Ivan Antonio: Don’t worry about differences. They are just added value to life!
His first trip abroad led from southern Italy to Žilina. Love changed his life and so his second home has been Nitra for more than 17 years.
How long do you live in Slovakia?
I arrived in Slovakia so far in January 2006 to Žilina as a student for after-graduate exchange program, Marie Curie Fellowship between my University – Politecnico di Bari and University of Zilina.
What was the reason why you came here?
Simple answer Braňo. He was a researcher from University in Zilina in my University. I was applying for PhD at that time. We become friends and he just told me: Why don’t you do same like me? And my answer was: Why not? (Laugh.) Sometimes destiny knocks your door unexpectedly.
What did you know about Slovakia at that time?
At that time I did not even know Slovakia existed, somehow nowadays many people still confuse Slovenia with Slovakia in Italy. Some friends or mine still ask me how the sea looks like in Slovakia… Once I received a parcel from Italy with written: Delivery to NITRA (Slovenia). (Laugh.) My preparation for coming here was very funny because it was one of the coldest winter and I moved from south of Italy (+10°C) to Žilina (-20°C). I remember that year I saw roads free from snow as late as April, I had almost idea the snow would never melt.
How did you remember at your beginning here?
I’ve never been abroad before and I was a bit scared but I had suddenly first nice experience with pleasant Slovak man. I asked some info to a guy in bus stop in Bratislava and he was so nice to invite me for coffee in a bar there and explain all and you know what? After few years I met again this guy as manager of one company I work with. World is small. Make good and it will come back to you! I spent nice time as researcher here in Slovakia all 2006. Studying system is different. We have much deeper theoretical knowledge while in Žilina guys where more practical in experiments. It was funny exchange! It was really great time in dorms there as student. The only problem in integration is that I do not like drinking as much and you know here. (Laugh.)
Your wife is Slovakian, how did you meet?
It come beginning of June 2006. My friend wanted to go to Zuzana Smatanová concert with 3 pretty girls and I did not want because I told him: Look we are 26, they are just out from school 18, 19. He forced me to go and…I met my wife that as first offered me a cookie hand made by her. Several Slovak girls took my eyes, some my body, but she took my hearth! It was not so easy, because as everybody, she was afraid of a strange foreign Italian. How went our story it would be very interesting, but too long and many would start to cry. So we can skip… Just believe me it was not easy… I even travel back to Slovakia on 24 December night when we broke and I found her crying under X-mas three in Žilina square, where I told I would be doing same in Rome that 25. It is absolutely not true what we believe in West Europe that East European girls are waiting for prince charming to run away with him. After we got together my fellowship finished and I had to come back to Italy but. Once, walking in Bratislava, I saw a poster that an Italian company just started to work in energy sector in Slovakia. So was very natural to send CV and in March 2007 I arrived to Nitra to take part to a big energetic project.
How do you speak with your kids? In Slovak, in English or in Italian?
I have 2 beautiful kids Samuel Antonio (5) and Alexander Mattia (almost 2). It is funny to me everybody asks about these language issues with kids while it is the most natural and easy thing with them. They speak Slovak when they speak with my wife, Italian with me. They are able to switch without even thinking. Samuel even make interpreter for my mother around in Nitra in the shops since he is 4. They get stacked, if I try to speak Slovak with them, it is strange for them. And by the way since me and my wife speak English we realize the older son understand us even if he pretends no. Don’t worry about differences. They are just added value to life!
What about your life in Nitra? Is different than in your homeland?
There are some things a bit strange for me in Nitra for example that central part is practical without people living and majority of buildings belongs to church while majority of people lives in Klokočina. Also besides the nice guys I know from running group, guys are little bit less friendly in Nitra even if I compare to Žilina ones that looked to me more communicative but in general people are very nice. I never ever suffered from some discrimination because I’m Italian. It is instead a problem for people from other countries or also I met some of refugees from Iraq and they suffered a lot from discrimination.
You talked about running group. Did you start to do running in Nitra?
Nitra is a charming city and, believe me or not, I was very different before , I did not enjoyed a lot life outside and I discovered just after few years there was such a huge park. (Laugh.) You can understand surely I started to run in Nitra. This I notice, in general in Slovakia everybody makes sport while in Italy we are more lazy (at least in south), we are get used to take car for whatever. Instead here I learned that when a Slovak say “It is close.” it can mean 30 minutes walking in forest.
Pictures: Archive Ivan Antonio Giannelli