WHEN Mario Guerra’s mother died, he said he felt as though the light of his life had dimmed.
A strong woman who battled with breast cancer, a stroke, and Crohn’s disease, Mr Guerra said his mother, Caterina Agostino, was a testament to his good faith, and his determination to succeed.
The Hinchinbrook author has released a new book, ‘‘Never give up son’’, to detail the lives of early Italian settlers, and the treatment of Italian-Australians during the second World War.
Exposing what he calls, a generation of racism and wrongful imprisonment, Mr Guerra fought hard for equal rights and his father’s freedom after he was deemed ‘‘insane’’.
An epic biography that uncovers the stigma around mental illness, and delves into the untold truths of the Griffith mafia, Mr Guerra said his book is his legacy to his children and grand children.
‘‘My family’s story is an interesting one, everything written in my book is true, every word of it,’’ he said.
‘‘It is a story of heartache, betrayal and injustice, and although I promised my mother I would not publish this book in her life, after her passing, I felt I had to tell the story.’’
In 1938, Mr Guerra’s father, Paolo Lorenzo Guerra, was the victim of workplace assault.
A kerosene bucket was thrown at his head, and the wound became septic, resulting in painful migraines for the farmer.
After persistent advice to seek medical attention, Paolo walked the 10 kilometres to Griffith Hospital only to be admitted to a mental institution.
‘‘I was about one and a half when my father went away, and I didn’t see him again until I was six years old,’’ Mr Guerra said.
‘‘At the time my mother was a young woman of 18 years, and she was eight months pregnant with my baby brother Raymond.
‘‘That year my poor mother would lose everything.’’
Mr Guerra’s brother Raymond died during a heat wave aged only five months old.
Without a sponsor to take Paolo out of the institution, he remained institutionalised until his death in 1972.
Mr Guerra said because Fascist Italy declared war against Great Britain, persecution was ripe towards the Italian-Australian communities; and many Italians became prisoners of war.
‘‘My dad was a Bersaglieri (marksmen) in the Italian army, they are one of the elite types of soldiers in Italy, perhaps that was the reason he was taken away,’’ he said.
‘‘Back then there was a lot of stigma around mental illness and putting all the men away during that time was just convenient as we were at war.
‘‘If you were put away, it was very difficult to get out.’’
Mr Guerra said he hoped his readers would find faith and hope through his story.
His book is available online at Amazon.com.