I remember my mother talking about the English and American soldiers during the Second World War.
My family comes from a small town in Sicily. I also was born there but as my father worked in the Italian Air Force, we moved around Italy quite a lot. We left Sicily when I was about four years old.
My mother told us that when the British and American soldiers arrived in Sicily they were very tall and very kind.
Of course my mum was then probably only nine or ten years old and everyone must have seemed quite tall to her.
I specifically remember an encounter she had with one of the soldier.
One day my mum and her sister were playing with other children in the street. As children often do they were teasing each other and as it happened my mother fell and hurt herself. One of her knee was bleeding and of course she was crying.
At the bottom of the road there was a group of British soldiers. One of them noticed my mum crying and approached her and in a broken Italian tried to ask her if she was all right. My mother was intimidated but at the same time she knew that all the other children were looking at her with envy, as they knew that the soldier would give my mother some chocolate or other sweets.
The soldier managed to find out where my mother lived and accompanied her back to the house and to my grandmother.
The soldier introduced himself as Robert Taylor from Nottingham. My grandmother thanked him, but the conversation ended quickly because of the language barrier.
My mother did of course receive some chocolate. The injury was not bad at all and she was able to rejoin very quickly the other children still playing in the street.
This adventure stuck in my mother’s mind forever and she would always mention Robert Taylor from Nottingham. My mother has always been an avid reader and knew that Nottingham was Robin Hood’s town and in her young girl mind she saw Robert Taylor as Robin Hood coming to her rescue.
I am now in my early fifties and about five years ago I decided to have a change of career and started working on cruise ships. I find this very interesting, it gives me the opportunity to see many places and meet lots of different people.
Some time ago while socialising with the passengers I met an elderly gentleman. We started talking and he asked me where I came from and after I told him that I now live in London but I am Italian and originally from Sicily. He told me that he was stationed in Sicily during the war.
I started thinking then now I would hear all the boring stories about the war again. I could not have been more wrong. He said that he liked Sicily very much and particularly a small town where he was stationed for few months. I asked him the name of the place and I was quite shocked to hear the name of the town where I was born.
He told me the story that one day while on patrol he came across this little girl crying and with a bleeding knee.
Suddenly I started paying more attention to his story and I soon realised that he was talking about my mother. I was quite in shock and found it impossible to believe that this was the young soldier that helped my mother so many years ago. I was thinking that he must be one of the few people alive today that actually saw my mother as a child.
What a coincidence that I had the opportunity to meet him!
I was not sure if I should tell him that I knew the story already, I was afraid that he would think that I was making it up. He was however a very friendly person and I decided that I would take the risk. I asked him if his name was Robert Taylor and if he lived in Nottingham. He was surprised and asked how did I know that?
He actually does not live in Nottingham any more but he was born there and after the war he moved away.
I told him then about my mum and the story she used to tell us.
For a few moments we were both speechless. We could not believe that after 65 years this unimportant event was not just a small anecdote in somebody’s memory but something that stuck to his and my mother’s memory so vividly.
That evening I called my mother and told her of my encounter with Robert Taylor. She was very surprised and started to cry. She told me that she had often wondered if that young British soldier was still alive and what kind of life he had.
My mother then asked me to write a note to Mr Taylor, thanking him for the kindness he showed towards that little crying girl.
Every time I think of this story I get quite emotional and think how extraordinary the whole experience is. The world is big and colourful and so many people live in it, but at the same time it is a small world.
I am now much more interested in what people have to tell, and also try to tell my family some of my experiences as a child.
You never know maybe in the future my son will meet somebody that knew me as a child and be surprised and amazed as I was.
© Grazia Giarrizzo - May 2011
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Grazia Giarrizzo.
Published on e-Stories.org on 29.05.2012.