Monumental life

By Grace Jones | posted on February 1, 2019

WHEN Albany resident Sheryl Nostrini was ill five years ago her goal to preserve the family history was only in its infancy.

After 18 months of research, a trip or two to Italy and years spent writing, Mrs Nostrini finished her first novel Emilia and the Monument Builder: Remembering the Sacrifice detailing the lives of Emilia and Giovanni Nostrini.

Mrs Nostrini said the book was primarily about the lives of her mother and father-in-law while they were in Italy during World War II and the mark they left on Albany.

“Giovanni, or Jack as he was known in Australia, came from Somma Lombardo outside of Milan,” she said.

“And he built the Mount Clarence Desert Mounted Corps Memorial not long after he was made an Australian citizen.”

Mrs Nostrini said George Hodgson who was subcontracted by Harold Hartman gave Mr Nostrini the task of building the monument.

“The blocks came from Port Said after the 1956 Suez Crisis and were all numbered,” she said.

“Jack had to put them all in the proper order because the blocks were numbered and cut to fit the space they were needed in.

“After they were placed he went through and filled all of the joins by hand.

“There were no fancy bits of machinery back then.”

Sheryl Nostrini’s father-in-law Giovanni Nostrini guiding the blocks into position. Courtesy: Sheryl Nostrini.

The Desert Mounted Corps Memorial was originally constructed in 1932 at Port Said and was irreparably damaged during the Suez Crisis where the first bronze cast statue was destroyed.

Mrs Nostrini said Mr Nostrini had some trouble when receiving the replica statue from Milan.

“When they received the statue it was damaged and no one in Australia could repair it,” she said.

“It had to be sent back to Milan and repaired before it could go on top of the monument.”

Mrs Nostrini said Jack’s life in Italy before moving to Australia was a tumultuous one.

“Jack had an amazing life and that history should be preserved,” she said.

“He was in Montenegro when Italy capitulated to the Allies. He became an enemy of the Nazis and had to escape across the Adriatic Sea.

“He then walked from the south to the north of Italy, through a war zone and survived.

“It’s just an amazing story.”

Mrs Nostrini said the inspiration behind the title of the book lay in the lives of Giovanni and Emilia.

“Both of them sacrificed a lot to give their families a better life in Australia,” she said.

“Emilia had only ever been an hour or two outside of her village before she moved to Australia.

“In coming here they both ensured that their sons, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now great great-grand child, do have better lives.”

Mrs Nostrini said she would officially launch at the Albany Italian Club on February 9 from 4pm to 6.30pm.

“Anyone is welcome to come along,” she said.

The book will also be for sale at Paperbark Merchants.