Richard Zampella – Starting a New Year understanding & preserving history

By Richard Zampella

In October 2012 I traveled to Santomenna a province of Salerno in the Campania region of south-western Italy. It was the ancestral birth place of Pietro Zampella my Great Grandfather. He was a demolitions expert and dynamite handler who blasted foundations for construction and cultivated olive trees for local farmers.

On my pilgrimage to the mountains high above the Adriatic Sea, I would connect to a distant family past that I had little knowledge of. I was first introduced to Jospehina, a talkative octogenarian that was convinced that I spoke the native dialect of the region. My inability to understand the Italian language did not dissuade her from recanting the stories buried deep within the recesses of her mind. Luckily there was a translator, she was the last living connection to my family history. Josephina would make sure that I would understand my family history regardless of the language barrier. Over the course of several hours she would bring me to many places and explain the significance of my “familia” history in the late 19th century. The friendly town clerk produced documents tracing my family’s humble beginnings to 1841 when Pietro Zampella of Barila, Italy was born and eventually would meet and marry Rosaria Salandra in the picturesque village of Santommena.

In the afternoon after a big Italian meal and many stories all in Italian, Josephina took to an olive grove nestled at the rocky base of town. For the first time that afternoon Josephina grew silent. I glanced at the translator, who raised her hand indicating that Josephina would speak when she was ready. Slowly Josephina spoke in drawn out syllables. The translator began to speak. We at the very spot where my Great Grandfather had nearly lost his life in a blasting accident. Pietro Zampella had been on his knees placing sticks of dynamite in the root system of an olive tree when the blast occurred. The explosion nearly killed him and would disfigure him for life. He would loose the hearing in his left ear and rob him of the sight in his left eye. Amazingly he would survive, because had he not, I would not be recanting this story.

History makes the path. What happens decides the future.
– “Richard Zampella”