Retracing the steps of their ancestors who fought in Italy during World War 2, has been an emotional experience for students of Te Kura Mana Māori o Whangaparaoa.
It’s a far cry from their region of Te Whānau-a-Apanui on the East Coast to the historic battlegrounds in Italy. But the group of 22, including students, parents, and teachers, are learning history first hand by revisiting important sites where the Māori Battalion were based.
Many of the students are direct descendants of the soldiers who fought in Italy from 1943.
“It’s been a dream of mine to come to Europe,” says 14-year-old Maraea Komene. “But to travel here for this kaupapa and to see where our tupuna fought and where some died, has been very special.”
The two-week trip will include visits to cities like Rome, Florence and Faenza. Today, the group were in Cassino – the site of one of the bloodiest and costly battles of the war. Visiting significant sites like the town’s railway station and Mount Trocchio, the students paid their respects to the Kiwi soldiers by saying a karakia.
Ngarangi Stewart, a former student of the kura and the current head girl of Ōpōtiki College, says the visit to Italy has “hit home”.
“You can just feel the wairua here. It’s been an unbelievable and spiritual experience.”