Bianca and Lino Camilleri, both former teachers, have been together for 69 years and married for 63. The lovely couple met while teaching at the same school.
Bianca taught boys in Sliema. Lino, who is originally from Senglea, moved to Birkirkara with his family after the war and then to Sliema, where he was placed in the same school where Bianca taught. It was 1951.
“It was fate that brought us together,” a very frail 91-year-old Bianca says from her bed at Casa Marija in Sliema where her husband visits her for days on end. “I’m so grateful to the war, otherwise we would have never met.”
Bianca is a resident at the CareMalta home for the elderly. Always present by her bedside, Lino has only words of praise for his wife. “She was such a good teacher with an excellent reputation. And I’m not saying this because she’s my wife.”
Lino was given a classroom right next to Bianca’s. “That’s when trouble started,” he jokes.
Bianca, out of the goodness of her heart, instantly offered to lend him her teaching aids. “It’s instinctive,” she says. “Since I was a child, I’ve always helped others. ‘Just pop in if you need anything and take any paraphernalia you might need, but please put them back in their place after using them’,” she had told Lino, who turns 92 in September.
A dedicated teacher, Bianca reminisces about her career. “God gave me the gift to teach and that’s a gift. I loved teaching. It was the only thing I could do in life. My students taught me how to teach. I taught them, keeping each one of their faces in my mind. Each one of them showed me how their brain developed. Every child is an individual. Because of this, I learnt to accept them as they were, not change them.”
Bianca always made it a point to be present in the children’s lives. “Never tell them they’re idiots. Each child develops at their own pace. I was always very careful,” she says.
Love between Bianca and Lino started one fine day when they were walking out of school with a good teacher friend who loved geography and had just given a class. They walked out together towards the Chalet in Sliema and sat on a bench talking. They never looked back.
“It was here that we decided we were made for each other,” Lino says. “I told her that my intentions were serious and, little by little, we decided on a date when to marry – August 11, 1957.”
They were married in a big chapel in Old College Street that belonged to the Jesuits. Lino recalls the day perfectly. “On entering the church, I accidentally fell near the sacristy,” he says. “You literally slid into marriage,” jokes Bianca, who is 90 years old.
“I had an ideal of a man – a good, kind, not necessarily rich man who would not swear – a gentleman. You learn to accept the other as they are. But he needs to adapt himself to you too. We always agreed to disagree.”
Lino caresses Bianca’s shoulder in admiration, saying they were imperfect beings who have been together for so long because “we’ve always tried to find a middle ground and a solution to our problems together”.
The couple, who live in Sliema, have two boys, Anton, who is an architect, and Franco, a rheumatologist. They also have three grandchildren: Andrew, a Jesuit who is based in Cairo; Francesca, a radiologist who lives with her husband in Edinburgh and their baby daughter Sophie, who is two years old; and Michela, a dental surgeon who lives in Glasgow.