Sunday, June 26, 2011

Some von Strudel family history

I know it's hard to believe when I tell you there's von Strudel family history lingering in the Italian alps - especially when I tell you there is no last name more Scottish than mine. But it's not what you're thinking - a wayward relative falling for a handsome/beautiful Italian god/dess? No, nothing quite so sordid. So, let me tell you a story...

Almost seventy years ago, during World War II, my paternal grandfather was captured by the Germans. He was among the approximately 30,000 South African soldiers taken prisoners of war at the fall of Tobruk, North Africa. The Germans then transported him and many others to POW camps thoughout Italy.

After the Italian capitulation in September 1943, the Germans undertook the task of moving all the POWs in Italy north to safer land Germany. Somehow during the transportation of prisoners (by foot) my grandfather and three or so other prisoners managed to escape without being noticed.

The escaped POWs walked the roads of Italy for days and days, living in fear of being sighted; defences were down as hunger and fatigue set in. When an an Italian civilian cycled past the group on the roads of the province of L'Aquila, the escapees quaked at having been sighted and the thought of being turned in to the Germans. However, rather than turn them in, the Italian man cycled back and somehow conveyed he wanted to help them.

This man was Ercole Farinosi and he and his family went on to harbour my grandfather for the next nine months, before an Italian spy betrayed the family and my grandfather was re-captured and sent to Germany.

This act of courage and kindness created an incredible tie between all those involved. Once my grandfather was safely repatriated to South Africa and had started his own family, the bond continued through letters between the families.My grandfather and grandmother even went to visit in 1973, which was apparently quite an emotional and joyous occasion. Sadly, my grandfather passed away in the early '80s, and with him, the communications between South Africa and Italy ceased.

1973 - my Grandfather and Grandmother visit L'Aquila and the Farinosi family
It was only in 2003 that my father, remembering the story of the Italians who'd saved his father, set about trying to re-establish contact between the two families. With time, and some help from Italian-speaking friends, the Farinosis were located, a pilgrimage of sorts arranged, and the special bond forged again.

So when Papa von Strudel heard I was planning a trip to Italy, he sent a messenger pigeon to the town of L'Aquila to alert the family that the next generation was coming to visit...

Next - Learning the word 'basta'

FF v S xox

1 comment:

  1. From L - R.
    Unknown lady (Maria Farinosi?) and gentleman, Ercole Farinosi,Anna Farinosi Fratti, Bill McGregor, Marisa Farinosi Resta, Hysterina Farinosi, Unknown lady, Tonino Farinosi, Gustavo Fratti. Seated at the table Valda McGregor and I think the child is Rosanna Fratti.


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