We lived on a farm 35 mile outside of West Wyalong, New South Wales. I would have been eight years old when Ernesto Armati and Angelo Airoldi came to stay with us. They became part of our family and to this day, I am in contact with their families.
Ernesto and Rosa Armati (married 1 January 1948)
Dad had sheep, wheat, pigs and milkers on the farm and the Italians did a lot of work around the farm. They built chook yards, dams and horse yards and I suppose general farm work.
They lived in a hut built for them which was basic. They ate with the family and became like brothers. We had a big dining room table and they would jostle and joke with us kids and try to push us off the bench seats we sat on. They cooked pasta meals for us. Watching them ride horses was funny and they would sometimes have a bit of a race. The closest church was 12 miles away and Dad bought a green and blue bike for them so that they could go to church. My sister was very upset because Dad never bought her a bike. Both Ernesto and Angelo had fiances in Italy and upon return were married: Ernesto to Rosa 1 January 1948 and Angelo to Angelina October 1947.
I clearly remember the canteen truck visiting the farm. They would get their cigarettes : three threes, brylcream, shaving cream stick and razors.
They had come to Australia on board “Mariposa” and arrived at Melbourne. They were then transported in open cattle trucks to Cowra.
Dad was a staunch Methodist: no smoking, no drinking but Dad made exceptions for Angelo and Ernesto. Dad brought in a big barrel for them and they used the table grapes to make grappa. They did it by stomping the grapes with their feet which became purple.
We cried when they left. I don’t know why they didn’t leave the POWs on the farms until they were taken back home, but they had to wait a long time in the POWs camps and it would have been better for them to stay with us.
Dad kept in contact with them over the years and when I was in my twenties I went to Italy for the Olympics: 1960. Dad encouraged me to go visit Ernesto and Angelo which felt awkward because 15 years had passed since I last saw them. They welcomed me into their homes with open arms. Lavish meals were prepared and eaten and I was taken around and shown the sites. I travelled a little of Europe and then returned to spend Christmas with them.
Angelo and Angelina Airoldi and family Bagnatica 1960
Years later, Ernesto’s granddaughter came to Sydney for her honeymoon. I felt very privileged to take her and her husband around for 5 weeks showing them the sights.
Memories from West Wyalong