[Paul wrote this chapter at the same time as the rest of the memoir, in 1989]
I must now attempt a more up to date history of some of the characters in this story. All of the score of people who came out of the camp at Sforzacosta together, reached safety, some of them rather more quickly than we did. Certainly Frank Fish and Jack Hulford were back in England some months before us. Jack let our families know that we were loose but I have quite lost touch with him since then. It is said – but I do not know on what authority – that Frank committed suicide soon after he returned.
As for the five principal characters, who all went back to those parts of the country from which they came, I suppose in general our careers have been what might have been expected; Alec involved in the technical mysteries of television, Freddy and I in art and design. Perhaps Hoop becoming a teacher was a change of direction, but certainly not surprising. Norman’s progress was based on his practical knowledge of building construction but sadly, although he was the youngest and physically the strongest of us, he died prematurely, in 1980.
There has been only a brief reference to Bert Ramelson in my story although in the camp itself and in our decision to escape, he was more important. That he would become a member of the central committee of the Communist party might have been predicted. Laurence Bains has had a successful business career but he also became involved in local government. After having been a councillor and an alderman – in the Tory interest – he was eventually chairman of the Greater London Council; before, that is, the Council was abolished by his own party.
With the exception of old Vivenzio and his wife, all those members of the Cardarelli family who were listed as being in Picacchi in 1943 are still alive and moreover are living in the province of Macerata. This may suggest that things have changed very little but this is certainly not the case. Their history and that of their twenty-seven descendants – at the last count – might be a microcosm of the last forty years of Italian history, reflecting the ‘economic miracle’ of the sixties and the ‘sorpasso’ of the eighties, with all their advantages and some of their drawbacks. In material terms, life has been revolutionised. After many years of living under a landlord, the prospect of being free of the padrone must have been a driving force. Those who are farming, now in the minority and mostly the older generation, are doing so on land which they own themselves and with up-to-date equipment, living in either new or substantially modernised houses with all the appropriate domestic appliances.
For the next generation – Vivenzio’s grandchildren – the aim has been for a business of one’s own. This is the Italian dream and it has been worth working very hard to achieve it. Not everyone has done so but the successes are considerable. Stelvio has a business as a carpenter and joiner in Gualdo; a son of Riccardo, after a college education as a surveyor, has a building firm in Rome; Federico’s son is a wholesaler dealing in handbags and leather goods; and Nannina’s son owns a cafe-bar in Aosta. A daughter of Guerino helps her husband run a radio and television shop in Sarnano, while Stelvio’s daughter is married to another entrepreneur in leather goods, which is a local industry. Of course it is splendid to see this deserved prosperity in families which only forty years ago were landless peasants, struggling to keep above the poverty line. It would be sentimental to have many regrets about the old way of life, picturesque as it was, but I do have some small reservations when looking at those children being brought up in town apartments, and in contrasting them with their cousins still living on a farm. However, this transition from a rural to an urban community is part of the price that Italy as a whole has had to pay for its post-war prosperity.
In Picacchi itself, most of the land which I knew is now barely cultivated; tracks and footpaths have disappeared; the Cardarelli’s old house is an overgrown pile of rubble. On the nearby site of the ruined house, where we first took shelter, another house was built in the fifties but this too is now deserted and collapsing again. Only Guerino is still living not far away, on his own land and higher up, where it is slightly more convenient and closer to the provincial road. The track down is still very rough and twisting; the house has been modernised but has not quite the standard of luxury of some of those of the next generation. The Di Luca farm is occupied by a Sicilian family, one of several from the impoverished South who have migrated to take over the work in these unrewarding fields.
Riccardo and Maria, with their four sons, moved in the early sixties to take a farm – as tenants – near Passo Sant’Angelo. Here, on much better terrain, they have brought up their family and by hard work have eventually purchased the land. The two younger sons – one with wife and children – still live with them and Flavio with his family are in a house nearby. The second son did well at school and went as a boarder to a seminary, then to a college in Rome where, with his Roman wife and two children, he now lives. This seems not to have cut him off from the rest of the family, he visits constantly for week-ends and holidays. Riccardo has not been well enough to work on the farm himself for some years but Maria, I think, will never retire, still often getting up at five in the morning, she has no interests other than family and work. Ignoring the dozen or so channels available on the several television sets, she occupies herself with her vegetable garden and, particularly, with the welfare of her sheep.
Federico, with his wife and son, moved somewhat further away, nearer the coast, to purchase a small farm. Gradually, they have disposed of much of the land and have built themselves a new house, next to the older one which has been sold. The house is shared with Alberto, his son, who is married with two children. It is he who has built up a one-man business in the handbag trade, in the course of which he travels over much of Italy. He is also the only Cardarelli who has been to visit us, driving over to England with his wife and children in 1987. He had to give himself a ten-day holiday to do this, almost unheard of – no-one else seems ever to take a holiday at all. A discovery yet to be made by these industrious families, is that one purpose of work is to give time for leisure.
Nannina married a brother of Maria and they have a small farm quite near Gualdo where they now live on their own. Their son owns a bar at Aosta and a married daughter with two children lives near the coast. Elvira’s husband, Gino, father of Stelvio, did eventually return from his military service in Sardinia. They moved to a farm also near Gualdo and on the Provincial road. Stelvio has a thriving joinery business, the whole ground floor of a new purpose-built house providing the workshop. Here he and his wife live with Elvira – Gino died in 1985 – and with his son, who helps him in the business. A daughter, who is married to a handbag entrepreneur, lives in the next house. She has two sons who are of course great-greatgrandchildren to old Vivenzio, who would have been surprised to learn that they were christened Jimmy and Charlie.
Turning to the Di Luca, my information is much less. They were generally somewhat older and most of the family who were there in 1943 are no longer alive. Amilcare survives; he lives in Rome but does sometimes visit his widowed sister Secondina, who lives with a relative on the outskirts of Gualdo. She is now rather confused, but when I visited her a couple of years ago she remembered who I was and produced that broad toothy smile which she had inherited from her mother. Maria, also widowed, is living nearby with her son Graziano; the daughter Elvia lives in Rome. I should have mentioned earlier that Lina, the refugee niece from Rome, had a brother who was a prisoner of war in England. Norman had promised that when he returned home he would do his best to see him. This he did, going to a great deal of trouble to find out from the War Office as to where he was, and in getting permission to take him out for the day.
At Ceretto, the surviving Lucarelli, Domenico and Walter, are still living in the same house and there things have changed least. Domenico, with a wife but no children, runs the farm; Walter, who is unmarried and self-employed as an installer of central heating, has a carefree bachelor air and goes abroad on package holidays. The story of their sister, MariaRosa, who was born at the end of the war, is an instructive one in showing what a determined woman can achieve. When she was thirteen, her mother Assunta died and MariaRosa left school and became housewife to her father, uncle and two elder brothers. Jeanne and I went to her wedding in 1967, after which she went off to Rome where her husband was a waiter. She soon had two children but had also taken a job as a sort of concierge at the apartment block where they lived. Within a few years, they had saved enough to return and to take a general shop in San Ginesio. For much of the year MariaRosa runs this little supermarket – it sells every sort of food and drink – singlehanded, as her husband has an ice cream van down on the coast at the holiday resorts. This means being open from eight in the morning until eight at night – admittedly, with a two-hour break in the middle of the day – after which she must do all the ordering, book-keeping and the VAT, and provide a meal for husband and two children; boy at college, daughter at school. All this she carries out with the utmost efficiency and good humour.
I must end this final chapter, with what could be seen as a catalogue of materialistic progress, with a tribute to those important things which remain unchanged in all my adoptive families, their continued hospitality and affection towards one who was a stranger, based on the shared memories of difficult times.
Riccardo Cardarelli died in August 1990, aged 80, a few weeks after he and Maria had celebrated their Golden Wedding.
Hoop died in March 1992
Bert Ramelson died in April 1994
Alec Burch died in September 1995
[Paul Bullard died in February 1996]
]Maria Cardarelli died in January 1999]
[Laurence Bains CBE, former leader of the Greater London Council, died in December 2015, aged 95]
[I am also indebted to Piero Scarino for some recent information about his generation of the Lucarelli family:
Walter died in January 2016, leaving his wife Guiseppina. His daughter Assunta is married to Antonio, with a son Lorenzo.
Domenico died in July 2012, leaving his wife Marietta – (the story recounted in the postscript to chapter 14 suggests that he was born in 1938, rather than 1948 as above)
At the time of writing (2016) Maria Rosa and her husband Nicola are in good health
Piero is married to Barbara, with three sons, Nicola, Filippo and Angelo
Eleanora is married to Simone, with two children Gregorio and Ludovica]