Mikallef-Buhagar Karmen

By:- Nicholas D. Chircop OAM

Secretary, Association of Maltese Community of Egypt (Melbourne).

Karmen was for many of the Maltese Community of Alexandria, Egypt, the personified Maltese Identity.

Karmen was born in Alexandria in 1921, her grandparents settled in Egypt in the mid 1850's. She attended a French Catholic school for girls and at the right age she joined the Maltese Girl Guide Company which was in formation in that city.

During the Second World War, the "Malta Relief Fund" was launched by the President of the Central Council of the Maltese Communities of Egypt, Karmen was one of the first volunteers that came forward. She never missed to take part to the Annual Celebration of the 8th September.

Ms. Buhagar, enrolled in a nursing medical course and in due course became an Assistant Sister in Surgery at the European Hospital, known too as the French Hospital.

Karmen was active too in Committees, i.e. the Festive Sub-Committee of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Alexandria. Also as Hon. Secretary of the Maltese Philharmonic Society "Valletta" under the Presidency of Ivo Muscat-Azzopardi.

She often wrote letters in appreciation or criticism for national subjects in the local Maltese newspapers. I was able to trace one of such letters, about the National Anthem in the Maltese Bulletin of Cairo, dated June 10, 1942.

In 1956-57 the Suez Canal debacle sparked the Exodus of the large Maltese Colony of Egypt. Like many others, Karmen was not allowed to land in Malta as a refugee. As a British Subject, the United Kingdom offered assistance and refuge.

In England, Karmen with her two sisters, Giovanna and Juzzeppa, settled in southwest London and named their residence "Dar Bobbuxu". Soon she applied for membership with the Association of Maltese Communities of Egypt (London), which was formed in England.

She kept visiting the land of her forefathers at least once a year and kept corresponding with many Maltese writers. She honoured in Malta the late Mikiel Anton Vassalli, with the dedication of a commemorative plaque at the University and of course a similar tribute to the Maltese French Poet, Laurent Ropa, in Gozo.

Furthermore she contributed to the appreciation of Maltese literature by promoting the work of our National Poet, Dun Karm at the University of Malta, under the title, Karmen Mikallef-Buhagar Foundation.

One recalls that the late Prof. Guze Aquilina once said:- ..."It needed the initiative of a Maltese from Egypt to make the work of Dun Karm better known".

To her credit is too, the effort to manage to bring out of Egypt all the adornments of the statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which are now deposited at Dar L-Emigrant in Valletta, as well is the flag of the Maltese Band Valletta of Alexandria.

Ms Buhagar was awarded in 1984 the title of "Mara Maltija" by the Toronto's Maltese Forum, for her work towards the appreciation of the Maltese language and literature.

At her expenses, she delegated me to carry and present on my return to Melbourne a bust of Dun Karm to the Maltese Literature Group and forwarded one to Sydney, N.S.W.

During the past year, Karmen suffered several mini-strokes and was admitted at the St. Mary's Nursing & Residential Home, in Streatham, London. She left this world on January 23, 2005 aged 84.

To our Late Co-National, I say: Thank you for all the work well done. You may now Rest in Peace.

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