POW’S ‘FAM­ILY’ RE­UNITE IN MOS­MAN PARK

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - By SOPHIE CLAPIN

SAN­DRA Garizzo (57) has been re­united with Max Evans and Graeme Ste­wart in Aus­tralia for the first time since her fa­ther re­turned from World War II 67 years ago.

Joe Garizzo was cap­tured by Al­lied troops in north Africa in 1941 and spent three years in con­cen­tra­tion camps in Egypt and In­dia un­til he found him­self in a camp in Clare­mont in 1944.

From here, the 27-year-old Ital­ian pris­oner of war was sent to work on Mr Ste­wart’s fam­ily farm in Ko­jonup, where he be­friended the Ste­warts and the Evans fam­ily, who now live in Clare­mont and Mos­man Park re­spec­tively, form­ing a re­la­tion­ship that con­tin­ued even when he re­turned home to Venice.

Ms Garizzo said the fam­ily had re­ceived doc­u­ments dur­ing the war from the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment declar­ing her fa­ther miss­ing.

“The fam­ily thought he was dead,” she said.

“My mother and Bar­bara Ste­wart (Graeme’s mother) were great friends and we used to visit the farm, par­tic­u­larly on school hol­i­days to help with shear­ing,” 82-year-old Mr Evans said.

“I re­mem­ber work­ing in the shear­ing shed with Joe, clear­ing pad­docks and do­ing crop­ping.

“We were just friends, I was a teenager and he was in his 20s.”

Mr Evans said he con­tin­ued to write let­ters to Mr Garizzo, even on his way back to Italy and he was the first to make con­tact and visit him in Venice in 1955.

“We never thought of them as pris­on­ers of war, they were just work­ers or friends,” he said.

Fam­ily and friends of the Ste­warts and Evans fam­i­lies have re­turned to Italy sev­eral times.

Mr Ste­wart (76) said it had been a lovely re­la­tion­ship through var­i­ous fam­ily mem­bers.

Ms Garizzo was in Aus­tralia ear­lier this month for two weeks.

“There has been this con­ti­nu­ity for three gen­er­a­tions and the strange and amaz­ing thing is that th­ese two fam­i­lies have met on this oc­ca­sion and it is like a re­union after so many years,” she said.

Mr Garizzo worked in Ko­jonup for about two years and re­turned home in 1947.

“My fa­ther talked to us about Aus­tralia so much that I think we have ab­sorbed some of Aus­tralia and we feel within us that it has be­come part of our story,” Ms Garizzo said.

“Even though it was such a short time, my fa­ther had been so im­pressed with Aus­tralia, his life changed and that is why it was such an im­por­tant pe­riod for him.”

Mr Garizzo died in 2012 at the age of 92.

Ms Garizzo said she would one day like to bring her fam­ily over to Aus­tralia.

“My son would love to come and see where his grand­fa­ther was.”

Pic­ture: Mar­cus Whisson d426086

San­dra Garizzo with Max Evans and Graeme Ste­wart. Be­low: Jack Ste­wart, Joe Garizzo and Graeme Ste­wart as a boy on the Ste­wart fam­ily’s Ko­jonup farm Rocky Glen.

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