Maria Iacuzio is from Italy and migrated at a very young age. Her story of migration is a long journey and it includes many changes in her life. Now she is based in London, a mother of two young children, a part-time teacher and a freelance radio journalist.
Maria is very involved in the Italo-British community with various activities, including organising a conference at Camden Town Hall for next year on domestic violence and its impact on immigrants, with the support of the Italian Mayor Lazzaro Pietragnoli. You will discover more about Maria through this interview.
The story of your migration started a long time ago when you first decided to go to America. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
I moved to New York with my husband. We were newly-wed and relocated through his company. I wasn’t happy at first to leave London. New York is somehow faster than London which is something that I adore but I didn’t like the American work ethic and neither did I like to be so far from my family and friends.
To have only two weeks holidays a year is very dysfunctional when you come from Europe and I missed my family terribly. I got a job at the bureau of “Il Sole 24 Ore” the financial paper of Italy, as the Editor assistant. I accepted the long hours and I loved the challenge of the job and the pressure of the deadlines, but I reckon that I coped well with it all because I had no children at the time. I wouldn’t like to sacrifice my children for my job.
How did you find London after this experience?
London is somehow home for me. I moved here as a postgraduate student and I have beautiful memories of my student life. It was here that I met my husband and I feel especially that I can easily go back and forward to Italy, as it is important for me to be on the same time zone.
How long did it take you to settle in a new country?
I moved back to London as a mum. I had my daughter and I strongly believe that it’s easy to be a mum in London compared to Manhattan, where I was living in New York. I hardly saw any children there. In London, there are plenty of mums and children and this creates occasions for new friendships. I missed the intellectual stimulation of work so I started writing for a publishing house from home, when my daughter was six months old. I discovered soon after that I was expecting my son and I had to stop working due to a difficult pregnancy. I then retrained to become a teacher and tried to fit the work around my children.
Where I was living in New York. I hardly saw any children there. In London, there are plenty of mums and children and this creates occasions for new friendships.
Now you are helping a lot of Italian people to ease their journey of being a migrant in a new country. How did this initiative come about?
I helped a friend who had been a victim of domestic violence. I phoned the Italian consulate many times, trying to speak to the previous Console. His office ignored my requests of help for information, as I was just a friend of this person. At that moment I realised the importance of representing people through an Association. Six months later I founded the Italian British Association.
For every migrant, one of the most difficult things is finding a job – how do you remember dealing with this challenge in your beginning?
I moved to London eighteen years ago and I believe that at the time there was a bit less competition than there is now. I was also younger and more aggressive and that does help!
What are the biggest challenges you have faced to succeed in London?
Having two young children and no family around to help. The cost of child care is huge and stretches me to my limit.
What is your strong point which keeps you working so hard?
I can lift the spirit of many Italian artists that we help through the Association. We have a project called “Exhibition for £1 a day” where they can manage to get noticed and sell some of their artwork in England. We also encourage those artists to teach art workshops for children. We are trying to take them out of some basic jobs as waiters or kitchen porters, and to make them focus on their skills and talents.
Are you happy with the life you are leading now?
Yes I am. I still think that we could organise more activities if we had a venue for the association. All the activities we do at the moment are self-funded. However, the particular field of our work has been recognised by the director Luca Vullo, who has included our Association in his documentary “Influx” on the Italians living in London. Influx will be out in January. We can’t wait to watch it.
What is your vision in the future?
Do more to facilitate the integration of the Italians living in the UK. I would like to create an independent ‘Italian House’ supported by private investors, to promote our culture and our arts. I am also a candidate running for election to the Comites (Committee of Italians Living Abroad) that will take place in December. The Comities need huge innovations and modernisation too. The last election happened 10 years ago and they don’t have women representatives or young people. People that work in the voluntary association have the proper understanding of what the needs of the Ex-pats are as we deal with the migrants needs every day. I hope we will have a fair election and that people will understand that this is the time to choose the right candidates to represent them.
Who is Maria Iacuzio?
Maria Iacuzio is the founder of the Italian British Association. A women’s association that promotes Italian art, culture and language in England and working with other Italian Associations and cultural centres around the world. Maria comes from a small town near Salerno in the South of Italy. She studied at Salerno’s University and achieved a first class degree in Political Science. Coming from a migrant working class family with three children, she was the first that graduated in her family.
Maria first came to England with a post graduate scholarship to study Politics at Reading University, with a plan to return to Italy for a PhD in History of Political Parties but she then decided to stay and live in the UK.