"In Canada people spoke of the tragedy in Florence and all the damage done to the city which we had to try and save"

An account by Marika Spence Sales-Ricciardelli (Canada)

"I was 19 and studying at the Faculty of Languages at the McGill University in Montreal, in Canada. The news of the flood in Florence shocked the whole of Canada. People spoke of the tragedy in Florence and the terrible damage to the city and its works of art which everyone said we had to try and save; my university, one of the oldest in Canada, therefore set up a subscription and an appeal to come and help which I adhered to.

Fifteen of us, all from the Humanistic Faculties, departed for Florence in January 1967 and we were sent to the National Library as soon as we arrived. We worked in a chain system for 7-8 hours a day to pad the flooded books out with absorbent paper. We stayed at the National Library for three months. We were giving food and lodging and at lunchtime ate a hot meal in the city council canteen. It was very cold in the Library. My university sent us parcels containing wellington boots and warm clothing. I remember the parcels came via Alitalia and we were all very curious to see what was in them. Our families sent us unperishable food instead, like powdered milk and tinned meals.

I met my future husband, who was employed at the Banca Commerciale in Florence, during this period. We got married in 1970 and this was why I stayed on in Italy.

I must say that I was particularly impressed in this period by the solidarity which came from people from all over the world and their enormous interest in Florence and its art.



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