It started at a family reunion; but the stories that Michael DiLauro learned that day would allow him to become the voice for an entire generation of Italian Americans whose stories had been forgotten.
"My aunt told me that during the Second World War, she and my grandmother would travel to a POW camp at Camp Perry, near Sandusky, Ohio," DiLauro recalled. "They would visit a cousin from Ascoli Satriano in Puglia with a picnic basket. My mother and her brother refused to go; they thought my nonna and my aunt were coddling the enemy."
DiLauro explained that after a few visits to their cousin, his grandmother and aunt returned to discover all of the windows broken in their home. They later discovered that non-Italian neighbors did the damage. It was from this family experience that DiLauro's documentary, "Prisoners Among Us" was born.
"Prisoners Among Us" tells the story of Italians during the World War II era, most notably the stories of the more than 50,000 Italian soldiers who were captured in North Africa and placed in prisoner of war camps in the United States as well as the more than 10,000 native Italians living in the United States who were placed in internment camps and the more than 600,000 non-citizen Italians who were labeled "enemy aliens."
"Prisoners Among Us" will be shown at the Abington Community Library, 1200 W. Grove St., Clarks Summit, on Friday evening, Oct. 11, beginning at 6:30 p.m. as a part of the Downtown Go Around's celebration of Italian culture. Both DiLauro and the Scranton UNICO Foundation sponsored the showing.
"Some reasons that this is a forgotten aspect of history is the notion that there was a lot of pressure among second-generation Italian Americans to become "American," DiLauro said. "It was not fashionable nor culturally accepted in the Anglo community to speak the native tongue and to adhere to old world culture and traditions. As a result of this embarrassing time in the Italian community, these stories were not told at the dinner table to future generations."
For more information on "Prisoners Among Us," visit www.prisonersamongus.com.
Also during the Downtown Go Around will be a raffle featuring a personally donated signed copy of Italian American author Adriana Trigiani's "Very Valentine." Raffle tickets will be available at the UNICO Scranton Italian heritage table at the Clarks Summit Borough Building, 304 S. State St., for $1 with all proceeds benefitting St. Francis of Assisi Commons.