Flanders to Rome

Nicola Sciascia
Family Pilgrimage 2007

Linda Fletcher


Thought I should introduce myself and put down a few notes on my reasons for joining you on your pilgrimage later this year.

Some of you may not be aware of the Anzac project under way in Levin which was inspired by Sonny.

As former mayor of Levin Sonny gave the Anzac Day address last year when the town was celebrating its centenary.

He talked about Dominique and her interest in Uncle Charlie, as I call him, and how the family now knew much more about him as a result of her research. He felt it was important that we find out more about all the young men commemorated on our cenotaph in Levin before there was no one around to remember them.

His words struck a chord with me and I was determined to take up his 'challenge'.

Borough council administration officer Dennis Cole was also very taken with the idea and he organised a meeting to discuss the idea.

This resulted in the formation of a group called Adopt an Anzac and since June last year we have been researching the names not just on the Levin cenotaph, but also the memorials in the whole of Horowhenua - Foxton, Shannon, Tokomaru, Moutoa, Ohau, Manakau and the Levin RSA which is for World War II casualties including Sonny's brother.

The group is made up mainly of genealogists - including Diâne Taylor - and a couple of enthusiastic amateurs like myself. We have had fantastic results, and are presently preparing to present our findings to the town on Anzac Day this year.

My background is in journalism, and I have been writing a column each week in the Chronicle with some of the stories we have uncovered during our research. They have been well received by our readers, I think because these stories have never been told, and by finding out more about all those young soldiers they have indeed become 'real people' instead of just names on a memorial stone - as Sonny suggested they should during his address.

For me just giving the men names instead of only initials made a huge difference but we have found out so much more. We know their height, weight, the colour of their hair and eyes, we know who their parents and brothers and sisters were. We know where they went to school, what their last job was; we even have photos. And in many cases we know they still have family living in Levin.

Our research will be available on a website, and it is my intention to also produce a book, which I hope to publish on Anzac Day 2008.

For me taking part in the Sciascia pilgrimage this year will be the culmination of a project that has consumed me for the last nine months, and I am honoured to be included.

My interest is centered around the time at Messines and Flanders and the visits to the war cemeteries and the graves of your Pene whanau, but I am very much looking forward to the celebrations with your Italian family.

There are other Horowhenua men buried in the cemeteries we are visiting and I want to pay my respects to them as well as photograph their headstones for our project.

While at Assisi I want to find the local cemetery and from Rome I plan to go to Cassino for the day as this is where my father fought during the Second World War. This is an easy day trip by train, and it would be great if anyone else wanted to join me.

I am also keen to visit the village of Castelfrentano near the Sangro River - my father spent Christmas 1943-New Year 1944 there and has photos of the village and the people he stayed with. I am hoping to somehow find out if the family are still there so as not to waste time searching when I am there.

From the old second world war map I found on the internet, we will pass very close to the village on our way the Sangro River cemetery.

At the end of our tour I am going on to England to visit friends there, and continue my own pilgrimage around the cemeteries where Horowhenua men are buried.

I am also planning to go to Gallipoli. I was there on Anzac Day 2005 for the 90th anniversary of the landings and it was an amazing experience. But I didn't know as much then as know now, and I want to go back again and see it with different eyes.

I haven't yet worked out how to manage this part of the trip yet. At this stage I am going alone, so if anyone wants to join me they would be more than welcome!

Looking forward to meeting you all at our meeting next month.


Alan Sciascia © 2007 HomeCharlesTravel NewsItineraryParticipantsPhotosContactsWhakapapa

Nicola's and Riria's portrait images kindly scanned and edited by Diane Taylor
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