Heritage Month – our duty to remember

The Sonja farm shed.

Heritage can often be found in the strangest of places; it may be the farm on the hill, or the memorial in town, the clothes that we wear or the food we eat.

Heritage is often enfolded in the everyday, but sometimes it can also be tied to us by an unknown, nameless cord – an event or story nearly erased and forgotten by time.

This is where it becomes our duty to remember.

Barbieri Idro was an Italian World War Two prisoner of war. During his incarceration, he was stationed for three years on the farm Sonja in the Nuy Valley.

One day, Barbieri was busy loading wine barrels filled with red muscadel unto a train when one of the barrels broke loose from its ties and rolled over him. He was killed.

Today, the farm where this tragedy unfolded remains one of Nuy Winery’s grape suppliers.

To commemorate Barbieri, Nuy Winery has decided to name a limited series of barrel-aged red muscadel in his honour.

World War II was one of the most destructive wars in history; it cost more money, damaged more property, killed more people, and caused more far-reaching life changes than any other war.

More than 1.9 billion people fought in the war, 72 million people died, of whom 21.3 million were Russians.

Between 1939 and 1945, 3.4 million tons of bombs were dropped – averaging 27 700 tons a month.

A total of 93 000 Italian prisoners of war were sent to South Africa from 1941 to 1945, as a result of the war.

These men were stationed in prisoner of war camps throughout South Africa.

In 1942, 1 500 prisoners of war arrived in the Boland to help build the Du-Toits-Kloof pass – and remained here until the war was over.

During this time they came into contact with the local farming community and were employed as farm labourers, builders, chefs, gardeners, mechanics and various other tasks.

Many friendships and even marriages were established during this time.

Some of the Italian prisoners of war returned to South Africa after the war, to visit the farms and families where they were employed; some even stayed as permanent residents.

During the 1980s, some of the families of these prisoners of war, who passed away during their time in South Africa, and particularly in the Nuy Valley, came to commemorate their loved ones.

Heritage can be familial and tangible, or sometimes just a distant memory – an abstract concept that is hard to define.

However, and often in the strangest way it unites a society in its need to not only understand its heritage, but also to appreciate, protect and ultimately enjoy it.