UH Italian professor faces coronavirus outbreak in home country
As the number of cases of the new coronavirus grows throughout the world, Italy is one of the most affected European countries by COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
For UH Italian professors and faculty with family and friends still living in Italy, the impact of the pandemic has been worrisome.
“Italy is another part of me so it is very hard to see what is happening there,” said professor of Italian and classical studies Francesca Behr.
Behr has double citizenship with Italy and America after coming to the U.S. for her Ph.D. and remaining stateside after marrying an American citizen. Many of Behr’s friends and family members still live in Italy.
Italy has the third-most cases of COVID-19 in the world, with 24,648 deaths and at least 183,957 of people infected as of April 21.
A popular hashtag on social media has been #andràtuttobene, which has reached over a million posts on Instagram and is featured in the bios of many people’s Twitter accounts.
Behr describes the hashtag as consisting of three parts translating to, “everything will be alright.”
“I am not big about social media platforms, but I have been using (the hashtag) as a salutation form in some of my emails to remind people what is happening in Italy,” Behr said. “Optimism characterizes my country and the hashtag reminds me of our resilience and capacity to react to the worst.”
Behr said she can talk to some of her family members daily and that the majority of them are working from home, but they keep telling her how difficult it is to face the solitude.
Italy has been on lockdown since March 9.
“For us Italians, this kind of social distancing is painful, almost a betrayal of who we are, of how we express care, friendship and closeness,” Behr said.
An example Behr used to describe the hardship of social distancing in Italy was Pasquetta, or “Little Easter,” where Italians normally gather with friends and family while having an outing. This was not possible amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
Both Italy and the U.S., Behr said, face similar economic troubles and leaders use the state of emergency for their political advancement.
“I cannot stand it when I see it happening in Italy, and I also cannot stand it when I see it happening here,” Behr said. “We are in a crisis. We must stand united.”
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