My dear explorers, today I want to share with you an afternoon experience in Mellieha.
Mellieha is a beautiful village perched on a hill overlooking Għadira Bay, the biggest sandy beach in the North East coast and in all Malta. Its name comes from the Maltese word “melħ” that means “salt“. In fact, “għadira” means “pond”, so that tells us that this is a bay of a pond, actually a marshland area that is in front of the bay where today there is the Għadira Natural Reserve.
The Mepa (Malta Environment & Planning Authority) website reports this information:
In 1978, the saline marshland at l-Ghadira was declared a bird sanctuary and two years later habitat engineering works were carried out to transform the site to the present state. Before this intervention the wetland used to be a saline marshland that dried up during the summer months. Today the brackish pool still becomes increasingly saline in summer but never dries out completely. (Source https://www.mepa.org.mt/ghadira)
So again in Malta, after Zejtun (click here), I discovered that Mellieha is a place name of significance! I find very exciting when from a name we can discover more about the history, of a place.
There is somenthing else in Mellieha that tells us about our not so far history.
In Mellieha I found something that any of us should never forget: the Word World Second Shelters.
This complex is impressive!
Joseph Debono, the guardian of the shelters, told me more about the site. He said that there are 46 shelters in Mellieha and about 900 in the all island, but this one is the biggest.
You walk and walk along the tunnels and you have all the time to think… I could imagine the people who were living here under the bombs, their fear and hope.
Thanks to the information that I found along the tunnels I discovered that The Mellieha World War II Shelters were dug entirely by hand at a depth of 12m of limestone and reaching the length of over 500 meters.
The complex includes lengthy corridors with anti-blast chambers, private rooms to accommodate entire families, a maternity section and a guarded room reserved to protect national treasures.
The complex served as protection for the local population and refugees from all over the island.
By July 1942, the population of Mellieha stood at 3,842 persons with an additional 1,117 refugees coming from badly hit parts of the island. The quota of space inside the shelters was 2 square feet (0,6m) for each person, which was extended to 4 square feet (1,2m) because of prolonged attacks.
The corridors are approximately 2m wide and 2.1m high.
A family of five or six could apply for a permit to dig a small private room. Tunneling had to be the same level as the public shelter at a measurement of six feet (1.8m) wide and spaced at intervals of not less than 7 feet (2.1m). The cubicles could not be closed by any type of door and spoil from the digging had to be removed before dark every evening.
As we can imagine rations were reduced to very low levels. An adult male was provided only about 1,400 calories per day when 3,000 calories were normally needed. Even anti-aircraft guns were limited around 10 rounds per day in the height of 1942.
Unfortunately under crowded conditions and with growing malnutrition, diseases increased, spreading every type of tuberculosis, as did typhoid, lice, fleas and bed bugs were common with scabies being the worst medical plague.
On 15th April 1942 King George VI awarded the George Cross to Malta.
To honor her brave people, I award the George Cross to the Island fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.
Malta is the only country to be awarded this prestigious medal.
At the end of my exploration Joseph showed me with a light the graffiti on the wall that the shelters people drew in 1942, one of them is a big boat maybe drawn by a child and the words “Malta Sultana“.
Then he showed me the slots cut on the wall and he told me that refugees used to fix the candles wax in these slots to secure them on the wall.
This experience touched my heart and left me a sort of invitation as “please, do not replicate what we have had to suffer”.
I believe that the great challenge that humanity is faced is to not collapse under the repetitiveness of the cycles of history driven by the political and economical reasons and often covered by a religious excuses.
Is like I had heard: “Do not answer in the same way of the past, with fear and violence“.
Walking in the Shelters it was like a confirmation for me that we all need to cross over in a new level of consciousness where we all know that our thoughts and our emotions can change the world and where we all know that love is the only power that can put an end to fear, violence and on all the wars. This means to me keep the peace in our heart and focus on it.
In the next article I will bring you to the “Our Lady of Grotto” Sanctuary close to the Mellieha WWII Shelters, click here
EXPLORE, EXPERIENCE, ENJOY MALTA WITH FLORA THE EXPLORER 😉