Shepparton war veteran's crochet sessions spark recollections of time spent in conflict.
Mick Villani' s war experience came flooding back a few months ago when his regular session listening to the newspaper being read was cancelled.
Staff at Shepparton Villages suggested the 92-yearold should join the craft session, which he did, and he stunned everyone when he started to crochet without any instruction.
"It all just came back to me," Mr Villani said.
It was a skill Mr Villani had acquired out of boredom and necessity more than 70 years earlier when he was a prisoner of war.
A conscript in the army of his native Italy, Mr Villani was serving near the Egyptian coastal city of El Alamein when the Allies attacked for the second time in November 1942.
"They started attacking with artillery," he said. ''We surrendered.''
Mr Villani spent more than two years in internment camps in Egypt and Palestine.
He said the conditions were not that harsh and the camps were friendly.
The Italian prisoners had nowhere to escape to and little reason to try, so the camps had few guards. The biggest enemy was boredom.
Soon after being taken prisoner, Mr Villani noticed a compatriot threading and weaving yarn and he asked what it was - it was his first lesson in how to crochet.
"I looked at the way he did it and wanted to do the same," he said.
What was required was a proper tool, a thin needle with a hook on the end for grabbing the loops of thread.
"I took a toothbrush and broke the brush part off to make it straight and I carved it into a hook with a pocket knife."
The next problem was finding yarn and Mr Villani turned to recycling socks.
"I'd take the good parts and cut them off and make beanies and pullovers," Mr Villani said.
It was one of few forms of recreation available in the camp.
"Otherwise you sat there and you did nothing, '' he said.
After the war, Mr Villani returned to Foggia, Italy, but his father was already in Australia and he soon joined the family, arriving in 1948.
Mr Villani forgot about his skill, it was as distant a memory as his war years until he walked into a craft session.
"I said I'd go if there was something that interested me and it just came back," he said.
Crocheting is now a regular pastime, which Mr Villani said stops him staring at the television.
From the pocket of his walking frame, he produces the crochet needle and two small balls of wool; one pink, one blue.
There is a reason for the colour choice. His latest works, tiny beanies for premature babies, have been donated to the hospital.
The crocheting has had another benefit, which is why Mick Villani has told his story for Remembrance Day.
When, a couple of months ago, he picked up a crochet needle, he did not just recall an old skill, he also remembered the faces of the people from the POW camps who, like so many others from both sides, had to endure the hardships of war.
"My memory started to freshen up," he said.
However there is still one significant gap, the toothbrush tool.
"After I went back home I made a couple of scarves, but then on the farm I didn't have time, it disappeared," he said.
"I don't know where it is."
By Darren Linton
As published in the Shepparton News, Monday, November 11, 2013.