Farm building on a remote property owned by the Italian couple Gaetano and Maria Vaccarezza, where five escapees from P.G. 52 were sheltered
I received a note last month from Frank Vaccarezza. Frank explained that for a time during the war, his Italian grandparents had sheltered five Allied POWs, all escapees from P.G 52.
Frank who was born in Italy, has lived in the U.S. for most of his life. However, he is in communication with cousins in Italy, who live near his grandparent’s old property. Frank has asked that I post information about his grandparents’ assistance to the soldiers in the hopes of his making connections with the servicemen’s families.
Here is the information Frank sent:
I am trying to locate the families of several British Commonwealth soldiers who escaped during WW2 from P.G. 52 near Chiavari, Italy and hid from the German army in an old stone structure. Chiavari is a town on the Mediterranean Sea coast just about 25 miles south of Genoa. It’s believed these soldiers escaped some time in 1943, but I can’t really be sure of the year.
I would be most appreciative if any of these family members would share with me their relative’s story of this period in their lives.
These soldiers were able to travel on foot a distance of about 10 miles (roughly 15KM), and eventually found their way to one of my Grandparents’ parcels of land. Although this parcel of land was right in the middle of Lavagna / San Salvatore / Cogorno, across the Entella River from Chiavari, it was also somewhat remote. The only access, even today, is by a footpath along the creek at the bottom of the small valley. The men hid in an old stone house on the property, where my Grandfather had chestnut and olive trees and a vineyard.
On discovering them, my Grandfather willingly helped them by bringing them food on a regular basis—even while at his home, just three or four miles (roughly 5 or 6KM ) away, the German Army had set up a small command post in one of his out buildings. My father recalled his father (my Grandfather) giving him this update—two English soldiers and three South African soldiers of British descent escaped and found their way to the stone house.
During their stay in the house, the escapees inscribed on the top, outer side of the front door: “We are six English prisoners, in this room, like cattle.” I am not sure if my Grandfather had been using the stone structure or not. It was likely used only to store gardening tools and supplies. I know that in earlier times it was used as a barn, hence the reference to cattle. In even older times, it may have been a family residence since there is evidence of a second floor.
I don’t know much more, but am hoping the families of these soldiers will contact me, as I would really like to hear their stories of this time in their lives. After the war, my grandparents received an Alexander Certificate recognizing their help to these men. In the years after the war, one of more of them corresponded with my Grandparents. I don’t have any of the soldiers’ names. I am asking my relatives in Italy to search for the correspondence, but it’s doubtful these letters have survived over the years.
Thanks for any information anyone can send.
You may contact Frank directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to me, Dennis Hill (email@example.com), if you have any information about the PG 52 escapees who were sheltered by the Vaccarezza family.