The group was entertained by speaker Alva de Chiro who gave an enlightening talk based on her late husband Biajjo’s, early life. Born in Caserta in Southern Italy, he was sent away to a Mussolini College at the age of 8, which was considered an honour at that time, but it was 469 miles from home. Needless to say, he was very homesick having enjoyed a happy family life up until then.
The talk was entitled ‘War and Survival – A Boy’s Story,’ and Alva recounted that during the war, Biajjo was taken on by a partisan farming family living near Lake Garda and close to the college. One of his vivid memories was being taken by the family to Milan in 1945, when Mussolini and other Fascists were publicly executed in the town square.
Food had been scarce and one day, encountering a lorry delivering melons, which had travelled from near to his home in Caserta, he managed to get a lift. His own family were of course delighted to see him, having thought him dead. He studied book-keeping at school and spotting an advert for workers needed in England between the ages of 21 and 40, he found employment at the Coalite factory in Chesterfield.
This proved to be a bit of a shock to the system having previously been used to an Italian climate!
At the weekly local dance, he met Alva, and they were married 4 years later. Biajjo’s family were not able to be present at the wedding in October 1959, but sent across 2 sprigs of Orange Blossom as a reminder of life in Italy, and Alva was sent a brooch to wear on her wedding dress. Biajjo found different employment, firstly as a Rent Collector and an Arrears Officer, and then as an Official Interpreter.
Together with a baby son, the couple made their first visit back to Italy in 1961, which Alva found a little tricky – she was unable to converse with the new family, but did learn about Italian cookery and, very quickly! With a second son, the family returned to Italy sometime later and attempted to find both the farm near Garda, and the Mussolini College, which still bore the original fascist emblem of ‘La Fascia.’ The whole trauma of those early war years obviously left an impact on Biajjo, as Alva mentioned that it took 10 years of married life before he was actually able to open up to her about his experiences.
Biajjo died in 2001, but Alva has some wonderful memories, photos, and keepsakes from their life together and, she learnt to speak Italian!
Our next meeting is to be held at Walton Golf Club on 1 November, when as a group, we shall be enjoying our annual meal out. The Christmas Celebration will follow on 6 December in the Parish Room at St John’s Church. If anyone wishes to find out more about the group do feel free to speak to Trish, Marilyn J., or myself.