31 March 1945
Davide Dander was researching his grandfather’s footprints as an Italian prisoner of war in Australia. Grandfather Antonio Arici had kept a number of items from his time in Australia which had all but been forgotten about. This cache includes several books and private librettos.
(Photo courtesy of Davide Dander)
Davide via his mother, sent me a photo of the cover and a page of one such book. But this Piccola guida was a puzzle to me.
Here was a book telling the POWs about Australia: the climate, the major ports, information about the economy, banking and postal services. Surely the authorities did not want the POWs to know about how to set up a bank account in Australia, which is one section in the book.
The POWs were not allowed to have maps or Australian currency or post letters privately. Yet the type of information contained in this book would assist if the POWs wanted to escape!
As is normal for my research journey, one thing leads to another. With a bit more digging around I found the following information about this book.
Piccola Guida per Gli Italiani in Australia was written by Padre Ugo Modotti December 1944. He worked closely with the Italian migrant community in Melbourne from 1938 to 1946. He wrote this booklet for the Italian migrants.
On 9 March 1945, the Directorate of Prisoners of War was aware of this booklet and on 31 March 1945 approval was granted to distribute Picolla Guidi per Gli Italiani to the Italian prisoners of war in Australia.
By 1945, there was a relaxation in how the Italian POWs were viewed. While they were still POWs, they were not considered a high security risk. It was also a time when the Italians were thinking about life in Australia after the war and requesting permission through their farmers to stay in Australia and not be repatriated.
A guide for Italian migrants to Australia, this book gave the Italian POWs information to prepare for the time when they would return to Australia as migrants and free men.