A student from Italy who spent nine months studying at a secondary school in Scotland where she won a string of awards, has spoken of her experience during the coronavirus lockdown in her hometown.
In a candid opinion piece for Scotland on Sunday, Felisia Martucci, describes what life is like for a typical teenager whose dreams of university have been put on hold amid strict lockdown measures.
The 19-year-old, from the city of Caserta, near Naples, says she has a “strong connection” to Scotland, which she describes as her “second home” and everything the country is going through during the current crisis – having attended Woodmill High School in Dunfermline.
Martucci, who won the school’s prizes for Higher French and German, which she was taught by an English-speaking teacher, left in June of last year shortly before Woodmill was struck by a devastating fire.
She had been planning a return visit to Crossgates in Fife, where she stayed with a local family, before Italy was plunged into lockdown and began experiencing the highest death toll from Covid-19 in Europe.
The teenager said that no-one in her home city could imagine what they were about to go through when news first emerged of a “pneumonia like” virus spreading in China.
However, emergency measures were soon brought in after the virus first appeared in Italy, with the Lombardy region bearing the brunt of the fatalities that now stand at more than 25,000 with 193,000 confirmed cases nationwide.
Martucci said that while schools in the north started to close, pupils in the south were still attending lessons, but that would soon change.
‘Life Under Lockdown’ – Felisia Martucci
“We didn’t even know what Covid-19 was before the middle of January when it began to spread in China.
To be honest nobody could imagine what would have happened and no-one took it seriously.
China is so far away from us and it seemed to be like something unrealisable and surrealistic.
I’ve noticed this has been the attitude of literally every country in the world before being contaminated.
When something like this happens, you always think that it could never affect you, so you always try to not think about it and carry on with your life.
From one day to another I found myself stuck at home and saw all my plans for the next months being shattered without any end date.
As daughter and niece of two nurses, I saw the danger in this virus and realised that a “normal flu” – and this is how people first considered it – can’t kill so many people. The first case in Italy appeared around 21 February, the time of the Venice Carnival and the Milan Fashion Week, two important Italian occasions that attract thousands of tourists every year.
As a consequence of the first Covid-19 cases every event started to be cancelled. Like most countries, the authorities didn’t really know what was going on and how to cope with it.
Every television programme was about Covid-19 and supported a different theory on where it came from and on how to contain it. This is the reason why I remember the first couple of weeks as a huge mess – nobody knew what to do.
The initial serious actions against the infection began to appear at the start of March in the north where the situation in the hospitals began to deteriorate. At this point the government declared some northern regions as “red zones”. These red zones were highly dangerous and by the hour we could see through the news how quickly the number of deaths were rising.
I live in the south and it seemed like the north and the south of Italy were two different things.
Honestly, I can’t believe what’s going on everything seems to be frozen.
This situation of emergency has completely changed the way we see our lives. This is not just a personal feeling but something we are sharing as a nation.
For example, just one person of the family can go food shopping or to the pharmacy. While at the beginning we were allowed to take a walk or go out to exercise, this is not possible anymore.
Along the streets of each town there are police officers asking you where you are going and why.
To demonstrate that you are telling the truth you have to carry a “self-declaration” – a piece of paper that you can print from the website of your local council where you state why you are out of your house. Wearing a face mask is strictly compulsory. If you have to buy food you have to respect a queue and I can assure you this can last more than two hours.
I’ve lost count of which day of quarantine this is. While at the start youngsters couldn’t have been more happy about the closure of the school, now they are missing attending proper lessons. Personally, as a 19-year-old girl, for the first time in my life, I’m not able to make plans for the week after.
I cannot imagine how next month will be – if I will be allowed to spend my holidays at the beach or stuck in my home. I feel completely upset and like I’m not able to control and to plan my life.
Before Covid-19 I was used to planning a whole year abroad and now I don’t even know if I will do my exams at school or through a screen.”