New Zealand serviceman gave their lives to help liberate Italy from Nazi occupation in World War 2. One town in Tuscany has made a special effort to remember that fact.
For decades after Tavarnelle Val di Pesa was liberated in August 1944, locals believed their liberators were Americans. It was only due to the efforts of former Tavarnelle mayor Stefano Fusi and his New Zealand wife Jill Gabriel that the true story came to be told – that soldiers from the 2nd New Zealand Division, and specifically from the 28th Maori Battalion, had been the troops to force the German retreat.
Last year the story of that liberation came to be told in a fine book published by Editore NTE, I Giorni della Liberazione: Le truppe neozelandesi da San Donato all porte di Firenze. The book collects contributions from New Zealand and Italian historians and testimonies of those who lived through those days of death and destruction.
At the invitation of Stefano and Jill, we attended the ceremonies to mark Liberation Day in Tavarnelle on 25 April — the date of Anzac Day in New Zealand and Australia. The coincidence of dates doesn’t seem so much by chance when you are there, such is the feeling of fraternity between our nations and people. A few days later, we were privileged to visit the current exhibition of photographs relating to the liberation at the beautiful Palazzo Medici Riccardi in the heart of Florence.
Libro International is committed to working with Stefano, Jill and NTE to make I Giorni della Liberazione available in English in 2011.
‘Questo volume è il frutto felice di un bel rapporto di amicizia e fratellanza … Un’amicizia che è solo l’ultimo episodio di un rapporto speciale che si è stabilito fra i nostri Comuni, i nostri territorio, con la Nuova Zelanda.’
‘This volume is the happy fruit of a positive relationship based on friendship and fraternity… A friendship that is merely the latest episode in a special relationship that has been established between our territory and New Zealand.’
- Stefano Fusi, from the introduction to I Giorni della Liberazione
At the Eighth Army … Various exhibition in Florence, left to right: Stefano Fusi, Florence provincial councillor; Jill Gabriel, one of the book’s translators; Fabrizio Nucci, publisher, Editore NTE; Peter Dowling of Libro International; Tavernelle mayor Sestilio Dirindelli; Gianna Magnani and Angela Mori of Tavernelle council, who also worked on the book.