By Viviana García
Ammanford (UK), Olivos (Argentina), Mar 31 (EFE).- Irfon Higgins and Giorgio Podestá were on opposing sides during the Falklands War but a chance encounter in a makeshift prison blossomed into an unlikely friendship.
Four decades later, the two former soldiers connected again via Skype.
At his home in Ammanford, Wales, Irfon opens the call with a smiling “¡buenos días!” to which Giorgio, appearing on the screen from Olivos in Argentina, responds in English, “how are you?”
Their bond began with a simple question, too, when Ifron, carrying out duties in an improvised jail set up by the British forces on SS Canberra, asked a group of Argentine prisoners he was escorting to the showers if anyone spoke English.
“This young man, very young man, with hair,” Irfon says, pausing to chuckle amicably with a now bald Giorgio, “said ‘yes I speak a little English’.”
“We got talking, I would tell him what I wanted the prisoners to do and he would convey that message,” he adds.
From that early interaction, the two soldiers struck up a growing friendship, spurred on by a joint passion for rugby.
Irfon and Giorgio were both deployed to the South Atlantic during the war that erupted following Argentina’s 1982 occupation of the Falkland Islands, a British dependent territory known in Argentina as the Islas Malvinas and claimed by Buenos Aires since 1833.
Giorgio had only recently finished his military service when he first set foot on the Falkland Islands on April 29, 1982.
Now 60, he ended up in captivity after British troops regained control of the Falkland Islands and the Union Jack flew above Port Stanley once again.
Irfon’s house in Ammanford, which is surrounded by rolling green hills, is peppered with memories of his service in the Falklands and his friendship with Giorgio. There is a black and white photograph of the two soldiers at the end of the war as well as a placard with the word ‘welcome’ written in Welsh, which Giorgio used to meet Irfon at the airport when he visited Buenos Aires in 2018.
He also has a traditional gourd for drinking mate, decorated with the images of the two Malvinas islands, Soledad and Gran Malvina, a gift from Giorgio.
Bound by the horror of war, and a mutual interest in rugby, Giorgio says that meeting Irfon was like “coming back to life, after 45 days of listening to screams and bombs.”
It was a friendship that started on the Canberra and that lasts forever,” he adds.
“We have seen our families grow up and in 2018 we saw each other again.”
Irfon admits that he did not know where the Falkland Islands were when then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher ordered the defense of the territory, and first believed they were located in Scotland.
“We were on annual leave, on Easter leave, and I played rugby in the morning and I got a call when I was at the rugby that we had to go back into the barracks,” Irfon tells Efe.
“We went into the barracks, they were talking about the Falklands. Nobody knew where the Falklands were,” he adds.
The resulting conflict left 649 Argentine and 255 British soldiers dead.