Russia Lutvey was the first Lutvey to go to Gayndah. He and his wife Eva, had 10 children: six sons and four daughters. The family owned businesses ranging from a general store, a hotel and dairy farms and several members held numerous public positions such as shire chairman. As Lebanese migrants, they had a first hand understanding of being outsiders and the target of prejudice.
These experiences played a part in their easy acceptance of Italian prisoners of war as employees on their dairy farms during WW2.
Eva Lutvey was 9/10 years old at the time and remembers her Uncle Mick as a bit of a rebel. Eva relates, “He treated Laurie and Carmello like sons. The farmers were told by authorities ‘on no condition were they allowed to give the POWs butter and cream.’ These items were on rations. But Uncle Mick ignored this, and also the order that the Italians weren’t to eat with the family. They were young men, a long way away from home and Uncle Mick made sure that they felt part of the family. They were not treated any different to his own family. I remember it being said, that they didn’t know where Australia was, and that they were drafted and had no interest in war. Uncle Mick’s wife Freda said that the men were going to keep in touch once they returned to Italy. This was not the case and Aunty Freda never fully understood why she didn’t hear from them. The Catholic priest at the time was Father Brosnan. He had spent time in Italy and was fluent in Italian. He would spend a lot of time visiting and talking to the Italians. They appreciated this. Uncle Mick would drive the POWs into town to Mass each Sunday. I think people frowned upon this practice, as they thought the POWs were treated too generously. A clear memory is the burgundy coloured clothing they wore.”
“Carmello” was from Castri di Lecce and “Laurie” was from Lizzanello Lecce. They were 24 years old when they went to the Lutvey farm. They had been sent from Libya to India before arriving in Australia onboard Mariposa 26.4.44.
Another two Italian POWs were sent to work for S Lutvey. They were Antonio D’Amelio from Volturino Potenzo and Giuseppe Curiale from San Bartolomeo in Galdo Benevento. Both were 33 years old in 1944. They had been sent from Libya to India before arriving in Australia onboard Ruys 28.2.44.
Nieces of Sam Lutvey remember how their “Uncle Sam Lutvey was reliant upon the two men assigned to him. The men wrote to Sam after they returned home to Italy. These letters written in broken English thanked Sam for his assistance to them in legal matters and also expressed appreciation of the good treatment they had experienced in their time with him. Unfortunately, these letters have all been lost.
Our cousin Barry who was three years old at the time. He told us his mother used to tell him that he was the only three year old who knew more Italian than English. Apparently, the men loved looking after Barry and he obviously loved their company too.”