Journey Of A Lifetime

September 22, 2021

Relaxation and recreation are the typically anticipated activities when one retires. But for Nancy Messina, The Royce’s own author in residence, retirement became a perfect opportunity to debut her first book, A Migrant’s Story.

An engrossing and heartfelt memoir, Nancy’s story is an ode to the power of tradition, cultures and family values across time and tide. We spoke to Nancy about her literary debut and the significance of creating a legacy of our own.

Congratulations on the release of your first book A Migrant’s Story. Did you celebrate the launch last year?

Initially I tried to do a launch, then The Royce was beautiful enough to say, “I will do it for you”. We had the book launch planned in-between the lockdowns for the end of last year, I think it was. A lovely launch was held for me here at The Royce with all the residents and some of my family attending, which was just wonderful.

What inspired you to share your family’s story?

My Dad, [Antonino Vittorino] had started writing a book many years ago. Growing up, I remember his stories about coming to Australia. He loved Australia so much and I remember when my sister was born he kept saying “I’ve got a little kangaroo now!”

Your dad’s journey from Sicily all the way to Australia must have been daunting…

Dad came to Australia in 1955 following my uncle’s recommendation. Almost instantly, he thought the place was wonderful. He said to my uncle, “I’m going to call my wife and say I’m not coming back—I’m staying!”

Nancy Messina at her book launch earlier in the year.

What an endorsement! And a positive mindset, too…

Listening to my dad was an inspiration. His stories made me feel so blessed and grateful for what I had, and how tough they had it. It made me appreciate what I had, although I wasn’t always like that. This book allowed me to finish my dad’s story based on what he told us, but I could also write my own story and leave a legacy for my family. And also, different migrants too. All the Europeans, all the people from overseas—we all have a story to tell.

This connection to the Australian migrant experience that you highlight is important. Does your book explore typical themes or tropes of this migrant stories?

As I look back on my life, the number one theme is family, without a doubt. To me, family is everything—it’s a foundation for everything, for survival. My story was really based on the simple lessons that my parents taught me. Working hard, having an inspiration, never giving up even when things go wrong—this is how my life was formed. I lost my late husband [Marco Messina] whom I loved dearly, after 30 years of marriage. But I still smile, and I still go on for my family. The sacrifices of my father and my mother in life taught me that it’s not always about us. We learn from our sacrifices but more importantly we can share them and inspire others to continue. It’s basically about giving, rather than taking—paying it forward.

What’s your advice for people keen to share their own family story?

I’ve tried to spread the word that it is vital to share your story. We all have a story to tell—just think about your future family and creating something they can really cherish. Personally, I think that my great grandchildren will really appreciate this story, and that’s what leaving a legacy is all about. It is what my Dad did prior, and now I’ve done it for him—I’m so glad that I did.

A Migrant’s Story by Nancy Messina is available on Amazon.


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