So many people postpone their dreams, thinking that there will be time for them later. But that’s not how Emiliano Prenassi, our colleague in Slovenia lives his life. When Emiliano faced a major loss eight years ago, it only reinforced his attitude towards life: one cannot take tomorrow for granted.
However, this is not a sad story – this is a story of a family that continues to live out their dreams. This is the fifth article in our new People with Purpose series, in which the people of Wärtsilä share in their own words about the major turning points in their lives and what brings purpose to their days.
Now, Emiliano tells his story in his own words.
At the age of 17, I knew already where to start my life: I wanted to buy my own apartment. I know this sounds very mature, but to be frank, I was wild back then. So, when my classmates were focusing on school and buying fancy cars, I was working as a bartender few nights a week while attending high school.
I wasn’t afraid to work hard, and this paid off. A few years later, I quit studying and moved on to the second chapter of my young life. Work made me feel like I was creating my own future. Of course, learning was important as well, but I knew that if I’d ever continue studying, I needed to do it my own way.
I’ve always been skilled in handicrafts, so I travelled around Europe to learn the skills to become an armorer. I took part in medieval fairs all around the continent, selling my own work – suits of armours and daggers – and teaching about the sheet metal process in the medieval era. It was a lifestyle that gave me the chance to meet interesting people and make new friends.
But then, love “hit the anvil of the armorer.”
I met the love of my life for the first time when she was a newborn. Our mothers were friends, and we were inseparable until the age of three. But then many years passed until I saw her again, just after her wedding to another man. This was at a dinner organised for me and my mother since we were unable to attend on the actual wedding day.
I know it sounds harsh, but not all relationships nor marriages are meant to last. As our eyes met at the dinner, Stelvia and I felt we shared a special connection. We were soulmates.
From that day, we wanted to rush, but some things cannot be pushed. So, I told her what felt like the right thing for me to do: I’ll wait for you, whether it takes one day or a year.
When she then found her way to me and we started dating, it didn’t take long for us to start dreaming about our very own house where could raise a family.
Actually, I never wanted kids. But my wife did, so I agreed to have a baby. Becoming a father felt like a boom: it was amazing. I never knew fatherhood could feel like this! So, then I was the one who pushed for a second and then a third child.
After our first house was built, we felt like we were in the wrong place. The city life didn’t fulfil our needs, so we took another leap into the unknown and move to the countryside. We moved so far from the city that we ended up in another country: Slovenia! After finding our dream homestead in this new country, we sold everything and started all over again. But with Stelvia, even this big step felt like a simple adventure.
As we moved away from Italy, I was surprised to see how many people disappeared from our lives, even though we were less than an hour’s drive away. But then we made great friends in Slovenia: people who can help me with anything and provide the structure I can build my life upon.
When it comes to family and friendships – the kind of relationships that last for a lifetime – it’s not always happy and simple. You don’t see them only at the best times. But after you’ve chosen to share your life with these people, you want to compromise, prioritise and work hard to keep the structure of your life in place.
So, moving was our first leap. It enabled us to give our kids a healthier lifestyle without the rush of the city. And today, I feel more Slovenian than Italian; I’ve integrated into the society and even learned excellent Slovenian by just giving it half an hour every evening.
We wanted to make the most out of our country experience. To show our kids how food is really made, we started farming. We did it to learn something new, and I really enjoyed the experience. During the day, I was working with Wärtsilä in Trieste, then in the evenings, I was a part-time farmer. We started with half a hectare, some chickens, rabbits and sheep, and since then, I’ve slowly expanded by buying more fields, forest and farming equipment – I got my first tractor, too.
I had planned to ask my wife to marry me again after 10 years. I wanted to show her I was still in love with her as much as on the first day. But unfortunately, I never got the chance; less than one year after we started our dream life at the farm, I found myself alone with three kids. In 2013, I became a widower due to a disease that was discovered suddenly – and too late.
After we knew about the disease, the hardest part was to act like we didn’t know. We didn’t do this to ignore the facts, but to make the last times she spent with us the best times. I still feel that trying to stay positive was the best choice we made – not complaining, not being sad, but shedding some sunlight on every day – as we didn’t know how many were left.
Naturally, I’ve gone through many emotions. It is not fair that she passed, but life gives and takes, without any warning. After eight years, my love for her still feels like that first day – but these feelings are frozen in time.
Luckily, the other half of my heart is still beating, and I want to move on. Instead of focusing on the longing, I think about the wonderful 10 years we shared, realising that many people never get to experience that. My heart melts when I remember how it felt to be with her. And every day, I try to live my life twice, for me and for her.
But I do feel bad for my kids. Our youngest was less than two years old when Stelvia passed away. But they say that everything happens for a reason – and sometimes, the reason is visible only after many, many years. So, I try to look at the bright side and how this experience has helped my children grow. I see the experience like a Spartan shield – it’s a heavy shield, but once you are strong enough to raise it, it will protect you and your loved ones.
My kids have different personalities, and we have all dealt with the loss in our own way. But I’ve encouraged them to always let their feelings out – no matter what they are. This lesson is perhaps something that I only preached about but didn’t follow myself. At first, I was so focused on taking care of the kids that I didn’t realise how unsustainable my own coping mechanism was. My father helped us while I was away from home at my normal 8-hour Wärtsilä shift after which I continued working at the farm. The children were small, and they often kept me awake at night. Eventually I had a bad case of pneumonia. Two weeks in a hospital helped me realise I couldn’t steal time from myself.
So, I started to relax by playing guitar or walking barefoot on the lawn – forgetting everything else and focusing on the scents and tickling of the grass under my bare feet. But it was only during the ongoing pandemic when I started work on my mental wellbeing. When Wärtsilä’s factory was closed for months, I finally had enough time to think. And I decided to get professional help.
Throughout the therapy, I chose not to use medicine. I believe the mind has enormous power; it is you who turns your head to the brighter side. But sometimes, people forget they’re in the driver’s seat of their life and get stuck with a negative approach. For example, during the pandemic, many people seem to focus on what they cannot do instead of seeing all the new opportunities there are.
With the therapist, I learned breathing and relaxing techniques to help calm my anxiety. For all of us, there is a moment during each day when you’re alone and you face yourself, and if you don’t feel your best then, you don’t feel good with anyone. Luckily, therapy helped. Now, I feel much more energetic and balanced.
Throughout my life, even before Stelvia passed, I’ve valued the present. I think it’s smart to plan and set goals, but I also feel that if you have a dream or an idea, you should do it now. Don’t wait for tomorrow, as we shouldn’t take tomorrow for granted. I’m teaching my kids the same; even if it’s a mistake, do it now – tomorrow, you will get a lesson out of it.
So, we are keeping our dream alive. We still live in Slovenia, and I’ve also decided to give back to this wonderful country by joining the volunteer fire fighters. The decision came to me when I was part of a chain crash; seeing other people taking pictures instead of helping got me thinking how two hands can make a difference for those in need. So, I’m happy to say I am an active firefighter in my community. Nowadays – if I’m home and not at work in Trieste – I never know when my morning coffee might get interrupted by an emergency call.
Despite all this, being a father is my first duty – 24/7.
Our family shares a love for music, and I encourage my kids to try different instruments. The more experiences they have, the better they grow. I used to play in a band, and my kids are very enthusiastic whenever I plug in anything loud.
I will carry this love for arts with me forever – an artist gets to create something beautiful for others to see and to experience. And for that same reason, I love farming. Farming is like the uppermost art form; creating tasty food from the mud. It’s acknowledging the small things in life. When you plant the seed, take care of it and then you eat it, it’s more than the taste of potato – it’s the taste of your effort.
I try to give my kids the right tools to build up their own life in the best way – not pushing, just supporting. I want their focus to be school, but I expect them to learn the value of hard work and keeping it together as they help at the farm.
Besides encouraging my kids to study, I’m thinking about going back to school myself too. My passion for mechanics is strong, and throughout the years, I’ve continued working on steel and wood as a hobby in my own workshop.
I know studying while working takes extra energy, and success depends a lot on what routines and life situation you have. And, as I’d now study on my own terms, I don’t want to fail. I’m confident I could reach this dream this with Wärtsilä – working here gave me already the chance to have a family, build a house and move to Slovenia. Of course, it’s my will to do what I want, but it would have been impossible without the company’s support.
My current position in the material management is the best I’ve ever had. It has endless challenges that give me energy and opportunities to grow by finding new solutions. As my line manager empowers and gives me space to handle situations, I’ve become more flexible, more efficient and better in prioritising.
Of course, I’m still limited with 24 hours a day, but I can do better with my 24 hours – more than what I was able to do 10 years ago. So, every morning I can come to work with a light heart, ready to do my best.
As much as we’d love to hear more about Emiliano, this is where we leave him, for now. Before getting up-to-speed with his studies, I’m sure we’ll see Emiliano travelling to Australia with his kids – that is something the family has planned together for some time.
Additionally, Emiliano has already bought some land in the middle of the woods, so it’s only a matter of time before he starts building his cabin there. Emiliano plans to use this hide-out for meditation and enjoying nature. The cabin will also be an escape, with no connection to the old times. Instead, it will be a place where fresh memories are created.