The Trust’s early years

Early MSMT newsletters recall the Trust’s first students and their experiences. The first student of all was Arianna, daughter of Benito and Marina Barchetta, whose aunt, Maria Levi, had once waded across the Tenna river in the Marche carrying a saucepan of pasta on her head for Keith Killby, the charity’s founder, after his escape from Servigliano camp. Another student in that first year, 1990, was Serena Deluchi, whose grandfather and great grandmother had bravely supported Major Gordon Lett’s brigade of international partisans in the Rossano Valley, Liguria.

Another early student was a young man from Servigliano in possession of an Alexander certificate awarded to his family. His grandmother had got a considerable fright while being given a lift by a German, as in her shopping bag she had a gun that she was taking to a group of partisans.

Bursaries were also given to grandchildren of the two Fiadino brothers who had been shot at Capracotta, the village high above the river Sangro, for helping PoWs. (A third brother, pushed down the hill by a German, had rolled to safety.)  In 1993, a plaque on behalf of MSMT was added to their memorial. Similarly, in 1997 one student was a descendant of Nello, a Rossano Valley partisan shot dead by the Germans.

By 1998 the Trust had welcomed 100 students. During that year, one of them was Paola Iozzi. Her grandmother recalled how her family had noticed that tomatoes and melons were disappearing from their orchards. The culprits – PoWs hiding nearby – though the villagers would be enemies but soon discovered that was not the case. Eventually, the Iozzi family and their neighbours were feeding 15 English and Amercians from Servigliano camp.

And one more story, from the intake of 2007: many years before, Giovanni Blandini’s great-aunt Peppina, aged 18, was spotted outside her house in the Tenna Valley eating bread, by Scottish soldier James Dickson who had escaped from Mont Urano PoW camp. He was sheltered in the house by Peppina, her sister and mother for nine months. The couple fell in love and despite the misgivings of the local priest and James’s army superiors they left for England in November 1944 and settled in Fife.

Another feature of the bursaries over the years has been a ritual that has proved very popular with students. Many have had lunch at the house of Keith Killby, the Trust’s founder, and been treated to his unsurpassable lasagne.

1n 2001, the lunch was particularly successful. Two of the students who signed the visitors’ book, Davide Sperindi and Lucia Calcagnoli, took a liking to each other as well as to the lasagne. In 2006. they announced their engagement and in 2009 they got married at Amandola, in the Marche. The outcome was also pleasing to Brian Lett, the then chairman of the Trust, who in 2001 had spent hours waiting for Davide’s delayed aircraft  in the UK. It had been worth the wait.