Lamberto Yonna, a civilian internee was medically evacuated to the 113 Australian General Hospital (AGH) Concord Sydney in September 1941. Lamberto Yonna was a prominent Sydney businessman when he was arrested on 11th June 1940, a day after Mussolini’s declaration of war.
During his time in internment camps from June 1940 to January 1944 he recorded life behind barbed wire through art. He is well known for his cartoons both humourous and poignant.
Yonna acting as interpreter, sat with a young Italian prisoner of war Cesare Sottocorno in the 113 AGH. Sottocorno died on 22nd January 1942 while Yonna held his hand. In 1942 he painted Pax in terra hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Pax in terra hominibus bonae voluntatis
[Peace on earth, goodwill towards men]
A landscape featuring a tidy path lined by cypress trees on both sides leads towards a solitary cross in the distance, which is silhouetted against a vivid sunset. Painted by Lamberto Yonna, 1942 South Australia (AWM ART27808)
In November 1947, Yonna wrote to Cesare’s family. He had experienced difficulty in obtaining an address for the family and apologised for the delay in writing. He wrote about Cesare’s illness, operation, medical care and death.
Yonna reflected, “Questa morte ful il capitolo piu triste della mia tristissima vita di queglie anni…” His words were full of sadness but echos his philosophy: peace on earth, goodwill towards men.
Cesare Sottocorno was buried in the Rockwood Cemetery in Sydney.
Grave of Cesare Sottocorno (photo courtesy of Cesare Sottocorno)
In September 1961, Cesare Sottocorno was laid to rest for a second time inside the Ossario at Murchison.
Crypt inside the Ossario Murchison Victoria
(photo from www.greatershepparton.com.au)
In February1942 Professor Lamberto Yonna was transferred from NSW to South Australia. It was another two years before he was released from internment at Loveday Camp South Australia in February 1944.
Before the war, Yonna taught languages at Yonnas School of Languages Sydney as well as being secretary for the Italian Chamber of Commerce Sydney. During internment in Loveday Camp he held art classes. After the war, he operated an import-export business Yonnas Agencies George Street Sydney.
1952 ‘Advertising’, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 – 1954), 17 March, p. 10. , viewed 03 Jun 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248749965
In 1952 Yonna was mentioned by the newspapers as: ‘a professor of languages, is an artist of distinction and had exhibited in Sydney and overseas’.
Ironically, while he had been arrested as a security threat in 1940, in 1952 he became a Commissioner of the Peace for the state of New South Wales.
1941 Liverpool Lamberto Yonna: Camp Cartoon self-portrait of the artist who is in turn sitting for his portrait to be painted by two younger, serious artists. In the background, the three figures are depicted again, with the two younger men shown as being centaurs (half men, half horses) shooting arrows at their sitter, shown as a fleeing faun. (AWM ART27788)