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An Unknown Element to the Family Story (Part 3 of 4)

“I have the diaries somewhere. Your father’s diaries that he wrote whilst he was a Prisoner of War in the South African camps.” My mother had no comprehension of the impact of those two sentences. I was dumbfounded. I hadn’t expected that answer when asking her for more information about my father when he was in the army. Why had she never told me about these when I had started writing the family story two years previously?

The Prisoner of War diaries written by my father, Eugenio Piergiovanni

Opening the dog-eared and tattered pages was surreal, like something out of a Harry Potter novel. On three-inch-high by four-inch-wide recycled paper, my father’s writing was ineligible at the best of times. Staring down at secretively written scribbles using any writing tools that had been illegally obtained - pencil, watery blue ink or blotchy black ink - made deciphering the Italian ramblings of a young boy growing into adult hood near impossible. My father’s diaries were for me, a year-long revelation of painstaking but loving translation with phone calls to my mother, sometimes a full scanned page sent by email for her to print and write translations from Italian to English on the back. Of course, I had my own Italian which wasn’t as fluent as it used to be and there’s Google translate but there were some colloquial northern Italian (Piedmontese) terms that had special meanings. I uncovered a whole new person that I had no knowledge of. When my father was alive, he’d ever spoken about his years in POW camps during the Second World War. This was a precious opportunity that had presented itself; his young voice from the past as he spent his formative years in POW camps. Once again, I became gatekeeper. My mother had never read these diaries apart from a few pages here and there. So, some secrets will stay between my father and I and any of his compatriots that may still be living. Again at a crossroads on what to include and how to write it, my husband suggested alternating chapters that would reveal to readers the two diverse characters as they both experienced the war and then their courtship. A further insight was prompted by a mentor from the Queensland Writers Society. There was so much information in what I considered my final draft that the barrage of events was overwhelming. By trying to include everything, I had unwittingly started on the second writer’s arc. [endif]

Marisa Parker - Author

Part 4 released on January 26th, 2018


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