Māori Battalion descendants' life-changing journey to Italy

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Thirteen students from Te Kura Mana Māori o Whangaparaoa have undertaken a life-changing journey, retracing the steps of their ancestors in the 28th Māori Battalion, who fought in Italy during WWII.

They also met with local children in Faenza, one of the last battle sites seen by the battalion.

Student Rapata Matchitt says it was an exchange of culture and ideas.

“They're awesome,” says Matchitt, “'Can you teach me to do this, the haka?', and I was like, 'yeah, sweet as'.”

“These types of exchanges- it opens the eyes of our children too, to types of children they have here,” says Whāea Tuihana of TKMM o Whangaparaoa.

“These children here will not remember what took place when our tipuna were here.  Also, these children here are trying to fill the gaps of what has happened.”

It is hoped these people will continue to honour the actions of their ancestors.

Domenico Matteucci principal Paola Fiorentini says, “Most of them don't realise that real freedom was brought by the Commonwealth soldiers.”

“(The) soldiers did a wonderful job here in Italy,” says Fiorentini.

Next year, 75th anniversary commemorations will be held in war sites around Italy.