Tag Archives: ANZAC day

Before and after…

This morning on this cool, rainy ANZAC Day, I watched the Brisbane parade on TV and looked through old family photographs and military records. Over the past 120 years, four generations on both sides of my family have served and fought – in the Boer War, both World Wars and Vietnam, in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. Some volunteered, others were conscripted, it quietened a couple, others it unsettled. I also think of those not in uniform but affected by war – the widows, children who lost fathers, mothers who lost children, the loved ones of those men who returned with trauma, understandably changed. So many doing their best to ‘get on with it’ with little or no help.

In the past I’ve shared with you photographs of some in my family in uniform, but today as I looked through old photos, these two struck me. Left, is Granny Maddalena and her son, Elia in 1939, only months before WW2 began. Right, is a couple of years after the war ended, not long before they were to come to Australia to reunite with the rest of the family they’d been cut off from during the war. I’ve written some of what happened to them in Italy during WW2 in Joe’s, but recently I’ve been digging deeper, finding out more that I hope to write about in future.

I have great respect and care for those who elicited such courage as soldiers in my family – I’m also proud of those who got caught up in war as civilians. Granny is older in the photograph after the war, of course, yet compared to before, I can’t help but feel there is something else in her face – a knowing, of atrocity seen that won’t be spoken of, and I see it in her stance too. Also I notice, in the first photo, Maddalena has her hand on Elia’s shoulder, and later on, he has his hand on hers.

I’ve been discovering some parallels to what occurred for them in Italy then with what’s currently happening in Ukraine and it really hits home. As horrible as it is to see, I look, because in a way it’s up to all of us to see, to know, to do, even something small, and to remember. Because it is in peacetimes that our earth and life on it is most beautiful and can thrive with all those things that war curtails – beauty, art, cooking, music and dance, storytelling, laughter, creating. Peace gives us the space to be. Zoë xx

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Filed under inspiration + history

Lorna, Aunty Kate and Maddalena…

I just heard someone in the neighbourhood practising the Last Post to play at dawn for ANZAC Day tomorrow and it gave me goosebumps. As we bring to mind all those affected by war and I think especially of those men in my family who served in both world wars and Vietnam, I thought this year I’d share with you another perspective of how it was for three different women in my family during war…

Lorna, my Australian grandmother, volunteered during WWII for the Women’s National Emergency Legion (WNELs) based in Brisbane. This auxiliary provided first-aid, radio communications, mine-watching and transport driving and mechanics, particularly for the US troops’ Pacific base and among her duties Lorna would drive large transport trucks and buses with her service also taking her to Darwin.

Katherine, her grandmother, who everyone called, Aunty Kate, was born in Australia after her family emigrated from German Württemberg in 1854. Her son, Lemuel was 20 when he signed up to serve in WWI in the 26th Battalion from 1915 until 1919. She received a telegram in 1917 to say he’d been wounded and while he survived some of the worst fighting in Europe against German soldiers he was sent back for more. The family were loyal Australians but how it must have been to have relatives still in Germany on the other side of the war, possibly even fighting against Lemuel.

Maddalena, my great-grandmother, was stranded in Italy with her young son, Elia from 1939 until 1948 throughout WWII and the trying years after. Not able to have contact with her husband and elder son, both interned in Australia, (a particular injustice for Vitale who’d fought with the Allies during WWI), Maddalena persevered through nearby bombings, a visit from German soldiers who took their little food, killed their donkey and chickens and wrecked sown crops, and then, the years of scarcity that came after.

For all those who have been affected by and endured war in all its forms, thinking of you with much respect and compassion.

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Filed under art + photographs, inspiration + history, italy