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Born to poor peasants, Marco is taken to North Africa with his older brothers and sisters. When the Second World War breaks out, he and his sister Irene are sent to a Fascist-run colony along the Adriatic Sea coastline. There, the boy witnesses the military discipline and indoctrination forced upon the boys from North Africa, some of whom are primary school age. Later, when his parents return to Italy, Marco has the opportunity to see for himself the atrocities of war, when his sister Irene is shot dead by the Fascists and one of his friends is killed by the Germans in retreat. The boy's faith in God diminishes but is never extinguished.
I was born in a small town in the Veneto region, North Italy. I went with my family to Libya when I was two years old. At the age of six, I was separated from my parents and, with my sister, sent to a colony on the Adriatic coast. I attended primary school for only two years. I learned to read and write myself. I started working in a straw-bag factory when I was thirteen years old. Then I worked cutting timber and making charcoal in the mountains of Marche and Abruzzo. I worked in the construction of a dam between Italy and France and, before emigrating to Australia, worked for the Forestry Department.