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P.O.W. Prisoners of War

Immagine di copertina tematica P.O.W. (Credits: Francesca Maffietti)

War testimonies are chronicled in Area 08, Italians on the Move.

This acronym was used in the English-speaking world to define soldiers captured during conflicts, to differentiate them from civilian prisoners. In particular, this term was used during the Second World War to define the thousands of Italian and German soldiers captured by the Allied, British or American armies, mainly in Africa in the territories of the then Italian colonial empire.

Prisoners captured in Africa (Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia) were shipped to India, Australia or England. It is estimated that over 18,000 Italian prisoners of war were transferred to Australia between 1941 and 1945. 

In India and Australia, prisoners of war were placed in special internment and detention camps.
Many Italian soldiers in Australia went to work on the huge farms run by British colonists. In some cases, the relationship with the employers resulted in the formation of close human relations, transcending political oppositions. 

Repatriation began in 1946 and continued until 1947. Most of the soldiers returned to Italy after being imprisoned for up to six years, others unfortunately died in the camps due to poor living conditions, poor hygiene, disease, and insufficient nutrition. Some, after being repatriated, decided to travel back to Australia and continue the life they had begun there, while others chose to desert and stayed in Australia to live their new life.

Various organisations are involved in reconstructing this page of Italian history, including the projects Italian prisoners of War and Finding Nonno by Joanne Tapiolas, an Australian researcher of Italian origin.