Tuesday 22 December 2020 4:20 pm

An Italian (stuck) abroad: 'The hardest part was telling my family'

Fortunato Benavoli, 39, is a London-based make-up artist. Born in Italy, he has lived in London for 12 years. After booking flights following the government’s promises about Christmas, he is now spending the day alone in his London flat, far away from hs family. He told us his about his frustration with the way the government has handled the situation.

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Like every year, I was planning to go back home to see my family and spend Christmas with them. I live in London on my own in a small apartment and I was really looking forward to spending time with my family, who I haven’t seen in so long because of the pandemic.

I was due to leave on  23 December. When Boris announced the relaxation of the rules back in November I booked my ticket and made my plans – I obviously had no idea the rules could change so quickly and dramatically.

As soon as Boris announced the new rules and told us about the new variation of the virus, Italy closed its borders. God knows when I’ll get to see my family again.

The hardest part for me was dropping the news to my family. Even now they are still very upset. Unfortunately, all this means I am going to spend Christmas on my own. I will FaceTime my family, of course, and I will try to make it as painless as possible. But I come from a small family so spending Christmas together is very important. Add the fact I live far away and on my own, and it’s just really sad. 

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The handling of the situation has been so frtustrating. Everyone knows that this is a respiratory virus that spreads quicker in the winter – Boris should never have relaxed the rules in November to allow people to do their Christmas shopping. I was working in central London and I saw it with my eyes, it was crazy and I could see further restrictions coming.

I have learned in life that if you try to change something that is out of your control, it will will only lead to stress. We just need to make the best of this time, even with all the difficulties. My thoughts go out to people less fortunate than me – even though my family and I are apart, at least we are healthy and I have a roof over my head.

Looking forward, the government news to think deeply about how their decisions and promises affect people lives. So many mistakes have been made from the beginning and there seem to be few learnings from it. Clearly this is a difficult situation but they were warned the infection rate would go back up in winter.

I’m also upset with the Italian government – they took the decision to cancel flights from the UK to protect Italy and the Italians, but don’t seem to have considered the millions of Italians living abroad.

I am disappointed that a country could shut its borders to its own citizens when there are Covid tests available. I could have taken a test before flying and again when I landed and been able to see my family. 

My hope for 2021 is that we’ll be able to have some kind of normal life but I fear it will be more of the same. Still, al least the is a vaccine to pin our hopes to – I just pray it doesn’t lead to more disappointment.