She lost her brother after he contracted COVID-19 and struggles being in lockdown at her Seddon home but 90-year-old Francesca Catroppa still finds reasons to sing.
The local identity sits outside her home of 71 years and talks to passers by, sometimes breaking into song to lift her own and others’ spirits.
One song is Mamma, a classic from her Italian homeland: “Mamma son tanto felice (Mum, I am so happy)“.
She is urging others to get vaccinated so that people have a chance against the coronavirus.
In March last year, her brother, Francesco, 86, died after contracting COVID.
“My brother went to the big shop to buy something,“ Francesca said.
“When he came back home, he fell down.“
He was taken to Footscray Hospital, where he learnt he had coronavirus.
He died a week later.
Francesca didn’t get to see him in hospital and was not allowed to attend his funeral.
Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS), based at Maidstone and Geelong, supports Francesca to live at home and takes her to medical appointments.
Her most recent one was on Friday, when Francesca received her second dose of AstraZeneca.
Support worker Tina Parisi, who visited Mrs Catroppa sometimes daily last year, went with her the first time and they got their jabs together.
Tina said after the first dose, she went home with Francesca to ensure there were no side effects. Both experienced none.
“She thinks that if people have the vaccine, maybe we can cope with COVID,“ Tina said.
“Without the vaccine, we have no chance.“
Francesca said she enjoyed other people’s company and struggled during lockdown.
“I sit outside my front door … and everybody who passes on the street knows me,“ she said.
“Everybody talks to me.
“I sit in front of the door all day from in the morning at 7 o’clock and the people who go to the [train] station … every day, every minute.
“Everybody says to me, ’Hello, how are you’. I talk with everyone.“
Francesca said her message to people about COVID-19 was to vaccinate.
“When we were in Italy, in the wartime, I was 10 years old,“ she said.
“A lot of soldiers died in the wartime. They had no chance to bury them.
“A lot of sickness from the soldiers dying and being left on top of the ground.
“Every day, one doctor came around my town and he gave kids, anyone, an injection to not catch the sickness.