrated with 57.6%!m(MISSING)igrating to Australia.
Travelling to Malta has been the most special stop for me during our travels; Being of Maltease descent, I always knew that it was my destiny to travel to Malta and arriving there felt like arriving home. In my time there I felt a strong sense of connection and belonging. My source
of knowledge before arriving in Malta was my grandmother’s stories. Her first steps took place during WW2 airstrikes and her memories of family time spent on the beaches and of jumping from roof to roof in her hometown of Hamrun.
When we arrived in Malta we travelled from the airport to Birzebbuga where after 49 years of living in Australia my great aunty Mary now lives. Her house is very close to the beach and is very similar to the house she grew up in as a child, complete with a water well and rooftop backyard. We spent the entire day listening to her as she recalled her childhood in both Malta and Australia. We looked through old photographs of my mother, grandmother and great grandparents. She told us about her memories of WW2 of when she was hit by debris from an airstrike when she was caught in open air as her mother ran with her younger siblings, today she carries the scar on her arm.
The next day we left Brizebbuga to explore the Malta's capital, Valletta. Valletta is a charming city with large squares and winding streets and is surrounded by two stunning harbours. We
visited St Johns Cathedral while we were in Valletta and bought some souvenirs for the family. After a lot of walking the weather was warming up so we decided to go for a swim at St Julian’s Beach before eating dinner (traditional goats cheese ravioli) along the Sliema Strand.
Our third day in Malta was spent onboard a Fernandes cruising around Gozo, Comino and the Blue Lagoon. We cruised Noth westward towards Gozo where we dropped anchor in a secluded bay and jumped from the boat into the ocean. After a delicious lunch onboard we sailed towards Comino where we dropped anchor in the beautiful Blue Lagoon. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the magical crystal clear water of the lagoon and exploring the Island of Comino. We arrived home looking rather red and extremely tired after a lovely day.
On Sunday we travelled by bus to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk where we walked through the enormous markets along the harbour. Everything was on offer from jewlery to fresh seafood which we watched come straight from the boats to the stalls. The village itself was very pretty especially along the waterfront where hundreds of
A traditional fishing village located in the south-eastern part of Malta.
colourful boats where bobbing up and down. Later in the afternoon we visited the city of Vittoriosa in search of the memorial wall where my great great uncles name appears.
On Monday morning we travelled to Paola where we visited the Hypogeum. We had to book two months in advance to secure tickets as the site now only allows a small number of people entry each day. The Hypogeum is a unique and superb example of architecture in the negative which dates back to 3600BC. The Hypogeum consists of halls, chamber and passages hewn out of the living rock; the deepest room in the lower level is 10.6 metres under road surface.
We were glad we bought an all week bus pass as this allowed us to travel anywhere in the country for the entire week quite easily and cheeply. With our bus pass in hand we headed to visit Mdina. Mdina is the old capital of Malta, it is a medieval walled town situated on a hill in the centre of the island. Remains uncovered beyond the city’s walls suggest the importance of the general region to Malta’s Phoenician settlers. Mdina is commonly called the "Silent City"
Rooftop backyards in Birzebbuga
Similar to the neighbourhood of Hamrun where my grandmother remembers jumping from one rooftop to another.
by natives and visitors. Today the town is still confined within its walls, and has a population of just over three hundred.
On our way back from Mdina we decided to do a Harbour cruise where we cruised around Malta’s two natural harbours on either side of Valletta, Marsamxett Harbour and the Grand Harbour. It was a great way to learn about the history of Valletta and the Three Cities connected with the two Great Sieges of 1565 and 1942. After an evening stroll along the rocky Sliema beach front we sadly packed our bags for our morning flight to Cairo.
Malta is a breathtakingly beautiful country with an overwhelming charm. For me my visit to Malta was the most meaningful of all our travels, it provided me with a connection and a sense of cultural belonging that I have longed for. I know one day I will return hopefully with my mother and siblings and again with my own children.
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