Anastasia and a different factory of memories
Anastasia is daughter of street performers. Between 2010 and 2015 she lived in an apartment that the owner Vincenzo, professor of physics, had decided to share with people who find themselves in a state of housing emergency. Her mother Alice, her brother Andrej and their dog Leo were among them.
The photographic project, which initially aimed to investigate an alternative way of living, a sort of cohousing during a period of great economic uncertainty and existential fragility, was then transformed into the story of the delicate and difficult transition from childhood to adolescence, lived in an atypical contest.
Anastasia is now 19 years old and she lives in Verona, northern Italy, with her boyfriend Andrea. They are both studying to became professional musicians.
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Anastasia in a garden during a spring festival in Valpolicella, Verona, Italy, April 2011.
Her mother Alice, a street performer, was working as a kid party entertainer, that day, so I spent with Anastasia a couple of hours, pushing the stroller with her brother Andreij inside, who was recently born.
I remember that Anastasia was talking about her early childhood in Tuscany, where she lived in the countryside with her mother and her father. She told me she missed a bit that house.
Her parents split up when she was 9 years old, and then her father, a musician and street performer, went back to live to UK, where he came from.
Anastasia and Vincenzo in his apartment, January 2013.
When I met Anastasia, in 2010, she was 11 years old and she had just arrived in Verona, Northern Italy, with her mother Alice and their dog Leo. They didn't have any place to go, they were staying in a youth hostel, looking for a better accommodation. After a few days they were in a bar when they met Vincenzo, a professor of physics who had decided to share his big apartment with people who found themselves in a state of housing emergency. He asked them to join him for a few days - they stayed for more than 5 years.
Anastasia on her temporary bed in the living room, June 2010.
This is one of the first pictures I took after I met Anastasia. It happened in a bar: I was drinking a glass of wine with some friends, Vincenzo was among them. I noticed that little girl who said hello, and asked Vincenzo who she was. He told me her story and that she was living in his place. I was fascinated by her, she wasn't shy at all and she projected a peculiar strength in her voice, in her face, in her eyes. So I just asked her if I could take some pictures of her and her daily life - she accepted.
Anastasia crying on Vincenzo's bed, late September 2010
Anastasia never told me why she was sad that afternoon. When I arrived and saw her crying I felt really confused. I had nearly no experience with children, but I thought it would be great to have some ice-cream to eat on bed.
Anastasia eats ice cream with Vincenzo, late September 2010
I had to get used to her ability to suddenly change her mood, to overcome sadness, to react to her problems. I've always thought she was absolutely stronger than I was.
My pictures published on Vincenzo and Anastasia Facebook pages.
So I became her "official photographer". I spent a lot of time in that apartment, with Anastasia, her mother, Vincenzo and his flatmate Flavio. Anastasia is a really good singer and at that time she was studying piano and guitar, so that I often had my private concerts. We used to go out with her dog Leo, to watch videos on youtube, to try to speak English (she is bilingual because of her father, while I'm quite bad), and also to go to the bar where we first met to drink pear juice with milk (I used to order a glass of wine, to be honest). It wasn't just because of the pictures, of course - it was a pleasure to spend time with her. I also found it really interesting the way they lived together. Money was always an issue - they hadn't have much - but it wasn't a problem at all among them.
Alice when she was pregnant celebrating with Vincenzo (who isn't the father), November 2010
A few months after I met her, Alice realized she was pregnant. At that time she had a relationship with Bolek, a Polish street performer she was crazily in love with. He was really handsome, he spoke Spanish, he drunk a lot and was an excellent mime. I would have loved to portray him but he always refused. Later, sadly, it became impossible.
When Andreij was born, Alice and Bolek went to live with the baby in another flat, leaving Anastasia with Vincenzo and Flavio, as she had asked to do.
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Anastasia in a bamboo jungle, Valpolicella, Verona, June 2011
After Andrej's birth, everything changed too fast. In a few months Alice, Bolek and the baby left their apartment and went to live to Canary Islands. They were looking for a better lifestyle. Winter is hard, in Verona, and working as a street performer is harder. Anastasia couldn't stay alone, so she went to live with her grandparents in Friuli Region. We didn't see each other for a long time. I used to check on her Facebook page, and looked fine. I remember a picture of her and her new friend…they were wearing similar glasses. I thought it was nice, because in her school, in Verona, didn't have many friends, so she was always surrounded by adults. I was her youngest friend, and I was nearly 30.
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My love's death. Alice's post on Facebook about Bolek's death
In spring 2012 Bolek died in Canary Islands while he was swimming. Alice and Andrej were waiting for him on the beach.
Vincenzo called me to tell me what had happened.
After a few weeks Alice went back to Vincenzo's place, and at the end of the school year, Anastasia went back too.
Only several months later Alice was able to talk about it in public. She also published a post on her Facebook page, announcing that after a period of pain, depression and phsicotherapy was finally coming back to life.
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Vincenzo and Anastasia singing at my birthday party, Valpolicella, Verona, July 2012
So, finally Anastasia was back.
When I turned 30 I was going through a rough period and wasn't in the mood to celebrate. I threw a party anyway.
I felt like a stranger in my own home - I didn't know personally the 50% of my hosts - but when Anastasia dedicated a song to me it was a great moment.
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Anastasia on the tram, Milan, early February 2013
I was thinking that Anastasia wasn't fine, that winter, so I decided to ask her to go to Milan together. My boyfriend lived there and I used to spend my weekends with him. She accepted. Francesco was happy, too. I hoped it would help.
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Me and Anastasia, Milan, February 2013 (Polaroid)
In Milan Anastasia met some new friends. It didn't last long, but it was nice. We went to a vintage market, we rent a studio, we had lunch in different restaurants, we watched movies, we went to the Chinese Carnival, we ate pizza wearing pajamas. And Francesco took this picture of me and her together on his bed.
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Anastasia and her rings, Verona, April 2014
After the 'Milan period' with us, Anastasia met her boyfriend Andrea.
Everything changed again: she was going to Milan every weekend again, but to meet him and his family.
She looked so happy… He gave her so many rings..
I was happy too.
Meanwhile I had moved to Spain, so that we were seeing each other only occasionally in Verona.
Alice was going on with her new boyfriend, Jerko, a street performer who was a friend of Bolek.
Andrej had spent some weeks in Poland with his grandparents and learned Polish. He refused to wear clothes.
Anastasia, during the week, was still living in the same apartment, with Vincenzo, Flavio, Alice, Jerko and Andrej. Sergio had gone.
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Alice with Andreij and her boyfriend Jerko, Verona, June 2014
On spring 2014 Alice and Jerko were fighting their battle against a new law in town that prohibited to feed homeless.
One year later I was having lunch with Francesco when I received some pictures on my mobile phone: Anastasia was showing us her new apartment.
She wrote me she was going to live with her boyfriend Andrea - and she was thrilled.
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Anastasia and Spizu the rabbit
Alice has recently adopted a rabbit, who used to live free close to the cemetery. The dog Leo seems happy to share the flat with him.
Verona, October 2015