Faces of Auckland: War bride loves kiwi life

RANI TIMOTI
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2014
Yolanda Elliott
Rani Timoti
LOVELY TIME: Yolanda Elliott, 90, of Taupaki can’t praise New Zealand enough for its acceptance of her Italian culture.

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Auckland is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with more than a third of its citizens born overseas and boasting more than 200 nationalities living here.

Faces of Auckland is a series talking to those who have left all corners of the world to make their home here, reminding us why Auckland is so good.

NEW LIFE AFTER MARRIAGE

Yolanda Elliott was one of the few Italian war brides who arrived in New Zealand in 1946.

She married handsome Kiwi soldier Tony, who was in the 24th Battalion of the New Zealand Army.

They were parted briefly as his ship returned to New Zealand and she waited three months in Ismailia, Egypt.

Her ship was full of English immigrants going to NZ. 

"One lady was having a baby and I let her take my place. She made it just in time to New Zealand for the baby."

She said today Kiwis are still revered in her hometown of Pieve, in Belluno a province in the Italian region of Veneto in Northern Italy because they liberated them from the Germans.

''Before I came here I just knew where NZ was and that it was a colony which belonged to Britain - but that's about it,'' the 90-year-old said.

She remembers it was a big culture shock coming to New Zealand as a 21-year-old, although she found the wartime rations amazing compared with Italy.

"I adjusted very easily to the food here although I missed the wonderful food of my country." 

Yolanda said she couldn't have had a better husband than Tony, who died in 1999. The couple had two children Livia and Frank and she has lived in Taupaki for 31 years. She now dotes on her five grandchildren. 

She has been to different countries, including home four times.

As one of seven siblings, she has two sisters living - one is 97 and the other is 92 in an Italian rest home. 

''No-one should complain about NZ as they should look around at how other people live. I love everywhere I go in this country,'' she said.

FIVE QUESTIONS

Is NZ tolerant of different cultures and are you able to express your cultural identify fully here?

I can't complain about living in New Zealand. People say they like my accent- it's something I can't lose. I used to go to the Italian club and we'd discuss different things about back home in Italy and our new life here in New Zealand. There weren't very many of us in Auckland - only a handful. I couldn't speak English when I first arrived here, but I learnt the language very quickly from patient ladies helping me in my first job- sewing bassinets for babies. I treat people and take them as they are no matter what nationality they are.

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Have you ever travelled in NZ outside of Auckland and where to?

I've travelled to Northland and Wellington - I especially like the farms and the beaches.

I've also been to lots of places in the North Island - including skiing at the Chateau (Tongariro National Park). I come from an Alpine area- the Dolomites - Italian Alps- and I always used to climb, hike and ski.

What is best about being an Aucklander? I love my city and its many cultures and that's what makes it unique. We have all contributed in some way to making Auckland the city it is today.

If I was Auckland mayor I would...

I would build affordable houses for people that they can own. So many people pay a terrific amount of money in rent and they can hardly live. I feel sorry for them.

Do you watch rugby and do you support the All Blacks? 

I'm not very knowledgeable in rugby as I don't understand it. I know more about soccer as I used to play it.  Of course I support the All Blacks, but it would be hard not to cheer on Italy if they were playing against the All Blacks- after all ''home is still home.''

- Auckland

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