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Muddy Waters: a guest post from a FutureLearner in Genoa

Earlier this month, severe flooding hit the Italian city of Genoa. Sharon Walker – a translator and English teacher from the UK, now living in the area – wrote an article about it for our “Introduction to Journalism” course, which she’s taking to fulfil a long-held ambition to study journalism.

Having received positive feedback from both educators and learners, the article is published in full below. She says: “It has been such an uplifting experience. I have had some really encouraging comments from other students and that’s been wonderful.”

Muddy Waters

by Sharon Walker

Flooding in Genoa is the subject of a feature article by FutureLearner, Sharon

Last week Max Saveri, a Genoese firefighter, was celebrating his 48th birthday. This week he’s been saving lives in the mud.

Late on Thursday, 9 October 2014, Genoa was submerged in a dark, icy slush as the Bisagno River burst its banks. Everything in its path was carried away; motorcycles, shop-doors, cars and people. Antonio Campanella, 57, lost his life. The first on the scene were firefighters.

Max is a deep-voiced, family man. Passionate about football and tatoos. Proud to be Genoese. Dedicated to his job and his city. The news hits him hard. His cousin, Lauretta (Little Laura), was killed in the floods of 1993. Max says angrily: “Over 21 years have passed and nothing has changed.”

Genoa flooded in: 1970, 1992, 1993 and 2011. Funding was approved for reinforcement work on the river banks. It never began. Red-tape blocked the money. Plans were made and thrown away. Nothing changed. The city known as “La Superba” (The Proud One) was again under thick, stinking mud.

So what do these outraged people do? They start shovelling. Thousands arrive, many of them students. Known as “Angeli del fango” (mud angels), they work relentlessly.

Max is there every day. Dragging people from mud-immersed vehicles. Draining water from houses and shops. Tirelessly shovelling mud and rotting debris. On Facebook he thanks those offering coffee, roast chickens and focaccia bread. He’s proud when Genoa CFC footballer, Luca Antonini, joins the mud angels. Strongly against racism, he posts photos of “Angeli” from Senegal, Ecuador and Albania.

Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, and Liguria’s Governor, Claudio Burlando, promise to free funds. The Genoese people are sceptical.

Thank you messages arrive every day for Max and his colleagues. So does he consider himself a hero? He says: “No, it’s my job.” In dialect he tells me: “Mi son nasciû Zeneise e… no ghe mòllo!” – “I was born Genoese and… I’m not giving up!”

You can join “Introduction to Journalism” until 9 November or read an article from another learner on the course: “David” by Shawn Basheer. Alternatively, you can see similar courses starting soon in our Creative Arts & Media category.

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