This is Ferruccio’s story in his own words.

I am Ferruccio IUS (Frank) born in Friuli, northern Italy on the 10 September 1936. I was part of a big family living on my grandfather’s farm.

Things became difficult during World War 11 in Italy.  Although initially aligned with Germany, most Friuli disagreed with this, particularly later when German soldiers came.  I remember every morning the Germans would be at the door to take my father and Uncles to the work gangs repairing damage to bridges and roads. We also had to supply them with food. One day my uncle had to deliver a cow to them.  He was found by a Partisan who told him to not to deliver it but share it amongst us.  I remember my father was a white as a ghost.  He knew that if the Germans found out they would kill us all and burn the farm to the ground. There were many partisans hiding in the hills around Friuli fighting the Germans, but we also had corrupt fighters in town who caused trouble.  Every morning the women of the village would take any spare milk to the factory.  One day the town fighters killed a German soldier.  The Germans went to the factory, rounded up all the women and girls there, lined them up against the cemetary wall and machine gunned them.  When I took my family to Friuli in 1977 I was able to show them the bullet holes still in the wall.

One time the Germans found a young man who was part of the resistance.  They machined gunned him as he ran and then continued to machine gun the village for at least ½ an hour.  My mother had been going to the milk factory and she dropped in the river where she was and lay still until the Germans left.  I remember one day seeing a row of men who had been hooked through the jaw and hung on trees to die.

I was 9 years old when the war ended.  We were very thankful to the British and Americans who saved us.  Things did improve, but Italy was ruined.  Although we could live well enough off the farm, work was hard to find and people never really trusted the army again.  I found a job building and became a bricklayer/builder.  You had to do National Service at 21 years of age.  I did not want to go into the army and my grandfather had died and his farm was split between his 11 children.  The smaller areas were not big enough to support a family and I can remember crying with hunger. My older brother had emigrated to Australia and I thought my chances would be better there as well.  I had been accepted and was set to leave when fighters along the Suez Cannel sabotaged a ship carrying cement. Ships from the Mediterranean all passed through the Suez Cannel. The ship was blown up and sank causing the cement to solidify.  It took a long time to clear.  During the time the Cannel was closed I turned 21.

I did 18 months National Service although for the last few months I was in the army lock up.  National Service then was in 3 blocks, the first 6 months you were a recruit, the second you were a regular, and then finally an experienced soldier with high rank.  The experienced officers would bully other soldiers and make them do duties they did not like.  One day a solder told me to do his cleaning and I refused.  Next day I was arrested and placed in the jail. It wasn’t bad there though.  We played cards all day and the other soldiers would slip us food through holes in the walls.  The beds were tilted as punishment but a soldier slipped me extra blankets and I rolled one up and put it at my feet. I was quite comfortable. When I was discharged I prepared to leave for Australia.  My mother did not want me to go.  I promised her I would only go for 5 years and then come back.   I had a younger brother and he agreed to come as well so we set off for Australia.  My mother could not even say goodbye to us she was so upset.

My older brother had spent time in a refugee camp when he came to Australia but he was able to pay for our trip and sponsored us so when we landed in Sydney in 1960 we immediately boarded a train for Brisbane.  In Brisbane we spent one night in a boarding house then boarded the train to Cairns where my brother picked us up. I don’t remember much of Sydney because we rushed to get on the train but when we were out of the city all I could see was empty land, land and more land.  I thought to myself, “Where are we going here?”.  On the trip from Brisbane to Cairns, my brother and I saw everyone eating and we said “what about us?”  One fellow told us – you have to buy a ticket.  It was too late for that meal, but we bought a ticket for dinner.  We had to choose what we wanted but we didn’t know much English.  My brother saw the word “roast” so he picked that.  When we got our dinner, it was roast pumpkin!  In Italy you don’t eat pumpkin.  It is food for the pigs!  And there was jelly.  I had never seen jelly before.  It was wobbling back and forward with the train!  We couldn’t eat it.

My brother was share farming, but when we got there the tobacco was still in the seedbeds and there was not a lot of work.  We both found work with builders doing farm sheds and barns.  The boss asked my name and when I said ‘Ferruccio’ he asked if he could call me ‘Frank’ instead.  I have been known as ‘Frank’ ever since. That first year we share farmed with our brother but the farm was along Chewko road where the soil does not produce good tobacco. It does not have much smell so did not get a good price.  My brother and I went back to building and I have been a builder since then.

When started with a builder in Cairns.  I was the only Italian there and I struggled to talk to the others.  Most of the men were good to me but there was this 1 guy who was always having a go at me and wanted to fight.  One day the older guys in the group confronted him and I never had any problems with him after that. I still struggled with things.  One day the boss told me it was my turn to make the billy tea.  I had no idea what to do so I made it like coffee. I got the billy and put water in it then threw in a handful of tea.  When the boss tasted it he spit it out and told me to do it again!

After being in Australia for 2 years I met Lena and she became my wife.  Both of us worked hard.  On weekends I would do jobs for other builders or farmers and we were able to buy land with her parents help.  We rented a house next to our land and in our spare time build a shed.  Our oldest girl was born while we lived next door and the second one just after we moved into the shed. Bit by bit I built our home and we still live in it today.  Lena has made a beautiful prize-winning garden and we love it here.   I did think about returning to Italy as I had promised my mother, but life here was good.  It is open and free; the weather is good and it is a wonderful place to raise children and watch your grandchildren grow.  I started to play sport here and was a representative goal-keeper for Mareeba for many years.  I made many friends through soccer and in time I could see that I would never go back.

In 1977 I took my family to Italy to meet family and to see my mother who had cancer.  The Italian hospital system was a shock.  People complain here, but there we had to be in hospital with her during the night because there were no nurses.  Lena had to watch the drip to make sure it didn’t block or she would die.  When she came home Lena had to wash the dressings to re-use them.  One thing that impressed me here was how friendly everyone is.  When you go to see the bank manager they invite you in and ask you to sit down.  There, they don’t even look you in the eye!  I said to myself “what better treatment can you ask for than this”.  After one week in Italy I wanted to come back.  I remembered our home with land around it.  I asked my brother what had happened to the open land and he looked at me and said ‘but are you mad – it’s there’.  It looked so small compared to Australia.  Here we have kilometre after kilometre of open land. It is so beautiful.  I am 81 now.  I still reckon that this country, if you are prepared to work, is pretty good.  I love Mareeba, the weather, the people the climate.  This is a good place.

Janet Greenwood

Janet Greenwood - Operations Manager

Janet commenced work with the Mareeba Heritage Centre in July 2016. She had the vision to create this project and was instrumental in acquiring funds and putting the right people in place to bring this project together. Janet is passionate about community engagement and development.

Ventures Online

Ventures Online - App & Online Project Design

We are a local app design company located right here on the Atherton Tablelands. Drop us a quick email and we will help you analyse what a new or improved app might mean to your business.

Angela Musumeci

Angela Musumeci - Volunteer Project Officer

Angela was born in Mareeba but like most young people left to pursue a career in Corrections and then Community Services. On retirement, she returned to her home town and is happy to be contributing to progression and preservation.​

Mick Hay

Mick Hay - Announcer (Mareeba 4AM & Innisfail 4KZ)

Mick has worked casually in radio for 30 years at a number of stations including 4LM, 4GC and 4KZ whilst also working for Telstra. He joined the 4AM team taking over the Breaky Show full time in July 2014. Mick enjoys living in tropical North Queensland after growing up in Innisfail and staying in areas like Thursday Island, Normanton, Mount Isa, Cairns and Mossman. In his spare time, Mick likes to go camping, do a bit of fishing and he enjoys the great outdoors.

© Mareeba Heritage Museum and Visitor Information Centre 2024

Website created by RJ New Designs

Your cart is currently empty.