By Nadeska Noriega.
Resilience seems to be in his gens of Antonio Petricca, an Italian immigrant who arrived in Venezuela, fleeing the chaos of the post-war era. He ended up making beachside Vargas state his home, where he worked, raised a family, and celebrated, last week, his 90 years of life.
Petricca, who lived near Montecasino during the war and arrived in Venezuela during the military dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez, says that he became a sponsor of El Pitazo because he needs to be “adequately informed.” For this reason, he checks his Twitter timeline daily and decided to join as an ally of El Pitazo, one of his favorite sources for news.
“I lived through the horrors of war. I saw death up close. I felt what it meant that others wanted to rule you without respect. I suffered from extreme poverty. That is why I value freedom. I value to be informed, I value everything I have lived in this country, but above all, I do not lose hope that Venezuela will come out of this situation. As an ally of El Pitazo, I honor democracy, I honor hope, and I recognize the work you do for the country,” said Petricca.
Antonio -now retired after closing the family business, the famous Los Cocos Pharmacy- likes to walk, accompanied by his wife Giovanna, who everyone calls Juanita, around his neighborhood, in the east Caribbean coast of Venezuela. An evening walk that revitalizes him and makes him forget, for minutes, the confinement by the COVID-19.
Two other things make him passionate and have made the confinement lighter: reading and being informed. So it is common to see him with his smartphone reading the social network that attracts him most, Twitter.
“You can’t turn your back on reality; you have to be aware of the economic and social news. You have to know about the situation of COVID- 19. You accumulate years, but that doesn’t stop you from being hungry for information. I like Twitter because they are news in little capsules, and I can investigate more if I open the link,” explains the man, with a marked accent that gives away his national origins.
In the searching of information, Antonio met El Pitazo and became his follower and consistent reader. Then, he discovered that the news outlet was looking for allies through a membership plan. And just as he did not hesitate to cross the ocean to look for opportunities, he did not hesitate to support the portal that serves as his information source.
After overcoming the obstacles of the slowest internet connection speeds in the Western Hemisphere and the blockage suffered by the website of El Pitazo, Antonio Petricca became the elder of all of the sponsors of this media outlet. With the help of his grandson, who lives in Canada, he became an ally for the next twelve months. As it has happened in other chapters of his life, he did not give up until he achieved it.
From the horror to a new life
The area where he was born, a mountain village two hours from Rome, was near an abbey called Montecasino, a place that because, of its strategic location, was a passage for troops, especially for the German army under the command of Adolf Hitler.
The abbey was the site of one of the most famous battles of World War II as the Germans fought their fighting retreat up the Italian peninsula and towards Germany. Allied bombing raids reduced the historical monastery to rubble, destroying historical and religious artifacts.
At the age of nine, Antonio was already an orphan of his mother and was left as the care of two younger brothers, since his father was an activist against the totalitarian regime of Benito Mussolini, activities for which he spent long periods in prison.
As a child, he remembers that he had to walk “on a carpet of human remains,” witness executions in the town square, or receive the beatings of the soldiers to get to the house of his relatives and get food scraps for him and his brothers.
Despite all the calamities, Antonio Petricca managed to go to Milan to study. He was already there when he heard that Mussolini got toppled. However, the post-war era in Europe would be full of poverty, hatred, and unemployment.
He was about to graduate as an accountant when a friend wrote to him from Venezuela; he told him that they were looking for labor there and that there was well remuneration. It was April 30, 1955. He arrived in La Guaira without knowing how to speak Spanish, much less write or read it.
The Perez Jimenez dictatorship was finishing up work in the Caracas-La Guaira highway connecting Vargas state with the capital, impressive work, for 1950, which used to tunnels and several bridges to speed up transportation between the seat of executive power and the main port and airport.
“At that time, we migrant workers lived in sheds. I didn’t know anything about operating heavy machinery or construction, but I learned it,” Don Antonio says.
The initial plan of Antonio Petricca was to work for two or three years in Venezuela, make some money, and return to rebuild a life in his hometown. But destiny had other designs: he fell in love with another Italian who had also migrated to Venezuela with his parents. With her, he raised a family of three children: Maria Antonietta, Sonia, and Antonio.
When he listens to some Venezuelan comments on the situation of the country, Antonio responds: “All that and more we lived in the war. And we stood up. What remains is to fight. Surrender is not an option. I do not lose hope and faith in Venezuela. Venezuela has things that any other country in the world would like to have, and if Italy came out of it, we have the more right to come out of it. That principle has accompanied me all my life.”
That mantra gave him the strength to rise from the consequences of the Vargas tragedy (a landslide which killed 500,00 people) when in 1999, they lost their business and their home. Antonio did not want to abandon his house and decided to be a leader in the recovery of the Palmar Este housing development in Caraballeda.
“Life has shown me the worst face, but also happiness. That is why I do not lose faith. The new generations of Venezuelans cannot lose hope, even if they feel their freedoms have destroyed. I recognize that struggle and that hope in El Pitazo; that is why I felt it was so important to help them. That is my contribution. We have to keep fighting and be truly informed.”