For Lina Mormile her vegetable garden not only provides food for her body but food for her soul.
Tending her Warrawong backyard full of artichokes, beans, and spinach as well as a chicken shed keeps her happy. While she works she sings Italian songs to remind her of the place she left 51 years ago.
Mrs Mormile’s story, focusing on her love of gardening, is told along with the stories of other elderly Italian Illawarra residents in a new documentary, My Backyard Your Backyard, to be officially launched and screened at Centro CBD, Wollongong, on October 20.
The film is a project of the Italian Social Welfare Organisation (ItSoWel). It was produced by Sandra Pires of Bulli’s Why Documentaries, commissioned by the Community Relations Commission of NSW and supported by organisations such as the University of Wollongong.
ItSoWel executive officer Giovanna Cardamone said the idea was to capture Italian backyards in the region, showing links to well-being, sustainability and traditional knowledge through personal stories of love, family and neighbours.
The Advertiser visited Mrs Mormile, 77, at her home overlooking Lake Illawarra last week and it soon became clear that gardening is in her blood.
She and her three sisters, including Maria Antonelli, 80, live on the same street and all have vegetable gardens. They all feature in the film.
Mrs Mormile lived on a family farm in Lazio, living off the land. Her late husband Pasquale was a fruit and vegetable vendor before they moved to Australia in 1961. Mr Mormile looked after their garden until he died in 1995.
That’s when Mrs Mormile took over: ‘‘It’s important because you have fresh food and it also keeps you physically active,’’ she said through interpreter Ms Cardamone.
‘‘Lina loves working in the garden but she can’t as much because of her health. She longs for it,’’ Ms Cardamone said.
The fruit and vegetables grown are shared among families and friends. Seeds brought over from Italy long ago are also saved and shared.
Mrs Mormile and Mrs Antonelli said when they are gone the gardens will be abandoned but they hope their children will appreciate them through the DVD.
The My Backyard Your Backyard launch is open to the public. RSVP to ItSoWel by October 15.