Milena Cifali, Canberra based award-winning singer songwriter, published poet ( Love, Art, Ideas and Politics) and author, lost her home and slice of paradise in Mallacoota on New Year’s Eve 2019.
Milena studied classical guitar at the ANU withTimothy Kain and Carolyn Kidd, graduating in 2000, and going on to be a founding member of the Canberra Classical Guitar Society and well respected Canberra guitar teacher and performer.
In 2011 she left Canberra and as singer songwriter, began touring and performing along the eastern seaboard with her partner Jim Horvath, other half of her duo The Awesome. In March 2019 Milena was invited by Canberra poet John Passant to collaborate on his published anthologies, and set about composing music for their CD ‘Whose Broken Is This’ which they toured to acclaim.
In late 2019 Milena was awarded semi-finalist as well as a commendation in the UK international Songwriters Contest. Having performed to acclaim nationally at Major Folk Festivals, Covid-19 restrictions slowed her travels and after losing her home, Milena and her partner settled in Canberra, where they currently reside, tending to the local wildlife, and performing locally. Milena is a keen photographer, bird watcher and poet.
Follow Milena on Instagram @mallacootatimethebook (Instagram.com/mallacootatimethebook) like her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mallacootatime) for regular updates.
Remembering Mallacoota, Milena Cifali not only processes her own grief at the loss of her home but articulates the emotions of many who were scarred by Australia’s vicious bushfires. In poetic language, she evokes a lost world of beloved wildlife and creativity on her verandah.
In an age when we are all so busy and self-obsessed, this is an eye-opening, heart-wrenching read for anyone who can make room for empathy. Milena shows that painful as it is, you have to lose absolutely everything in order to start a new life.
Helen Womack, international journalist, Budapest
Amidst the background of the recent fires that devastated Australia’s east coast, and then the social dislocation of the Corona virus, Milena Cifali, having lost her home to the fire in Mallacoota has created a meditation on life, loss, and renewal. This is a poignant account of the thoughts and emotions that flare up and affect the soul when ones home has been taken away.
All through this moving account is a yearning for ‘home’ and a search for connection, and always the restorative power of music and story telling.
Jim Sakkas, author and winner Vogel literary prize 1987 (also a Mallacoota resident)
The statistics of Australia’s 2020 summer bushfires tell an awful story. Around 19 million hectares burnt, at least 34 people killed, nearly 2,800 homes destroyed, bird and animal deaths in the billions. But to truly comprehend the scale of devastation we need the personal stories behind these numbers.
That’s what musician, song writer and poet, Milena Cifali, gives us in this heartfelt, illuminating and compelling book.
On New Year’s Eve 2019, the little red cedar cottage in coastal Mallacoota which Milena and her partner, Jim Horvath, called home was one of the many razed. Their beloved menagerie of parrots fell victim, many of their precious musical instruments were destroyed. Milena “cracked into a million pieces”. The world no longer made sense.
Like a bushfire, this multi-layered story swirls in unanticipated directions: devastation, numbing loss, irritation, uncertainty, hope, recovery, wonder at unexpected acts of kindness. Milena writes of returning to the “simple yet powerful realisation: that people are kind. I am awed.”
At the heart of the story is the idea of home. Not four walls,but what they contain: music, friends, love, laughter; the gifts which “amplify our lives”, and which statistics can never convey.
Peter Rodgers, Prize-winning journalist and author