Daphne Caruana Galizia’s niece speaks of the journalist only a few really knew

This is the speech by Megan Mallia at the gathering marking 18 months since the journalist was assassinated. It is being reproduced in full with her permission.

“You’ll have to excuse me. I’m used to writing this sort of thing rather than reading it aloud.

Like my aunt, I’m better at addressing a large group of people when I do it through writing.

But I’ll do it without hesitation for her.

My aunt Daphne was a woman.

She was around my height, with shoulder-length black hair that bobbed around the long earrings she loved wearing. She had caramel coloured eyes that glimmered as she’d laugh.

When she’d speak her voice was soft and yet strong, gentle and knowing, yet if she knew herself to be in the right, it was firm.

Daphne was a reserved person. But that never showed through her writing. With a keyboard under the tips of her fingers, all shyness was gone.

She was a woman way ahead of our misogynist society. In the words of my cousin Andrew, ‘she took the mould her country gave her and shattered it into a million pieces’.

I recently spent an afternoon gardening with my other cousin, Matthew, taking advantage of the glorious sunshine. There was music playing from a speaker as we worked.

It was the same place we had stood when I last saw Daphne. That day, she and all of us were harvesting olives.

A familiar song came on: one of Neil Young’s, called ‘My My, Hey Hey’. I say it was ‘familiar’ because my memory shot back to a post Daphne had written in which she mentioned it.

She’d written – and I quote her – Neil Young’s music ‘has kept me singing (really badly) since I was 16’. She revelled, she said, in the freedom to play it as loud as she liked, for she was no longer living in a flat.

I had never really heard Neil Young’s music before coming across her post, but when I hit the play button, it hit home. The harmonica went straight to your heart, but it was the lyrics that really did it. When Young sang the line ‘there’s more to the picture than meets the eye’, he spoke truth.

There was more to Daphne than meets the eye of someone who only knew her through her blog. There was much, much more.

Daphne loved art. She loved history. She had a fondness for archaeology, a deep understanding of anthropology. She loved untamed gardens, she adored growing her own plants.

She loved elephants, books and curios of all kinds – upcycling old ornaments and pieces of furniture with a splash of paint. She adored beauty, she was an aesthete. She adored life.

When at her house a few days after she was murdered, I noticed an emerald green cabinet by her desk. Butterflies of all species, size and colour had been carefully cut from large rolls of wallpaper, and had been decoupaged onto it. Each tiny curve of wing or antenna stood out against the green painted wood.

It was a project of Daphne’s, one of the many things she loved doing. She’d once filled that same room with thousands of beads from old jewellery, taking necklaces and bracelets apart to make new pieces.

She had an eye for detail in more ways than one.

Next to that green cabinet, some half-cut butterfly pictures still lay in a tin on the desk.

Stopped in time suddenly, but its beauty remained.

Those butterflies made me think. Something so small and seemingly frail, that undergoes a metamorphosis into something with wings to fly, given a voice, something that at first alone can fly over oceans to lands across seas. It inspires the millions living abroad, reminding them of its existence, of its everlasting beauty, of its truth.

My aunt Daphne metamorphosed into a voice that flew into the hearts of millions beyond these shores. Maybe she didn’t know it then, but I feel it in my heart at this moment that she knows it now. And she is smiling.

Neil Young, in his song, also sings the words ‘once you’re gone, you can never come back’. This is true, but a person we love comes back to us in the most unexpected of ways, in little moments, and in other people.

Matthew once wrote that Daphne is everywhere. ‘In natural and human beauty,’ he wrote, ‘ in words and ideas. In bravery, in courage and intelligence. In righteousness, in goodness and in hope. In humour and in empathy.’

His words, not my own. But I know what he means. In every word I read, in every flower I see, in anything I know she might have loved, Daphne is there.

I mentioned the butterflies before. Daphne had actually written a post titled ‘Painted Lady’, all about a butterfly she had seen in her garden.

As the sun dipped in the late afternoon when I was finishing gardening with Matthew, a single painted lady fluttered past. She flew with freedom.

Daphne had said, in her post: ‘yesterday afternoon, while out watering, I was thrilled to see lots of painted ladies. It seems like years since I’ve last seen one.’

I imagine her saying those words as she watches us this evening. Because she is no longer alone. She has each and every one of us here. And she knows.

My cousin Paul, in his absolutely brilliant essay almost two weeks ago, recalled Daphne at the age of 26, writing these words for her Sunday column: ‘We can truly call ourselves a democratic people – as opposed to a democratic government – when more of us do the same, without fearing the consequences’.

Thank you for all that you’re doing. Thank you”.


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