John Saliba left Malta to help his children succeed by attending university in Cape Town, South Africa. There, his own career grew in the hospitality industry, to the point that he became director of most of the hotels partially owned by the company he worked for.
In 1984, my wife and I decided to leave Malta as we were not prepared to see our children possibly being deprived of having a tertiary education. My three children attended private schools at the time.
The Verdala Hotel, where I worked, closed down. I was immediately offered a job at the Halland Hotel, which was taken over by the Tumas Group a few months after I joined. Mr. Tumas treated me with great respect and I am still grateful for the way he complemented my work. However, my desire to leave the country continued to grow.
I applied for a position with three hotels abroad, one in New Zealand, one in the USA and another in South Africa. The New Zealand one did not acknowledge receipt of my application. The New Waldorf Astoria in New York offered me a position of Front Office Manager, but with the condition that if I did not get a Green Card, my family and I would have to leave the country. The five star Heerengracht Hotel in Cape Town offered me a position as Rooms Division Manager and the South African government offered to pay for our flights and the relocation of whatever we wanted to take with to South Africa. I accepted the South African offer.
Before leaving, my brother-in-law told me something I will never forget: “John remember, Malta will always be your mother country, South Africa will be your adoptive country. I wish you all the very best. You are very lucky; you have experienced in 1964 the birth of our country and the day will come that you will experience the birth of your adoptive country.”
My career grew tremendously in South Africa. I soon became general manager of a hotel and a couple of years later, I became the manager responsible of four hotels. A year or so later I became Regional Manager of half the Western Cape hotels within the Protea group. I ended up being a Director of most of the hotels partially owned by the company. During the time that I was with the group, the Company started with four managed hotels and ended up with 131 hotels under the Protea umbrella.
My children all made it. I brought my three children to South Africa so that they could attend the University of Cape Town (UCT). It gives me great pride and pleasure to say that the three of them made it. My eldest son, Kevin is Professor at the Medical School and Research School of Biology at the Australian National University. The University have named a laboratory “Saliba Lab’’. My daughter Ruth studied philosophy at UCT and later continued further studies at the Malta University. She now teaches English in Zurich. My other son also studied at UCT and became an engineer. He now is the North America Quality Manager of Baltimore Aircoil Company, a multinational, world leader in thermal transfer and ice thermal storage products.
I am proud of my decision. Bringing my family to Cape Town was a good move. My adoptive country has given my children the opportunity to be successful. Thank you South Africa. However, our greatest pride is being Maltese.
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