Separated by thousands of miles, two villages – one in Italy and the other in Punjab – have Punjabis with families at both places caught in the coronavirus contagion. With loved ones on both sides in quarantine, these families now live with the fear of the worst, praying for each other’s wellbeing.
Borgo San Giacomo in Brescia province of Italy’s worst hit Lombardy region is also known as Mini Firoz Sanghowal and is under total lockdown since March 10. Back home in Kapurthala’s Begowal town, Firoz Sanghowal, which has several who have migrated to Borgo, is now fighting back against the virus with a curfew.
Both places so far have no Punjabi who has tested positive for coronavius.
Sardar Singh of Firoz, whose wife Amarjit Kaur is sarpanch of Firoz Sanghowal, says: “Currently, our village has over 200 residents settled in Borgo. ‘Borgo’ is known as ‘mini Firoz Sanghowal’ among the Punjabis settled there….Around 60 to 70 persons from our own family and extended family live in Borgo. We are really worried about their wellbeing…We are all worried about each other,” he said.
Balbir Singh, who had migrated to Borgo San Giacomo in 1995 at the age of 38, told The Indian Express: “Over two decades back, Italy was an alien country for the residents of Firoz Sanghowal. Now, more than half of our village lives in Borogo and near Brescia province.
“I am worried for my two sons and their families who are currently there and they are worried for us because of the outbreak of coronavirus in Punjab now,” he added.
Manpreet Singh, who has been living in Borgo for the past 7-8 years, said that in their village there are 70 positive cases, but fortunately all Punjabis are safe. He added that there are around 2,000 Punjabis settled in and around his village, Borgo, in Italy.
“There are several villages in Doaba, from where majority of residents have migrated to one country, but there is hardly any example where people from one village in Punjab have migrated to a village in another country and are living together like they were back home,” said Surinder Singh of Firoz Sanghowal, who had migrated to Italy in 1988 and was among the first from the village to do so.
Surinder Singh, who also remained president of Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana in Borgo which was set in 2006 with the initiative of residents of Firoz Sanghowal, said people of both the villages are praying for each other and sharing the same pain while confining to their houses in both countries.
People of Firoz Sanghowal, who now has big houses thanks to flow of NRI money, have a special love for Italy. One can find a complex named “Italian Complex” and a small eating joint called “Pizza Italia”.
“Living in my native village, Firoz, or in Borgo hardly makes any difference to me,” said Balbir Singh, adding that people from the village who are now settled in Portugal, Belgium and UK had in fact gone to Borgo first.
“Living in Borgo does not make us nostalgic because we see our fellow villagers in Borgo quite often and it feels like living in our own village as we talk in our language, we celebrate the festivals in a similar manner there,” said Gurpreet Singh from Italy, who had gone there over a decade back. Gurpreet too said that he was worried about his family back home in Punjab.
Most of the Punjabis work in cheese, socks making factories and farms, added Balbir, who spends half of his time in Firoz and half in Borgo.
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