Early Beginnings -
story begins in 1959, when I was around eleven years old, in a small town in the
It began in the dark war days around 1944, because at the time she and my
grandmother were all alone in this small town while my father was fighting the
war at the Russian front, and also my grandfather was in
Now the town where my family lived was controlled by the Nazi SS –
German soldiers, and life was very hard for my mother and grandmother, and the
whole town. One morning the Nazis gathered the whole population of the town,
including my mother and grandmother, and took them all into the town square for
questioning. Apparently the Nazis had found out that the people of the town were
hiding several Italian partisans. They wanted to know where the partisans were,
but the proud townspeople did not want to reveal their hiding place. The Nazis
forced everyone into a rollaway tunnel; they were all screaming and crying, but
had no choice but to do as they were told. There they stayed for several weeks,
in a stinking environment, with little food and water, while in the meantime the
Nazis got drunk and made fun of the people. Sadly my mother was nearly due to
give birth to my brother, and the smell and the smoke were causing her great
discomfort. All the children and the old people were crying and screaming for
help. To make things worse, one morning, one of the Nazi soldiers who knew how
to speak Italian, began yelling at the people, saying that somebody had stolen
his wallet. He said if it wasn’t returned as soon as possible he and his Nazi
cronies would blow up the tunnel with everybody in it. Sure enough, some stupid
person had stolen the wallet the night before, while the Nazis were drunk and
sleeping, and he was now long gone.
Things had become very bad in that town; everybody was crying for help,
because they all thought they were going to be blown up. God must have smiled at
them that day, because suddenly the Germans began running away from the entrance
of the tunnel; they just disappeared. Suddenly some familiar voices were heard.
Apparently the partisans and the Americans had heard about all the people of the
town being in danger in this tunnel, and had rushed to help the people.
My mother and grandmother were very happy to be liberated so quickly, and
were soon back in their own home; just in time for my brother to be born a
couple of days later. The whole town brought food, blankets and all kinds of
things, because it was usual in that small town to help one another.
It all ended well for my mother and grandmother, when a few months later
the end of the war was declared, and my father came home to find out that he had
My father was so happy to have a son that he couldn’t stop talking
about it to all the people of the town. Sometimes what begins as a sad story
ends up with a happy ending, and when the story was finished we were all so
tired that we all went to sleep.
time me and my sister were playing and we were making a lot of noise. My father
told us that if we were to stay quiet he would tell us some of his old
adventures from the war times. We quickly sat down to listen to him.
The story was about when he had been posted to the Russian front; it was
a sad story, but in those days, sad stories were the only stories that my
parents knew. They had lived through the hardships and poverty.
The story began in the middle of winter at the Russian front, where my
father was fighting the Russians, following orders given by the fascists and
Germans. The snow was very high, my father told us, and his soldier friends were
dying by the hundreds, blown up by bombs and grenades. The fighting was very
tense, and suddenly he found himself all alone in the middle of the snow, with
soldiers blown to pieces all around him.
He threw his rifle up in the air and prayed to God for help. God must
have answered his prayers; he woke up to find himself in a clean, comfortable
bed in a military hospital. He had bandages on his hand and had lost two
fingers. He told us that he thought that he had been dreaming.
He started to cry, and could not go on any more, and then we all cried
too. We all went to bed crying. He stopped telling us any more stories because
they made us too sad.
Things were very hard for my mother and father, during and after the war,
as they had to rebuild their lives. My father was a farmer, a very good farmer;
he grew very good veggies, tomatoes and all other fruits and so on. But the hard
part was that they worked six and a half days a week growing all this stuff all
year and suddenly large storms with hail and wind came and destroyed everything.
Yes, they were hard times those days.
day my parents received a letter from a friend that lived in
My mother said to my father, “Why don’t we try to go to this new
country, because I’m sure that things would be better than they are here.”
They had several more conversations about the matter and suddenly one day
he said, “Yes I can’t handle being here anymore. I have a family to support
but it seems that all the hard work has no rewards. Write to these friends of
This she did – and sure enough within months, the proceedings began.
Firstly my father told my mother, and the rest of us, that he thought it
would be better if he were to go to
The final day came.
I remember that the year was 1960. We all went to this place called
I remember I must have been about 12 years old at the time. Suddenly my
father said to me, “While I’m in
I thought to myself, ‘Why me?’ My brother was five years older than
me, and I guess the reason why my father didn’t ask that of my brother, was
because my brother was a hairdresser, a ladies hairdresser, and he knew
absolutely nothing about farming. In actual fact, he had never even been onto a
farm, but I had. When I was a little boy, about 10 years old, I used to always
go to the farm to help my family after school, so I know a little bit about
After my father left we all returned home, and for 18 months, I was the
new head of the house – I guess I was pretty proud – I was only 12. My
mother and I started working together along with my donkey, my goat and my cow.
I remember that my mother used to go to the farm and cut all this grass, which I
then put in the cart. My donkey and I used to take it home to feed the cow and
One day we decided that we could try to make it a little bit easier and
start selling milk, so we spoke to some of our relations about it. They had cows
and some goats and we asked them how much they would sell the milk for. They
decided to sell it quite a lot cheaper just to try and help the family. So while
I was bringing the grass home to feed my animals, my mother was milking the cow
and the goat and I was also getting milk from my family. I would then distribute
the milk around to the neighbours that lived locally. I remember by doing that,
we accumulated a fair bit of money, which helped to put food on the table and to
clothe us. Also, it was enough for the trip that we were hoping to make in the
near future to
So you see it was hard work, but I was proud – because at only 12, I
was the man of the house. I think my mother was proud too because – my mother
and I were just like a team – as we still are today in 2006.
We’re still a team my mother and I.
We worked so hard. I remember that my little friends used to come to me
and ask, “Why don’t you come and play any more?” and I would reply, “I
guess I can’t because if I do, then we won’t have any money to survive.”
Then my friends would come help me on the farm, because they understood that my
father was in a far away country, and I was the only man working.
All that came to an end one day, after my father had been in
We were all so happy; my brother, my sister, my grandmother, my mother
and me that we were going to this new country. A country, where if we believed
what we were told, had kangaroos on the street. I kept telling my little sister,
who was 5 years younger than me, “We’re going to see the kangaroos. We can
play with the kangaroos.” My sister would reply, “Kangaroos, kangaroos.”
Oh yeah, she was so happy. She was my best mate and still is today – my sister
is still my best mate.
For another 4 months we struggled until we had enough money. I remember
in the last month, when it was time to sell my donkey, I cried because the
donkey had worked so hard. The goat, the cow and the donkey had done so much to
help us, and now we had to sell everything. We sold everything except the house,
because we thought it was better to have a house to come back to, if
The day arrived when we all had to go to
But me – I was happy to go to my new country, because I was full of
dreams, I guess 14-year-old dreams, to see what I could find in my new country
called Australia. I was looking forward to the trip because I’d never been
anywhere before. The only place I’d been was on the bus to the beach, not far
from my town. This was going to be the trip of all trips – a 30 day trip, a
long trip, but I didn’t care because I was looking forward to it. All I was
leaving behind was hardship and hard work; I really wanted to get out of there
because although I didn’t mind being the man of the house, it was becoming a
bit too much for me. So yes, I was looking forward to going to my new country.
The day before we left I borrowed the donkey from the new owners. I told
them, “I just want to take my donkey for my last trip.” I must have gone to
all the farms that my father had looked after, and a lot of other places, and
visited all my little friends. We all had a good cry. You see, I was the leader
of my little soldier friends, and it was tough. I just remember how hard I had
worked, and what a struggle those 18 months had been, and how sad I felt to
leave all my friends and my donkey. Yes, I guess I was sad because I didn’t
know what my new country was going to be like. I didn’t know if I was going to
get new friends and the language barrier – I had no idea.
I was thinking about all these things when I was talking to all my little
friends. They had gathered around me like a bunch of little soldiers, all in a
circle, and they were all saying to me, “Are we going to see you one day? Are
you going to come and visit us?”
I said, “I don’t know. Maybe I will.”
Sadly though, right up to this date, which is 2006, I have never been
I remember that the night before, we couldn’t sleep, because we were
thinking about our new country,
I also remember a couple of years before that; I was working where my
brother worked, in the salon, just for a couple of hours every now and then.
When it rained I couldn’t work on the farm. I used to pick up some spare
change by washing people’s hair and sweeping the floors. One day this man
comes along with an Italian sort of an American accent. He would have been a man
of around 59 - 60. In he walks, into the salon, with two of the most beautiful
girls I’ve ever seen. I think the only time I’ve ever seen girls like that
is in the movies. He asked my brother if he could do their hair.
While he was waiting, he said, “I think you’re wasting your time here
My brother answered and said, “We’re going to
Then the man said, “If you’re interested to go to
My brother turned around and said to this man, he said, “Look why do
you want to do all this when you hardly know me?”
The man answered, “Well because I think you’re worth it. You do very
good hair and my two lovely friends here, they’re very happy with the way you
do their hair.”
My brother said, “I better ask my mother and see what she thinks.”
The man said, “You go ahead. If you decide, let me know, and I’ll do
the proceedings for the whole family. I’ll even get your father from
My brother went home and I remember he told my mother the whole story. I
was there, and my little sister and my grandmother were there. He told my mother
that this man had come to the salon, with these two ladies yesterday, and he had
said that he could set us all up in business to
And that’s exactly what my brother said to this man the next time he
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