Arriving in Holland and not speaking a word of the local language, expressing oneself with gestures «with hands and feet». Thus began, in Arnhem, the life of 70-year-old Mario Agus , a native of Gadoni , who on 19 May celebrated exactly 50 years of emigration to the Netherlands.

Before this experience he had been working in Turin, at Lancia di Chivasso, «so leaving Sardinia for Holland wasn't a shock, I had already packed my suitcase, said goodbye to family and friends, I lived far away, even if there it was the possibility of being on the phone often».

Today Agus is a consultant for the three Sardinian clubs in Holland, given that the federation no longer exists, and this is because more and more associations are closing their doors: there is less presence of young people and at the same time the contributions from the Region decrease .

In Arnhem «I even worked three shifts, meanwhile I went to school to learn Dutch, and I gradually integrated» . His wife met her in a disco and, as the months passed, Agus began to meet other Sardinians, "there was already a great desire to get together, to create an association". The first parties to scrape together economic resources – «we were about 350 emigrants» -, to apply to the Region of Sardinia to be able to obtain, in one way or another, a contribution (at the time there was still no law dedicated to emigration), and in 1985 they manage to obtain 5 million lire. «I was secretary of the “Amici Mediterranei” club, then I became president, again in the 1980s, and I still am». A very long period at the helm of the association, without any turnover: «Because it is a very big commitment and not everyone wants this position which implies legal and financial responsibilities . It takes a long time, but I must say that it is a role that has allowed me to improve my working life as well. Through Sardinian associations I met many people, I managed to get a municipal job. Now I'm retired, before I was in charge of coordinating 15 volunteers, I also organized language courses, and in the meantime I was carrying out many initiatives for the club».

In the first years of emigration, Italians were not well regarded, "indeed they were discriminated against, but the Sardinians were the best at integrating, and the Dutch have always loved us".

Those who leave the island today have a very different personal profile compared to those who left in the 1960s and 1970s .

«In the meantime, they no longer have the cardboard suitcase, and inside the new one they have a computer, academic qualifications. But this is not enough: sometimes they call us to ask for help, often we manage to find them a job. It is clear that, having a degree, they aspire to jobs of a certain level but at least for the first period it is easier for them to be employed in restaurants and pizzerias, even as dishwashers. It happens, and I think you can be satisfied initially and then continue, integrate and pursue your dreams».

Other differences between the emigrants of yesterday and those of today?

«Before we had an almost physical need to meet, we missed Sardinia and the family, we wanted to talk in limba , share memories, stories, traditions. Today the young man fails at the club, even if he participates in cultural and social activities. Our office has adapted, we don't open every day as before but three times a week or by appointment. We are involved in various sectors».


«We are a sort of service center, there are many elderly people who may retire and have to deal with paperwork, or their children and grandchildren who are grappling with hereditary succession issues relating to properties in Italy. And many find themselves in difficulty, they don't know the Italian laws, and we help them. From a meeting place to meet fellow countrymen, drink a coffee or a beer together and play cards, now the club carries out a much more important job from the point of view of society».

What do you see in the future of these associations?

«I imagine them increasingly projected towards supporting the weakest. And also for this reason we are committed to trying to involve the new generations, to have continuity. The elderly are slowly passing away, we have to find who will take our place. Of course, I understand well the kids who prefer to go dancing rather than come to the club, let alone, even I did it at their age, it seems normal to me ».

Among the results obtained there is the possibility, today, of finding Sardinian food and wine products for sale.

«When I arrived in Holland there weren't any food products from my land, now they are everywhere. This means that they are imported, that behind this market there are families, in Sardinia, who also live thanks to foreign trade».

With funding from the Region are you able to move forward?

«Before, for the initiatives of the Sardinian clubs around the world, we could count on a budget of 4 million euros, today it is half, and the difference is felt. And then: everything has increased, from rent to bills. The Region does not reimburse expenses 100 percent, this means that we have to make the difference, and it is not always easy to obtain real profits from the demonstrations ».

In Italy instead?

«Everything is different: I have nothing against the Italian clubs, but there are more than 70 of them, they recently recognized another one, it is clear that the more they grow, the more the quota available to other realities such as those located abroad will decrease. And in Holland we are in further difficulty given that there is no longer even the federation ».

And the members of his club?

“About 200, plus the friends they bring. Many former emigrants have returned to Sardinia, the figure has decreased a lot».

How many Sardinians are there in Holland?

«Without presumption of precision I would say around 16,000. But we need to find a way to involve more young people to take our place and continue this project. My generation can't go on forever."

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