Light is being shed on the largely forgotten story of Indian soldiers who became prisoners of war in Italy, thanks to the research of Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Professor of Art (photography) at the University of Rhode Island, USA. The PoWs were among the 50,000 Indian soldiers who fought in the Italian campaign on behalf of the Allies during WW11.
Prof. Matthew’s artwork draws on archival photographs as a source of inspiration to re-examine historical narratives. Her interest in the fate of the Indian PoWs was awakened when, after one of her exhibitions, a friend sent a photo of her grandfather posing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in his army uniform. Taking advantage of a six-months Fulbright scholarship in India, Prof. Matthew then set about collecting more photos and stories.
She now plans to do an art installation featuring Indian PoWs and the Italian families who hid them from the Germans and the Fascists. The ex-prisoners were on the run after escaping from camps following the Armistice with Italy in September 1943.
Recently Alessio De Stefano, a book collector from Avezzano, contacted Prof. Matthew with information, and she hopes that more photos and stories about the Indian PoWs and their saviours might come to light. If anyone can help she can be contacted at ItalyIndianPOW@gmail.com.
Her website is http://www.annumatthew.com/aboutannu/