Italian Language Blog

My Father’s War – Part 4 – POW Posted by on Nov 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

Chapter 3 of my father’s memories ended with his arrival at a French POW camp in Marrakesh, Morocco, in June 1943. Here are some of his recollections from the three years he spent as a POW in North Africa.

Links to previous chapters:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

My father (top right) as a POW in North Africa.

My father (top right) as a POW in North Africa.

C’è un episodio che mi ricordo con grande piacere. Quando eravamo a Marrakech mi avevano messo in una squadra di lavoro: la mattina, dopo la conta, uscivamo e andavamo a spazzare le strade e le piazze della città. I cittadini, specialmente le donne, avevano pietà di noi e ci allungavano qualcosa da mangiare, un pezzo di pane, un po’ di latte, ecc. Una mattina invece ci hanno mandato al cimitero militare di Marrakech, perché il guardiano aveva chiesto dei lavoratori per risistemare il cimitero per il 2 novembre, giorno dei morti.

There’s one episode that I always like to remember. When we were at Marrakesh they had put me in a work team: in the morning, after the head count, we went out and swept the streets and squares of the town. The citizens, especially the women, felt sorry for us and passed us something to eat, a piece of bread, a drop of milk, etc. One morning though, they sent me to the Marrakesh military cemetery, because the warden had asked for some workers to help clean up the cemetery for the 2nd of November, All Souls’ Day.

Io ero l’unico della squadra di prigionieri, in tutto una quindicina, che parlava un po’ di francese, per cui il guardiano si rivolgeva sempre a me:
Guardiano: “Monsieur Nicolà!”
Io: “Comandi!”
Guardiano: “Bisogna riverniciare e riscrivere i nomi sulle croci di legno”
Io: “Ci penso io. Lei mi procuri della vernice nera e della vernice bianca, e dei pennelli di varie misure, al resto ci penso io”

I was the only one of the prison squad, there were about 15 of us in total, who spoke a bit of French, so the warden always addressed me:
Warden: “Mr. Nicola!”
Me: “At your command!”
Warden: “The wooden crosses need repainting and the name rewriting”
Me: “I’ll sort it out myself. You get me some black and white paint, and various sized brushes, I’ll sort the rest out”

Mentre gli altri rimettevano a posto i tumuli, io copiavo il nome su un foglio, poi passavo una mano di vernice nera sulla croce, e quindi con la vernice bianca e un pennello sottile riscrivevo il nome in bella calligrafia. Il guardiano è rimasto molto contento del mio lavoro e mi ha chiesto: “Cosa facevi prima della guerra? Il pittore?” “Sì” gli ho risposto per farlo contento.

Whilst the other sorted out the grave mounds, I copied the names onto a sheet of paper, then I gave the cross a coat of black paint, after which I rewrote the name in a nice script in white paint with a fine brush. The warden was very happy with my work and asked me: “What did you do before the war? Were you a painter?” “Yes” I replied, to keep him happy.

Un giorno è caduto un aereo francese e al cimitero hanno portato un morto, era un infermiere. Ho ricopiato il suo distintivo da infermiere e l’ho riprodotto sulla tomba con delle pietre colorate. Quando la vedova ha visto la tomba si è commossa e ha voluto ricompensarci per il lavoro fatto. Il guardiano del cimitero le ha suggerito di darci qualcosa da mangiare, e così la mattina dopo ci ha portato del pane, delle scatole di tonno e del vino.

One day a French aircraft crashed, and they brought a dead person to the cemetery, it was a nurse. I copied his nurse’s badge and reproduced it on the grave using coloured stones. When the widow saw the grave she was moved, and wanted to pay us for the work we’d done. The cemetery warden suggested giving us something to eat, and so the following morning she brought us some bread, some tins of tuna and some wine.

Sadly, my father passed away a few days ago.

RIP Nicola Cricorian, 6th May 1921 – 28th October 2015

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  1. Maxine Oliver:

    Such a beautiful story, it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for sharing. My sincere condolences on the passing of your Father.

  2. Roberto:

    I am so sorry for your loss. He will now live inside your heart and memories.

  3. Bill Auge:

    Hello Serena and Geoff, Victoria and I are very sorry to hear of the loss of your father. He lived a long and productive life, but I know that does not ease the pain of losing someone you were obliviously close to. It is good you recently had the opportunity to spend some close personal time with him. He will live on in your memories and in the memories of everyone who has read his story in your blogs. Thank you for sharing that with us. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

    Love, Bill and Victoria

  4. Melissa:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your father’s remembrances of his wartime experiences. I especially enjoyed this one which showed the human element of war, with compassion on both sides. Please accept my condolences on his passing.



  6. Graham:

    So sorry to learn of your father’s death: may he rest in peace

  7. paolo:

    Mi dispiace a sentire della scomparsa di tuo padre.

    La sua storia raccontata durante quest’anno attraverso il tuo blog è molto interessante ed informativa e fornisce una personale prospettiva sulla guerra che è veramente inestimabile.

  8. Gary Donovan:

    Excellent choice of a text – very moving.

  9. Sylvia Alvino:

    So sorry for your loss. He is in the hands of God.

  10. Sharon:

    This is a wonderful story. I have so enjoyed reading the Italian and having the English there to support my understanding. This is a gallant effort and much appreciated. But even more so that your father was able to recount this history! I am so very sorry to hear of his death. Thank you, grazie mille, for sharing. My thoughts are with you–even though I don’t know who you are.
    Sharon Oldham,

  11. Rod Stephens:

    Very sad to see that your father passed away, his wartime story was very touching and gave us a very human view of the other side of a sad time for so many families. Sincere condolences.

  12. Donna Kelaher:

    Please accept my sincere condolences. I enjoyed reading about your father. It sounds as if he lived life to its fullest. Part 5 will be the never ending recollection of your memories of his life. Treasure them always.

  13. John K:

    Sono molto dispiaciuto per la morte di Suo padre.

  14. Joan Engelhaupt:

    I’m so very sorry to read of the death of your father. After so many years of reading the blog you and Geoff have created, I feel I know you at least enough to express my sorrow at your loss.

  15. Joseph T. Madawela:

    MY DEEPEST CONDOLENCES SERENA.He must have beeb a fascinating person

  16. libby colla:

    I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your father, Serena. I feel I knew him a little after reading these war stories. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  17. San Ward:

    This has been such a touching and tender account, now rendered even more so.

  18. Philip Vulliamy:

    So sorry to hear that your father has passed away. The many people who read your blog will have been moved, I’m sure, by this news. Philip V

  19. Chippy:

    Oh Serena – what can I add to all the above expressions of sympathy and gratitude for your father’s stories which you have so lovingly translated for us.

    We recently lost a very great friend who had served with the 8th Army in both North Africa and up through Italy to Montecassino. He never felt able to share his experiences with us so thank you for allowing us to share in those of your father. 11.11.15

  20. June:

    Cara Serena,sono triste ricevere le notizie della morte del tuo papa`. I suoi racconti delle sue esperienze durante la seconda guerra mondiale (in Africa) erano interessantissime e memorabili. Anche abbia vissuto una vita lunga e ricca mi sembra. Le mie condoglianze sincere…June Stubbs



  22. Rose are Trombetta:

    Che bell’uomo dev’essere stato tuo padre!

    Condoglianze e tante grazie per aver condiviso con noi le sue storie

  23. Andrej:

    Salve Serena!
    E’ una storia davvero bella e un po’ triste. Ti faccio le mie più sincere condoglianze per la morte del tuo padre.
    Saluti da Andrej

  24. Giacomo Sileo:

    Cara Serina,

    Mi dispiace sentire della morte del padre. Prendi Solamente uno padre in questa vita e sono sicuro che ti mancara’ molto. Nostro pensieri sono con te. Grazie per queste storie meravigliose che ci hai scritto di lui. Godevamo leggerle perché ci datto uno sguardo a storia italiana sul livello personale.

    Saluti tutti da Giacomo

  25. Rosalind:

    I want to say how interesting were your father’s reminiscences of the war period, in particular because we saw the events from a personal point of view. This last episode was especially poignant.
    And then you gave us the sad news of his passing away. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

  26. Phil:


    Vorrei ringrazziarti per la sua storia. Mio padre era un POW tra dicembre 1944 fra aprile 1945 dopo la Battle of the Bulge in Luxemburg. Era POW in due campi di prigionia in Germania.

    Mio padre morì molti anni fa quindi io sono lieto che tu aveva avuto molti anni con il tuo padre. Sei stata benedetti a avere tempo con lui.


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