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The village of Sutera was facing demographic doom as young people have been leaving for generations. After 40 years working in Sicilian high schools, retired school teacher Mario Tona now gives Italian lessons to newly arrived migrants stampa su forex bologna er an unpaid volunteer. On a recent day downtown, he was eagerly welcoming his new students for a quick tour of the village in central Sicily. He points out the important landmarks. It’s the place where we try to resolve our problems. Tona’s class consists of 34 students, hailing from Gambia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Nepal.

They repeat the words he teaches them, but the lesson is soon halted as passersby greet the students by name: Carmelina Salomone, owner of a nearby grocery store, hugs and greets Kufi, Shyam, Sonna and Alex. In the 1960s we had 5,000 inhabitants, but now only around 1,500 are left. Young people have always left town, many for northern Italy, and later also for northern Europe. As much as I possibly can, I try to make these young people independent. The journey to Sutera is a difficult one. Though a mere 39 kilometers from the provincial capital of Caltanissetta in the heart of Sicily, covering the distance takes 90 minutes by car on a winding, unfinished and mountainous road.

The town is isolated among fields of grazing sheep, blooming almond blossoms and prickly pears, at the foot of a giant monolithic rock called the Mountain of San Paolino. There’s only one bus that leaves at 5:50 in the morning, but in Sutera there are good people, not racists. They really do help us, and when I finally get a job as an electrician I want to repay them for the help they’ve given us. In conservative central Sicily, however, the true mark of success came just before Christmas. The town proudly hosted its annual live nativity scene, which regularly draws 15,000 visitors — and this time Richy, the Nigerian migrant, took part as one of the three Wise Men.

Carmelina, the shopkeeper, describes her friendship with an immigrant who has since left Sutera. We worked together in the shop and she helped me sew. When you look these people in the eye, you really empathize with them. Families remain in Sutera until they get a response to their asylum applications, which usually takes around two years.