Starting off as a small project of documenting everyday life in Malta, Riolo’s Facebook posts have become a nostalgic way for lovers of Malta who live abroad to maintain a connection with the mainland. However every now and then a special stories surfaces in which she’s even managed to reunite long-lost relatives, separated for decades and by thousands of kilometres.
“I know the feeling of being far away from home and yearning to go back and see your family and the beauty of this island,” Lillian admitted. She was born in Sydney and spent her first 23 years living in Australia, but she always used to ask her Maltese mother for photos from the past and stories of tiny Malta.
After staying with her grandmother in Mosta a couple of times while holidaying on the island, she fell in love with Mario, a Maltese mechanic. Upon getting married, Lillian decided to start her family right where it had all started so many years ago, and she’s been living in Malta for the last 25 years. “So I feel like I’m precisely half-Maltese and half-Australian…eżatt!” she says.
Lillian Chetchuti Riolio, her husband Mario, and their three children
Recently, she decided to put her love of taking photos of documenting everyday Maltese life to good use by starting Facebook pages like Maltese People In Malta. As it stands, the latter has nearly 20,000 followers, and Lillian uploads photos and videos very regularly. “I don’t edit my videos. I just want to promote Malta and have an online record of what Maltese life is all about, for everyone.”
Lillian has taken and uploaded thousands of photos, but the trick is that they were all spontaneous. “I don’t go looking or plan to find these scenes for photos. When I’m out and about with my family or friends, or shopping in my daily routine, I see all types of Maltese traditional foods or ways,” she explains. And while that sounds like too sporadic of a method, she’s willing to accept her limitations while still making the best out of the situation.
“Both my Maltese and English are not 100%, but at least I get the message across. I just take photos of what I come across so I can share them with people all around the world for those that for any reason cannot make it to visit Malta.”
The whole endeavour became even more rewarding when Lillian actually started reuniting long-lost family members from the other side of the world.
“My most memorable video was when I interviewed this elderly couple in Gozo,” she reminisces. “The man mentioned how he used to work and live in Australia, and how even in his 90s, he could still remember the names of every single train station from Sydney to the West. He then said that he has a daughter in Sydney who he hadn’t seen for years. One day after I uploaded the video, his granddaughter commented; she couldn’t believe that she had finally found her nannu!”
Episodes like this have given Lillian the courage and confidence to open Facebook groups like Searching For Lost Friends And Family Malta, where hundreds of members have been trying to finally reunite with relatives both in Malta and abroad. And needless to say, she doesn’t charge anyone anything. “All my pages are non-profit. I honestly just get great pleasure in making a difference in other people’s lives, and I feel that everyone should participate in something this rewarding.”