Finding Ferdy is like finding treasure…
Tim Dwyer had heard his father’s stories about the Italian prisoners of war on their property at Aratula during WW2. He knew their names and a little bit about them, but it wasn’t until he took over from his mum, as letter writer to one of the POWs, that he appreciated the bonds of friendship formed over 65 years before.
(photo courtesy of Ferdinando Pancisi)
Tim continued to write to Ferdinando Pancisi (known as Ferdy) from 2010 but the ceasation of replies from Italy in recent years signalled the end of a era.
In a tribute to his parents and Ferdy, Tim while on holiday in Italy in 2017, decided to visit Ferdy’s village Civitella di Romagna. With an envelope in his hand and very basic Italian, Tim asked a lady in the street for directions to the address written on the paper.
With much gesticulation and explanation, Tim’s village guide understood he was “The Australian” and knocked on a door and roused 100 year old Ferdy.
Anna Pancisi, Tim Dwyer and Ferdinando Pancisi September 2017
(from the collection of Tim Dwyer)
Finding Ferdy was like finding treasure and Tim left Civitella di Romagna with a heavy heart. There was much he wanted to say and questions he wanted to ask but his holiday schedule and language were against him.
Realising the importance of capturing the memories and stories of Ferdy, not only of his time with the Dwyer family, but also his time as a soldier and prisoner of war, Tim engaged the services of Tammy, a Kiwi living in Tavarnelle, Chianti.
The legacy of friendship between an Italian POW and the Dwyer family, is the capturing and recording of this vital first hand account of the life of an Italian soldier and POW. Read the full story: PANCISI Ferdinando.
Tammy and her husband Nicola arranged to visit Ferdinando, tape his memories, transcribe them then translate them. Tammy said, “Ferdinando has an extremely fresh memory and is an energetic and jovial person!”
Ferdy walked back in time and explained about his time as a soldier and medic in Libya, his capture, working in the hospital in a POW camp in India, sang SOTTO IL CIEL DI BANGALORE, his first impressions of his farm boss (Tim’s father), his return home and almost emigrating to USA.
Ferdy reflected about his return to Italy in 1947,
“They prepared my bed, heated it up for me. I had a warm welcome, felt cozy, happy to be home. The only problem was that when I woke up in the morning, I felt kind of out of place! I was used to moving around and seeing the World. How was I going to make it here? I was feeling a bit like a fish out of water! This little village was too small for me!”
Even as a young man, Ferdy had a gift for wise words and in a letter he wrote to Pat Dwyer in 1946, he sends a message: ‘A cheer up to Pauline! Tell her she should be glad because youthness passes away like a wind and nobody can’t stop it’.
When talking about Tim and Cathy’s unannounced visit, Ferdy’s philosophy on life is revealed: “You see, this is the joy of living life -when you don’t know what kind of surprise is coming your way, making each day a pleasure”.
And quite possibly Ferdinando Pancisi’s philosophy and positivity guided him through those difficult war years.
I congratulate Tim on his efforts to co-ordinate a remarkable mission to capture Ferdy’s memories. I thank also Tammy and Nicola for realising the importance of Ferdy’s journey as a soldier and prisoner of war and their willingness to record this history.
Tammy, Ferdinando, Anna and Nicola 2017
(photo courtesy of Tammy and Nicola)