Speech - Ivan Magri-Overend (Maltese of Egypt)

Ivan Magri-Overend representing the Maltese of Egypt started by a reference to a French-Gozitan writer, Laurent Ropa, who in 1936 developed the first idea of a Federation of Maltese Associations Overseas. He described the changing mentality of a female migrant character, Kaline, who at first abandoned her Maltese origin and felt ashamed of it, but later returned to her root culture and became enthusiastic about being linked to Malta, her home country. Many emigrated Maltese have repeated this attitude in the past, but in more recent times the remaining Maltese abroad are demonstrating closer ties with their country of origin. Like Kaline, they now feel the need to come together and be identified as a Maltese population overseas.

In his paper Mr Magri-Overend covered all those Maltese who in the past four centuries were driven out of Malta and Gozo either as captives of conflicts or for voluntary settlement in mainly French-speaking dominations or localities. These date back from 1429 onwards. Some of the known places of stopover or settlement were Corsica, Gibraltar, Lampedusa, Linosa, Lampione, Pantelleria, Greece, Corfu, Cephalonia, Crete, Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, North and Central Africa, Alexandria, Tripoli, Tunisia, Algeria and, of course, France. In some of these places the Maltese were in great numbers. As a French-speaking person himself, Mr Magri-Overend gave his own experiences when holding the position of coordinator and organiser of the Associations of Maltese in Egypt until the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 when the then colonised Maltese settlers were driven out of the country and settled in either France or the United Kingdom. With so many nostalgic memories of the past and the unceasing love for his motherland, the delegate concluded his intervention with a rhymed verse, which he sang in Maltese to the applause of all the convention delegates. This is how it went:

Hares lejna Malta Taghna
Ahna Uliedek nitolbuk
Ghalkemm ahna il-boghod minnek
Bqajna dejjem inhobbuk.

Source: 'Malta' - Maltese Culture Movement, Issues 4,5,6, 2000.

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