Levantine Heritage
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The Heritage of a family spanning Malta, Istanbul and Izmir
coat of arms
Family blazon - coat of arms
My great-grandfather Vincenzo Savator Angelus Joachin Richichi was born in to town of Vittoriosa [postcard view], Malta on 19.11.1826. He was the son of Brunone Richichi who was married to Concepta Casball. Vincenzo S.A.J. Richichi was baptized at the St. Lawrence’s parish church Vittoriosa-Malta and later married Michaela Tanti on 12.3.1851 at St.Lawrence’s parish (collegiate church - St. Philip’s oratory) at Vittoriosa-Malta - marriage certificate.

In Vittoriosa-Malta my great-grandfather Vincenzo S.A.J. Richichi, used to make a living constructing wooden ships. However when the British developed the construction of iron ships, it was no longer feasible for my great-grandfather Vincenzo S.A.J. Richichi to continue with his profession in Malta. He made a bold decision to uproot his family and immigrate to Turkey (Istanbul) in 1868. He chose Turkey as this was a country where woooden ships were still the norm and in demand. In Istanbul he settled in the neighbourhood of Çukurbostan, close to the Pera Boulevard, where there was a resident Maltese community. In Istanbul he continued with his main profession of wooden ship building, his workplace being on the shores of the Bosphorus in the neighbourhood of Fındıklı, where there were dock-yards at the time. He died 22 years later in 1890 and is buried in the Latin Catholic cemetery of Feriköy [postcard view].


The name change from ‘Rechichi’ to ‘Richichi’ is a phonetic deformation during the British rule of Malta (1800 onwards), where the pronounciation of the ‘e’ in English is comparable to the ‘i’ in Maltese/Italian.
The family coat of arms goes back to the Middle Ages, the time of Maltese Knights; an ancestor was a sergeant in this order and it has always remained a source of pride. It is displayed in my living room as it was done by my father and grandfather, however the original is now too damaged, this is a painted copy. The bee symbol may derive from the Greek word for Malta, ‘Melita’, also meaning bee. Our ancestors may have originally come from a different land as the word ‘Malat’ is an old Semitic word and derived from the word Malta, meaning refugee, or ship-wrecked, as no doubt this was the fate of many mariners stranded on that island in ancient times. We are able to trace back our ancestral line in the archives of ‘Pillastro Amiraglio’ [Italian word roughly translated as Pilaster Admiralty] a designation for the fleet of combatants, demonstrating them to be in the service of this maritime defence force and after the retreat of Napoleon from Malta around 1800, they were builders of wooden ships at Vittoriosa.

The ‘Pillastro Amiraglio’ system is explained in Jacques Godenchot’s ‘Histoire de Malta’ book, page 38, where mariners were under the command of a ‘Pilier’ who individually headed the various ‘Langues’ of the Hospitaller Knights and passed on the orders at sea of the Grand Admiral. - more on the Knights of Malta:

To have a general idea and to follow in the footsteps of this tradition, me and my wife have visited Jerusalem, Accra, Cyprus, Rhodes and naturally Malta.
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My great-grandparents, Vincenzo S.A.J. & Concepta Richichi
My grandparents, Francesco & Carmella-Maria Richichi


On the right: My parents, Charles F. V. & Noemie Richichi
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Vincenzo S.A.J. Richichi had a son Francesco Richichi (my grandfather) born on 3rd September 1871 in Istanbul, who also followed his father’s profession of ship building, however with the economic crisis of 1928/30 left for Egypt to continue his profession there and later died in 1942 and is buried in that country. My grandfather’s brothers all died young, and I don’t know their names. My grandfather married a Carmella-Maria (nee unknown) in 1893 at Istanbul.

During the times of my great-grandfather and grandfather the language at home was Maltese and Italian. They attended the church of St Pierre and St Paul near Galata Tower in Pera, Istanbul. My father also spoke these two languages, but after his marriage French gained prominence.

My father Charles Fortunato Vincenzo Richichi, the son of Francesco Richichi, was born in Istanbul on 25th October 1895 who was a British subject through his Malta origin. He worked for the Ottoman Bank all his life. The Ottoman Bank, used to be known in Turkey as Osmanlı Bankası was a British-French bank incorporated in Turkey. During his working life within the organisation he has was transferred several times to various branches. He married my mother Noemie Richichi nee Duvaz (origin Marseilles, France, date of arrival unknown) on 14th July 1920 and they had two children: a daughter Christina Maria Richichi born in Istanbul on 4th August 1923 and me Roland Alfred Mery Richichi born on 14th August 1933 in Mersin (South Turkey) with both of us being British Citizen. My father was appointed to the Izmir Branch in 1937 when my sister was 14 years old and I was 4. We were pretty much settled in Izmir and lived there until 1956 when my father was transferred to Istanbul. He worked at the Istanbul branch right up to his retirement and upon his retirement the family moved back to Izmir. He died at the age of 75 on August 8th, 1970. My mother died six years later on November 11th 1976. Her father Paul Duvaz was a fisherman and fishmonger in Marseilles.

My Father had two brothers and one sister. Vincenzo Richichi born in Istanbul 1900, who worked at the British Embassy-Ankara, died 1969(Australia); Luigi Richichi born in Istanbul 1918 participated with the British Army in Egypt/Libya during the Second World War. He died in 1964 (U.K.). Marguerite (Rita) Richichi, the sister, born in Istanbul 1903, died 1990 (Canada).

My sister Christina Richichi married Pierre Finale in Izmir, had two daughters, Mireille being the elder and Gina Maria. Mireille in turn married Jean-Yves Özmirza (origin Mirza, Catholics of ‘Persian’ roots from the Nahcivan region) with whom had 2 daughters, Nicole (the elder one) and Joelle with both daughters currently being married and living in Izmir. Gina Maria married to Sami Ersan and had two children a son Alp being the elder and a daughter Müge and all the family also living in Izmir.

My brother in law Pierre Finale was a consul at the Belgian consulate in Izmir. He died in Izmir on August, 19th 1994. The Finale Family are Levantine Catholics, family legend has it from Tinos Island in the Aegean, possibly of Italian origin. Pierre Finale’s father was John Finale, born in Izmir 1884, working then at the ‘Societe Belge des Eaux’ [Belgian run water-works for the city] Izmir, married to Anna Finale (nee unknown) in 1920. John Finale died at 1963 in Izmir, Anna Finale born 1887, died at Izmir 1972. My sister Christina is still alive and living in Izmir.

As for myself, I started my first school at Suore d’Ivrea [Nuns of Ivrea, a city close to Torino in Northern Italy] Centrale School in Izmir and continued to study at the French College Saint Joseph for my high school education. My very first job was similar to my father’s profession in the banking sector with Banco Di Roma in Izmir and then transferred to Istanbul. In 1957 I left the banking profession and was employed as a director in a textile factory in Istanbul. Also in the same year I got married (24/11/1957) to my spouse Ivy Richichi nee Güzeloğlu (like me, thereby becoming a British citizen) who I met during my stay in Istanbul whilst working. Her grandfather was from Karaman (Konya district in Central Anatolia), an Orthodox Christian. Her father Basile (Vasili) Güzeloğlu born 06.01.1890 at Istanbul, was the owner of the High Life restaurant (Pangaltı) Istanbul, married to Mathilda Güzeloğlu nee Cuschery (Maltese) born in Istanbul 1902, died 1987 in Istanbul, buried at the Latin Catholic Cemetery, Feriköy. My wife has worked for many years at the French Consulate in Istanbul and Izmir. We have two sons both born in Istanbul with Roy Charles Richichi being the elder born on the 16th September 1960 and Nelson Richichi born on 28th November 1962.

click for views of post 1922 fire damage
St. Joseph
 
former Italian School in Alsancak, click for alternative view
La Centrale close up, pulled down circa 1946

My elder son Roy Richichi British-USA citizen is currently established in the U.S.A working for American Airlines at Dallas Fort Worth as a Customer Services Manager. Roy married Candy Denise Richichi nee Ricks on 24th November 1979 in Tucson Arizona. They have three sons Roland JR Richichi born in Tucson Arizona on 11th August 1990, Royce Richichi also born in Tucson Arizona on 13th October 1992 and Roman Richichi born in Dallas Texas on 13th November 2002.

Our second son Nelson Richichi British Citizen, currently lives in Bristol U.K and is married with three children. He married Lynne Richichi nee Evans on 19th June 1987. Their first born twin daughters Emma Richichi and Sarah Richichi were born on 9th September 1986 in Bristol. Their younger daughter Verity Anne Richichi was born on 26th November 1993, Bristol. Nelson Richichi works for Somerfield a UK food retail company as supply chain senior planning manager.

My wife and I have visited Malta where we have cousins of which one of them, Joseph Caruana Montaldo (maternal side Richichi), with his nephew have an office “Montaldo Insurance” at Melita street Valetta, Malta. During our stay with them we found documents relating to our ancestors with regards to baptism, marriage and other certificates.

Me with Joseph Caruana Montaldo in Malta.
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Me on the day of my decoration.
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Me receiving a wafer from his Holiness the Pope.

In 1968 I embarked on my own business, in the textile sector manufacturing of garments, dying of textiles and also exporting to Switzerland. I also formed another businnes in Zurich (Switzerland) with a Swiss partner “Roltex Trading S. A.”. I retired in 1991 and was later head hunted as a director of “Caritas Aegean Region” (the Catholic charity). I was honoured by the Izmir Archbishop Reverend Giusepe Bernardini and awarded the title Cavalier: *EQUITEM ORDINIS SANCTI SILVESTER PAPAE* [KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF SAINT SYLVERTER POPE] by the Holy Father the Pope Jean Paul II. I also received an award as a plaque from the Caritas Turkey for my contribution to Caritas.

I have been given full responsibility by our archbishop to project manage and over see the development of the old people’s homes in Izmir. I have located an old derelict abandoned building, close to the Catholic Church in Buca, which was built in 1838 and operating as a bed & breakfast (Manoli Pension) pre 1922. I have received financial aids and generous donations from Caritas Italy and from the Izmir Christian community. The development of the old people’s home was finally completed in 2006 (building bought Oct. 2002, restoration permit received 2003, work started July 2004, completed 2005). At present I am the co-ordinator and supervisor of the old people’s home to ensure its smooth operation is maintained.

 Note: In May 2007, the researcher Melisa Urgandokur kindly provided the photo of the family grave at the Soğukkuyu Catholic Cemetery, shared with the Finale family with whom they have a marriage link (Christina Richichi with Pierre Finale), viewable here:


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