Mais para Clara (Emails 2000-1)
Matera, a tentative collage
I continue, writing from Matera, with the story of your abduction in 2000, and what happened in that time.
In mid-December, having secured a legal request of the Italian government for your return to Italy, under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, I flew to Lisbon, to be present at “Parental Conference.” Under the Portuguese Juvenile Court laws, I had the right to visit you each day, for 3 hours, and to go with you where ever we wished. When I went to your grandmother Mirilia’s house, where Teresa was staying and you were being kept, I was met with immediate hostility by Mirilia, Teresa, and if I recall properly, also Vasco Pimental, who seemed at the time to be constantly around, and clearly deeply involved in all of this – despite having told me only a month and some earlier, that he had seen Teresa at a concert and she seemed genuinely “crazy.” I went with you to one of the small rooms, which had become yours, and we talked, though Mirilia and Teresa repeatedly came in to complain and interrupt. You were clearly happy to see me and be with me, and finally I underlined that under the law I had the right to go elsewhere and said we would do so, and go to a nearby cafe. Teresa objected, though she finally relented, if I remember correctly after I called the Juvenile Court authorities who stated clearly to Teresa that it was my legal right to do so. We went to the cafe, and, under the circumstances, had a nice time. You were to my eyes clearly traumatized by what had happened to you in the 7 weeks since you had been abducted.
From Imagens de uma cidade perdida
At the Parental Conference, though the papers regarding the Hague Convention had arrived, and were on a floor below the conference room, the Juvenile Court people said that it did not apply, as it hadn’t arrived into their hands. According to the Convention all processes are required to be done in the language(s) of those involved; denying that it applied, it let them conduct everything in Portuguese only. It became clear very quickly that as far as the Portuguese Juvenile authorities were concerned the law simply didn’t apply, and they promptly made it clear that everything was biased towards Teresa. I have little doubt that this was in part owing to the influence of the larger Villaverde family applying pressure on the system – otherwise known as “corruption.” Even so, the Juvenile Authorities upheld my right to see you every day, and to go with you elsewhere. Disregarding the Hague Convention, which required that you be returned to Italy, and that any custody hearings be held there, they ruled that Teresa had temporary custody of you.
During one of my visits to you – when Teresa did not block me from my legal right to do so – on departing Teresa physically attacked me, screaming and hitting me again and again. Vasco Pimental was there, saw this, and in fact helped pull her off of me.
I left Portugal some days after the Parental Conference, and returned to Rome.
There I received two further emails from Teresa, as follow:
After these two emails, Teresa never wrote another word. I did go to Lisboa, to visit for the month of January, with the supposed legal right to see you everyday. In my next letter I will tell you what happened then. Not a happy story at all.
Imagens de um a cidade perdida
I am now staying in a small town on the Jonio Sea, Ginosa Marina, 40 km away from Matera – there to write, watercolor, and edit a few films, including Piccoli Miracoli, the one about your first 3 and a half years. Meantime some medical inquiry – Xray, MRI – indicate that I have some serious problems with my back: disks bulging and herniated, causing pinched nerves and sometimes severe pain. I will see if some physical therapy helps; otherwise it will be a diet of pain-killing pills, something I am not happy to do.
Southern Italy is not far from Portugal, and there are cheap flights from here to Lisboa. You need only let me know you would like me to come, and I will arrange to do so. I will not force it, so you will need to simply let me know.