Bold text… James Holland. @James1940
young v… young voice, Cornelias son who was present.
You growth, your childhood. Where were you born?
I was born up there. The story? Well…I was born at Marzabotto in a house exactly down Monte Sole. Colonial house, it was a small farmhouse where my father lived.
How long do you stay there?
Yes, enough.. I lived in this house until I was 3 years.
Was the house alone or in a small community, in a small village?
No it was alone alone. Really isolated, really on the top of the mountain there of Monte Sole. Exactly in the aerea where it happened…
What did your father do?
He tilled the small land that was there, alone.
Yes he had his own animals but as I’ve said I stayed there until I was 3 years old. Then he moved down to the valley and he went to work on the railways. In tha valley in a small village named Garbelletta.
I lived there when I was a child.
Why did your father…why? For financial reasons?
Yes because it was hard there. Then we were already two sisters, we were already four in the family. And then up there there was also an uncle and he also moved…so..
But there were a lot of people moving away then…
No, not in that period… because up there everybody was farmer and who had his own piece of land stayed on his own land. On the other side my father prefered to go down to valley because he thought of us. The schools, the future…
For better living then – better comfort?
Why was farmer’s life so hard?
Because there were two brothers lived – my father was the younger one. So the family was already too big; so he left the land to his brother and we moved right there to Garbelletta… because he looked for another job…The railway.
It was impossible to live off the land?
Yes… Because his brother had children already. It was already too big the family.
Was he older, the brother who died..?
Yes older…The uncle, his brother was older… He had already 3 or 4 children.
Did you have brothers and sisters..?
I had a younger sister. Then years later I had the other two. Twins – a boy and a girl.
Family life was important. Was yours a united family?
The family was everything?
Yes because in those villages the family meant a lot. And then you had to behave well otherwise… The sense of values. The habit to go to the church… because there was the religion.
Was it important?
Yes important. It was a united community…together… really united, yes.
Where everybody knew each other?
Everybody, yes. Because there are… well, Garbelletta, you’ve seen it’s small. So everybody knew each other. And then there was our nursery teacher. She was the one that, let’s say – she was the most important one because she followed us, taught us and until we were adults. Antonietta Benni…that then you’ve read it on the book… Antonietta was our nursery teacher.
She was considered the most…
A lot, yes… because she took us to the Mass, she took us there up to Monte Sole. There to the church of Casaglia, always.
Why did the teacher have such such an important place in your lives?
Because she was like a kind of nun, this teacher… Religious (note: “religiosa” is called a person who dedicates to to the church and religious tasks but is not a nun or a priest). Antonietta Benni. It’s on the book.
We’re going to visit Mr. Pirini.
Francesco. But he wasn’t at the cemetery. His sister was with me there.
How did you spend the day? When you were a child 8 years old, for example?
Well there was the custom until we went to school…We attended the Primary Schools in the morning and, then, in the afternoon we used to go to see Antonietta Benni, and she helped us with our homework. She usually took care of children in the nursery, but also older students. That was fun. Then they organized small theatre plays…we played… a little bit of everything.
But it was this part of the normal curriculum?
No, but she organized all this just to do something… I remember once on the street – Ms- We called her Ms. of the nursery, always. So once she told me… Because she always talked about Bologna and I had never seen Bologna… And she said, ‘One time when I go to Bologna to visit my family, I’ll take you with me and I’ll show you Bologna.’ And actually, one day she asked my mother. And she said, ‘Take her with you if you’re sure you don’t mind.’ And she took me to visit her family in Bologna, in Saragozza Street. So when I arrived in Bologna…well, I’d never seen shop window in my life, nor sreet lights. To me it was all amazing and beautiful. How beautiful!! And anyway, she had a brother, a young guy. He enjoyed listening to me because I was a little child. And he took me out and bought a box of sweets for me to take home with me. So when I got home I told my parents I wanted to live in Bologna, because I liked it so much… I was 4 or 5 years old.
You’d never seen so many lights?
Never and so I was so impressed… It really was very beautiful, and it stayed in my heart and when I was back up there I couldn’t recognize the place anymore. It’s impossible that there’s such a difference. So I used to say to my parents, ‘Why don’t we go to live in Bologna?
And what did they say?
‘When you’re older we’ll move there.’ Because they were thinking of our studies…they knew we’d get a better education there.
And did you have dinner together every night as a family?
And what about breakfast?
Well, actually, the breakfast…my father used to work early. But lunch and dinner we always had together.
Always talking, discussing things?
Yes we talked – familly chats and so on. But we also had to be well behaved and mind our manners around the house, otherwise my mother would say, ‘Don’t do that, or I’ll tell your father!’
And what kind of punishment might you get?
Well if you answered badly he might say, ‘Go to bed without any dinner! He could give us punishments but we tried not to get them. My father had got an optimistic personality; he was hardly ever in a bad mood or shouting. It took a lot to make him angry. He was a very even-tempered man.
But can you remember ever being punished by your father?
Well, this I think was the only time. He was coming from the railway station. Because Garbelletta… I don’t know if you know it…The railway station is behind there up on… and we lived down on the small square. So up there there was a farmer where we were used to buy the milk. In a bottle, because at that time they gave milk in the bottle. And my father was coming from work with some collegues…And he was used to call me Lela, the short name for Cornelia. He said to me, ‘Lela!’ So I was playing with the bottle in my hands. He said, ‘Where are you going, Lela?’ Really just by way of saying hello to me. And I said, ‘Wherever I like!’ It was just a joke, but he didn’t find it funny – he thought I was rude in front of his colleagues. Anyway, when I arrived home, my father was very cross and said, ‘Go to bed without dinner and without watermelon!’ This is the only punishment I remember, but I’ve never forgotten it.
The only time?
Did you ever visit your uncle up on Monte Sole?
Yes, often. Because whenever they came down into valley they stayed at our place. Of course when we celebrated…
But not every week?
No it was too far. You had to walk everywhere in those days.
Once a month?
Yes more or less.
There weren’t good roads then?
We walked. We walked everywhere. There were some short cuts, small paths through the scrub. It was shorter. Otherwise there was the road, where the cattle and the cars passed. There were small snakes on the way.
And your house in Gardaletta?
We rented it. It was a small house with 1 kitchen and 2 bedrooms.
And a small staircase.
But there wasn’t a dining room?
No, it was a big kitchen with the fireplace. At the time we didn’t have running water.
No only later, when we were older.
What was it like, living without water and electricity?
We were used to it; that was the life then.
Did you feel you belonged to the community of Marzabotto, Monte Sole?…Did you belong?
Of course I was part of it – because everything happened within this community. Our nursery teacher every Sunday, the first Sunday of the month, every month, took us up to the church of Casaglia to get Communion , for example. She said, ‘You all get ready and let’s go!’ You couldn’t miss it otherwise you were pointed…
Casaglia, up on Monte Sole. The church of Monte Sole. Everybody knew each other at Casaglia…in those small villages. Well not everybody, but the majority, yes.
But were you aware of the political situation in Italy before the war or not?
I would say, personally, not really because I was quite little…At school, well, there were the “Piccole Italiane” that was created by Mussolini. At school we had to follow…Even because before the war how old was I? 14 years, 13-14 years old. And then up there on the mountains it wasn’t like in the city where everything was followed to the letter. We did the best we could. (young v.: ..the news arrived later than in the city).
How could Mussolini impose himself on a community like yours?
Well, actually, the teachers were the ones who followed all that and let’s say, for eaxmple, there was a demonstration; everybody should dress up as “Piccole Italiane”…and I remember I didn’t have it so I said, ‘I’m not coming because I don’t have it.’ The uniform was necessary.
No only on certain occasions.
What was this uniform?
The small skirt with blue pleats and a white shirt…
And everybody had this uniform?
No, not everybody had it as I told you and so they didn’t follow it…
How did you get water?
There was a pump on the small square and we used to go there.
Did your parents give you small tasks every day?
Yes, we had to get the water, clean the house. Everybody had his own task. For example I don’t know, I washed the dishes and my sister dried them… understand? Yes, then my mother taught us at an early age how to cook, mixing the pasta… Everything…
What did you use to wash the dishes?
There was the soda, it was… And up there we washed them in very hot water so after we could give it as a soup to the pigs. They washed them in very hot water so, they could give something to eat to the pigs… (young v.: because on the dishes there were some food left that added taste to to the water.. So the pigs could taste it..) Farmers were used to doing things like that. It wasn’t so fat at the time… The washing, to do the washing, there was the river.. one of the resources.
Did you have animals down in the valley?
No, no…because there wasn’t anymore… Maybe some chickens and rabbits.
Did you have any special friend?
Yes, yes, and I still have them at Gardelletta. There’s one with a shop down there… Whats his name…? It’s a drugstore… (young v.: well it’s the only shop there…)
And she was your best friend of your childhood?
Well, actually, I had more but they died.. I’ve still got some friends left… His name…. Pesti Luciano and Yole Testi and they still have this shop nd they live there.
And the age difference between you and your sister?
Two years. My sister recently died…there were 2 and a half years… And with the twins, 10 years.
When you were around 13 years old, a teenager, how did you imagine your life?
Well, when I was 12-13 years old, I started to to go to Bologna everyday. I was still quite young to be doing that, but my father let me go so I could learn a trade, a job. Because I had a cousin here in Bologna, so he said, ‘I’lllet you go.’ But I was already 14. I learned how to be a dressmaker, a tailor.
Was this quite unusual? And what about marriage?
We didn’t think of that then – at 14 years old I was too young.
Was it normal, then, to have a job?
It was normal, yes. I thought – if I get married I’ll stay at home and so I can work for myself…I can do something. (young v.: you couldn’t go up and down so you stayed in Bologna?) I stayed for quite a long time in Bologna… I went up and down everyday… I took the train from Vado. Because my father worked at the railway station so I could get free tickets.
At what age then did you move permanently to Bologna?
After the war.
How old were you when the war broke out?
Well, let me see…I think I was 16.. Wait.. Well the real war we heard about it only later, after it broke out. When they started bombing. We didn’t feel the effects immediately. So.. (young v.: you were born in 1920…?) 1925. So in 1944 I wasn’t 19 yet, when that fact happened. So when I started going to Bologna I was 15-16.
So you left school when you were 13?
When you went to learn your job asa dressmaker.
Yes, 14. Actually it didn’t last long; then the bombs alarms started.
Everyday in the morning…I woke up at half-past six, took the bike and got to the station of Vado. At the time my father worked close to Vado at Casello Veneziani, which is where Lupo lived. (young v.: so you moved..?) Yes we moved and we went to live on the railway… Actually I don’t remember everything…Well, when I started to go to Bologna we lived already on the station. From Gardelletta we moved to Ca’Veneziani.
That was right at the station?
Yes right there, up there there was a narrow lane.
But why did you move?
Well, before we were renting, but then my father started working at the station, and so had the right to live in the station house. There was water and electricity there.
Where was Ca’Veneziani? At Vado?
Between Vado and Gardalletta.
So more or less 10 km between the two houses?
No, between the house in Garbelletta and Ca’Veneziani there were no more than 2 km.
And the house was right on the railway?
Yes, on the railway.
What exactly did your father do on the the railway?
He was…They had to check everything, the maintainance.
And it was cold in the morning when you had to wake up?
Yes it was.
And going by bike?
I wasn’t afraid. At that age I wasn’t afraid of anything. Then I was the oldest of all the brothers and sisters – I was used to..
At what time were you back home at night?
I took the train at half past five so I was at home at half past six p.m.
At that time you were full-time dressmaker?
Yes and I was used to take my lunch so I didn’t have a break. Just half an hour so I kept working and I could go back home earlier.
You worked…did you learn while you were working?
And how many of you were there?
It was small – we were 2 or 3.
There was a boss?
One teacher, yes.
And the name? Do you remember it?
And did you like the job?
A lot , yes. I liked it a lot.
Did you cut and sew mens’ suits or?
No for women. Only woman.
Yes dresses, because she was a teacher…privately. So that’s why we were a small group. Because she was married and had a small child. So she preferred to do like this at home.
A small business?
For private persons only?
How did you get the job? An interview?
Through acquaintances. There was a friend who knew the teacher. So I had an interview and eventually… But they were looking for apprentices who wanted to learn the job – also they didn’t pay us, but it was also a good deal.
They didn’t pay the apprentices?
No but maybe I should have paid to learn!
How long did it last?
Not long – two years more or less. Then the alarms, the bombs started, so my father said, ‘Now it’s enough!’
But it was useful to learn the job?
Do you remember Mussolini’s declaration of war in June 1940?
When there was the armistice?
No. (young v.: the war declaration…)
No I don’t remember it. But we didn’t have the radio. Most news we just only heard about. I know about the war declaration because my father was called back to the Army.
Did he go?
Yes but just for a short period. Because he had 4 children he was exempted. He stayed only 4 months. At the time my father was 42.
Did he fight out from Italy or only in Italy?
But my father was in the 1st World War in 1915. He was born in 1898 so when the 2nd World War broke out he was 42.
Did your father tell you about the 1st World War?
Yes, because he was used to say, ‘Don’t be afraid. This is nothing.’ He was trying to give us courage and he was used to say it was nothing… But he was within the “Arditi”…So he was in first line with. What’s the name…? (“Arditi”?) The “Arditi” go first with the weapons in their hands…What’s the name…?
He was on the Piave where there was… I don’t have many memories… (young v.: There’s a song about the Piave.. It’s a river..)
Against the Austrians?
For sure. Actually, I don’t know so much about the history of the 1st World War… It was in that aerea…
But did he participate in military actions during the 2nd World War?
During the 2nd World War they called him back in the Army. But he was away only a few months, then they sent him back home because he had a family with 4 children.
And where was he stationed?
He was around – near Livorno, somewhere around there. Initially, he was called to the recruting office in Bologna and then he was sent to Livorno and he passed by train close to our house. And he waved at us. I remember that my mother saw him and fainted. She was so upset. He waved to us, leaning out of the window.
But when your father was in Livorno how did you manage? Did he send money home? Actually, I don’t remember. But at home we always had flour, because we used to help on the farm. We used to grind the corn so we always had flour, and bread because the bread was homemade. And there was meat – we always had some sausages, pork, and some chickens. Actually, we had a little bit of everything at home. We didn’t do much shopping – we had long lasting supplies.
And your uncle was helping you?
Well, he also had a big family. Maybe he gave us something sometimes.
What kind of food? Pasta? Really simple?
Well simple, yes.
Yes, home made. Usually yes.. (young v.: what kind of pasta?) Tagliatelle… (young v.: and tortellini?). There was a tradition at Christmasto have a really big party: tortellini, turkey, dessert. And up there we had two big parties every year. From the church. We organized a big party and invited all the relatives (young v.: and polenta?) Polenta, a lot of polenta… (ypung v.: and corncobs?) Yes. (And meat?) Very little.
And when it was some of the childrens’ birthdaywas there something special?
No we weren’t used to… (young v.: any present?) No, I don’t remember that being so – and if I don’t remember, that means no. They pull the ears! Here it is…Today it’s your birthday! (young v.: the habit to pull the ears…)
A kind of joke?
(young v.: No.. They’re used to do it even now. All the children. I’m a teacher and I can see that they do it. If you’re 3 years old they pull each of your ears 3 times…I don’t know what it means…)
Did you have an happy childhood?
Yes – very. A serene childhood. Especially with my family – my father particularly. He was very cheerfull, and easy-going. He was often smiling and always looking on the bright side. My mother was more… My father had a nice personality.
And your mother?
She was a little sad, naturally. She was the one who would tell us off, and she grumbled more. Let’s say she always wanted the best of the best. There was always trouble if we didn’t have enough to do. We weren’t allowed to be lazy.
Were your parents happy together?
Very; they had a lot of respect for each otehr. I never heard a bad word, or any shouting – never. And we all greatly respected our father. I suppose, beecause he was the only one working in the family; he was more tired. So if we had a better piece of meat for dinner it was for him. The man – well, it’s not like now. Such a change in the families…and in the role of the woman.
But I think that it’s better here than in London.
I think it’s better in Italy than in other countries.
But even here, there isn’t so much understanding…
But there’s no time to understand.
But what I think is that that nowadays young people are spoiled because they want more and more. I think you need to pass through the sufference to understand.
The beginning of the war, the first 2 years for example, did you realize what was going on?
No in the beginning we didn’t realize it. I started to be afraid with the first alarms in the city…when people started to run to the refuges and shelters. (young v.: which year?) The year? I don’t remember the dates. As you said – after the first two years. For the first two years there was tranquillity. Things became bad only towards the end.
Do you remember the armistice?
When was it..? The 8th of september? Yes I remember it. Everybody was running away. There were some soldiers living close to us, close to the railway station. And they were looking for civilians’ clothes in order to run away. Yes to run away. Many ran away.
Are you happy to keep talking?
Yes – I’m fine. It’s good to talk about these events. The first year, after everything happened, I found I needed to shout because I had everything deep inside…
After the armistice there were more or less German soldiers in the area?
Well less…I don’t remember. There were more Italian soldiers. I saw more of them at that time.
Were they coming from the fronts?
No they were on duty there. But some of them escaped
Were you aware of the partisans at that time?
Well, we only knew about partisans a bit later on, because “Lupo” lived there and he was the firsrt one to organize the hiding places and so on. Those who knew him tried to…
To find him – Lupo?
Yes, those who wanted to join him tried to find Lupo. To try and make contact with him rather than go to fight to the front. That’s how the Brigade “Stella Rossa” started. I saw him 3 days before he died.
How did he die? Did you see it?
Well, we evacuated up there on Monte Sole. We left our houses because everything was being destroyed in the valley and on the lower slopes.
And how did you meet “Lupo”?
Well if you want that, I will tell you all the story…
Gianni Rossi and the others – were they good people?
Well, Lupo – to be honest, I don’t know what kind of job he had. I don’t know. He was a little ambiguous. He was mysterious in a way. He didn’t have a stable job, and it was quite odd to think how he spent his time. He lived with his family and he was already 28 years old.
Were you aware of the danger?
No, because my father, as a I say, well, he worked at the railway station, and at that time you had to have a fascist party card in order to work. The Mussolini’s card. Otherwise you couldn’t work at the railway station. You had to be legal and seemingly above board. But if he knew that somebody had escaped to avoid military service, he would look the other way, and pretend he didn’t know anything it. He wasn’t a proper fascist, who would report people. It was like this up there: if you saw something, you simply shut up, kept quiet. We didn’t feel in danger – absolutely not. We were just afraid of the bombs and of the Germans. Because if the Germans found one of their number dead, they would kill civilians. That was where the fear came in.
Were the Allies bombing a lot?
Actually, we’ve gone too far ahead of ourselves with the story. Well, I stopped working in Bologna as soon as they started bombing the city. I stopped working, and my father forbade me from going to Bologna. He said, ‘Now stop!’ And then the “sfollati” started to arrive from Bologna.
People escaping because of the bombs. And they went to the mountains. And somebody found refuge in the old small huts where the soldiers stayed before. And then… (young v.: “sfollati” where those ones who had to leave their houses and find refuge in a safer place..) Because up there, there hadn’t been any bombs. And then my teacher in Bologna had a baby only 2 years younger than my twin brother and sister. His name was Leandro. And she said, ‘But you lot up there – you’re safe. Why don’t you take my baby with you?’
So I asked to my father and he said, ‘Are you joking? I can’t take in a baby who’s not mine. It’s dangerous – the railways, the trains passing; it’s dangerous!’ Actually, it was a serious commitment. But because I was fond of that baby, I said, ‘Come on – he can stay with the twins.’ So to make a long story short, we took the baby with us., and he lived with us and shared with the twins. But he wasn’t used to life in the mountains, so everything was dangerous for him and we had to teach him how to be careful. Understood? He wasn’t used to mountain life.
But if I tell you the story properly, I will tell you everything. Everything is a little fragmented the way I’m telling you now – I’m sorry. At the time, in 1940/42, my father couldn’t get hold of wool or food.. You needed a special card for everything. So I tell you what happened. My father got a a small lamb because he said, ‘When its wool is long enough we can cut it and so we can have fabric for jumpers and socks.’ And my mother span it with a special machine. So those 3 small children – Leandro and the twins – used to take it to graze. They took care of it.
Where did it come from?
Well he got it from some farmers, I don’t really know. He arrived with this lamb, very small; its name was “Belen”. Actually we called her “Tea”. But in English “Tea” means “tea” so the author of the book who’s English decided to change the name into “Belen”. But we called her “Tea”. ‘Tea, Tea!’ And she answered.
During the summer of 1944 were you aware that the partisan activity could be dangerous for those living in the area?
Well, yes. Because in May 1944 there was the frst battle between the Germans and partisans.. But it didn’t achieve much.
But were you aware that this partisan’ activity could have terrible consequences for the country?
We only really had the experience history. We did our duties and that’s it. But we were afraid because if they found one German soldier dead – we were all terrified of that because even if we weren’t responsible…
At that point you knew that if they found a German soldier dead it meant recrimination for all of you?
Yes, that was happening everywhere. I knew – we all knew – that the Germans used to say, ‘If you kill one of our soldiers we will kill 10 civilians.’ This I knew. We knew it because of the rumors. We knew, so we were afraid.
So were you afraid of partisan activity?
I was more afraid of the Germans than of anything else.
Were you afraid of the consequences of this activity. If the partisans killed the Germans?
Well, yes. We were all afraid. Because we knew what could happen. But they never shot children and women. Never. We thought that they shot only men.
But did you like the partisans.? Were you sympathetic to their cause?
But I never really saw them. I knew they existed but they hid themselves. I didn’t see them until the moment…
So you didn’t have an opinion before?
But do you remember when the Germans arrived on september 29th?
Yes of course. It was Friday. But do you want to know how we arrived there? Because you know… you’re already at that moment. But there’s still a lot to tell. What are you interested in? Because you’ve arrived already at the 29th of September. I was telling you about the small lamb and then we were side-tracked.
Do you remember what happened before?
Before? Well, I’ve just said that in may 1944 there was this battle but the Germans couldn’t face…And everything was over…We had a peaceful time until the end of September. Only a few bombs, that was all.
When did you sense that there was something wrong?
It was like that…In september they were bombing, and the bridge at Vado crumbled down. There were Allied planes constantly over the area. Once an anti-aircraft gun shot one of those planes and it fell in flames and passed right over our house and crashed into the River Serpe. So, anyway, they started to bomb all over, not just Bologna. At the time we were sleeping under the tunnel of the railway station. There was danger. So my father said, ‘We can’t stay here any longer. The soldiers are on their way.’ The Allies had already arrived in Florence. Because he participated in the 1st World War, he said, ‘I know what’s happening, and we have to leave.’ So he gave up his job, everything. He said, ‘Here on the roads it’s more dangerous. We have to go up there to the mountains.’ So we went to Cerpiano where our old teacher, Antonietta Benni, and other familes were already staying.
And where did you stay?
There was a house that belonged to the church, I think. A priest of Bologna, I think. They used to spend the summer there. They gave a room to each family. It was temporary accomadation, only for few days until the soldieres were gone. This was the 26th September. It was arranged through Antonietta Benni, because she had something to do with the Church of Bologna. Well, they also had the schools there, for the children living in the mountains. And also Monsignor Rodrini used to go up there. He was from Bologna, and then.. (young v.: it was like an holidays house..) Yes maybe… There was also a small chapel. We went up there on Tuesday, and we waited for the war front to pass. Everyone was calm. We all knew each other. I had with me a dress and a coat to sew. I thought I could use my time sewing.
All professional activity was interrupted.?
Everything. No more trains, and the bridge didn’t exist anymore..
Was it hard to find food?
We went to some farmers to get something. Well, my mother once told me, ‘Go to Caprara.’ – Caprara was after the church of Casaglia. There were some farmers there; they sold apples. And I went to get some apples. And I found Lupo there and Gianni Rossi. They were all sitting there as if everything was normal. And he said, ‘You’re also here. Here you’re safe.’ Those were the last words he spoke to me. -.Qui sei la sicuro..-
…But there’s nothing left anymore – not even a small piece of wall.
That should be the 27?
It was the 27th. The day after.
And the railways had already been interrupted?
It was already… Not too long before. I don’t remember exactly. I know everything was interrupted.
When did you first hear about the Germans?
Well, on Wednesday everything was calm.. even if they said that they tried to come up there between Tuesday and Wednesday… But we didn’t hear anything. And the day after, on Thursday, we started to see some houses burning at night. So I was afraid… Down …(In the valley?) Yes in the valley… Where we could see actually… You couldn’t see so much from there… (So you were afraid then?) Until Friday morning I wasn’t really afraid because they kept me hidden. But my father knew it already… and he didn’t say anything… And then… During the night…the men escaped… (So Thursday night then…?) Between Thursday night and Friday morning. My father was fine with all his papers even if he was there… He had his card.. his papers. .He had everything.. The ones who didn’t have the right papers were already somewhere hidden in the forest. Even because they said – If they do something they shoot men, never women and children.
So my father on Friday early in the morning …We were still sleeping… He entered the room and said – Wake up.. Wake up…! Go and refuge yourselves up there into the church… It’s dangerous here. They’re burning houses here around… I go in the forest even if I’ve got the documents… Just to be safer..! So we went there; he told to go to the church of Casaglia where there also was my aunt… There were some cousins, some relatives.. (So your father sent you to the church..?) Yes. He said – Go there…There’s also your aunt…You’re going to be safe there. He thought that it was more probable that they could burn out the house and not the church. (And where did he go?) On the top of Monte Sole. He met other 3 or 4 persons. But all this I’d known later.. (So you were all in the church..?) Altogether there.. even some farmers from there around. We were around one hundred. (Also men?) No they were in the forest. Only one old man, the guardian of the cemetery, and women and children.
(How long did you stay there?) There was a priest… he was there to give us courage and to say some prayers. He started with the “Rosario” and then …at Cerpiano there was Antonietta Benni but they went to the small chapel close to the house…We went to the other church because that’s what my father said. (And how long did you stay there?) When we arrived at the church it was earlier than 8 a.m. We stayed one hour more or less waiting… Praying, waiting… We were afraid…-Now they ‘re here…!- (So they arrived..?). We stayed there, praying and praying… if we had escaped we could be saved… So we waited until the Germans arrived. It was a team of 7 or 8. They hit the door with the back of their guns. They opened the door and shouted – Go out!- So we all stood there in the small square of the church..
(One hour later..?) Yes more or less. (Go out!) –Go out!- Then they took the priest and they talked to him. I went closer to listen to the orders he was giving to him. I didn’t understand German but I could understand something from the attitude. So he said to take everybody to an house… Ca’Bizzola. (The name of the house?) Ca’Bizzola. …- We’ve found some arms there..- He said. (Were there guns?) – In that house we’ve found arms..- So we were guilty. (young v.: arms not belonging to the Germans..) (Ca’Bizzola..Where was it?) Between Cerpiano e Casaglia. Well it’s like this… In the middle… Because they said it on that moment…. to take people there because they found arms… It was the justification to take them there. My thought was – Because they’re used to burn out the houses … They take us there so we burn out..- That was my thought.
(At that moment were you afraid?) Eh.. (So the Germans took you there…) He gave the order to take us there. And I immediately thought – If there’s any German with us I escape…- Because if there were only the priest… (But were there Germans?) No…imagine… no Germans with us. Unfortunately when we arrived to the crossroads, passed the church… There’s the cemetery on one side and the road to Cerpiano and Ca’Bizzola… And when we arrived there… there’s another team of German soldiers. (The 8 Germans of the church had disappeared…?) They left us free because they’re in hurry. They had other tasks… (And how many new Germans..?) 8.. More or less… And an officer in front of them… (Before you could escape..) It was a matter of seconds… So they said to stop and the priest went towards them. He could speak some German. He explained that he he had to take us there. While the officer was listening to it he gave order to his soldiers to open the cimitery’s gate with the back of their guns…. It was just there at crossroad the cimitery.
And he placed there another German soldier close to us with a machine-gun. They took the priest and they went to the church to check the orders he received. We waited for 20 minutes. And it started to rain… Always with those two Germans… And I said to myself -…If only I could escape and to jump in the hedge..- We were all standing there… My mother was crying. I couldn’t because I could think of the way to escape. And I thought – If only we would walk few meters…I can jump and hide myself- I thought all the possibilities… There was any reason to open the cemetery gate… I said to myself – this is our end…!- ..There was no reason to open the gate with people there… and the machine-guns…
(The gate?) An iron gate. (So they placed those machine-guns..) No one machine-gun just in front of us. They opened the gate with the back of their guns. They could open it. (So they push you all into the cemetery.. then?) No. We waited for the order. Because the officer was with the priest to check for the previous orders… And he sent back the soldier with another order… But the priest never came. Just arrived the soldier gave the order –“Raus”!-. I was always there in front checking everything. He said –Ahead!- But really shouting. And all inside. That’s the final order. (And everybody entered…) Everybody ahead.. There was an old lady with the opened umbrella because it was raining. They even gave her the arm to help her to enter… (And how was the cemetery.? Like a garden between walls?) It was squared.. small. A small country cemetery. (Squared?)Yes.. with the walls and a small chapel just in front of the graves.
(So everybody was afraid or..?) Everybody shouting.. All crying desperately… And I couldn’t cry, I just tried to save myself. It’s different what you feel when you’re there… different than just listening to the story. (Did you think you could save yourself…?) Well…because… entering the cemetery.. we were more or less one hundred and everybody pushing. But I wanted to end up in the center to protect myself in the middle of the crowd. Everybody was pushing forwards, backwards… everything was like a waving mass. And in that way instead of the center I ended up on the extreme left, close to the external wall. Well those were my thoughts… to jump, to hide myself, to stay in the mass… I only wanted to be safe… until the very last moment… there was no way out…
(And the others.. your twins… your sister..?) Well because I was on the external side I was pushing to go to the center… And suddenly… Actually meanwhile the soldier was inside the cemetery with his gun-machine. He placed it on the left in the corner and he recharged it with all those tapes… (…in front of…?) Yes in front of us… A lady tried to escape… because she realized what was going on… and they shot her. She was shouting – I want to go to my daughter..! I want to go to my daughter!..- And they shot her. (Did they look in the eyes… those Germans..?) No.. there wasn’t time. You could see the danger and who was on duty at the moment… But I couldn’t recognize the face of none of them…Then I was on the external side… the soldier was recharging the gun-machine…. And suddenly like a jolt… an explosion so intense that I turned a somersault, understood?.. (A jump…?) A jump so I arrived in the middle of the crowd with my head down and my legs up in the air…
(So what…?) I knew it later… It was a bomb.. (hand-bomb..?) They threw the bomb first… So I was thinking only of the gun-machine… (So they threw inside…) Yes from outside… they threw it…so then… (There were a lot of people dead then…?) ….I turned a somersault… and I stayed like this with my head down… because it was so crowded… and my legs in the air… My mother who was following me with the glance said – ..They kill her before her time has arrived..!- When she saw me jumping like that she shouted – they kill her before her time has arrived…!- (What did she mean?) She wanted to say… ( young v.: They kill her first…) Because she saw the scene.. (young v.: She’s killed before her time has arrived..) Because she saw the scene… that I was in that situation… Then I don’t know if she meant the people or the gun-machine.. Then she called me… Because maybe nobody realized that it was a bomb.. They all shouted..
I wasn’t able to to shout…. nothing. Because I always had the idea to do something until the real last moment. Then of course everybody started… Who was hurt…crying, in despair… – Help me!- You could hear the voices. Because you could recognize each other only from the voices – Come to help me… I don’t know how to do…!- Everybody calling, shouting… (And then they started…) And then with the gun-machine they went on for a long time… Because they stayed there for hours…! And I remember that I felt the blood leaking on my body and I thought immediately..- This is the others’ blood..- But then..- And if they shot me and I haven’t felt it…?- And I fainted. … I felt hot.. (So you were on the floor..?) Yes I was down on the floor and on the top of me dead bodies.. (You thought you couldn’t feel…) …the pain. And then I remember I was so afraid and I fainted. I realized I fainted because I don’t remember… then little by little…. I heard voices far away… and so I realized I fainted.
(I apologize for my questions…) Unfortunately this is the story. (And how long did you stay inside…?) From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I know it because I had a small watch with me. … (Always under…?) Yes always under… Then I recovered and I heard my mother calling me… (For how long did you faint…?) Not long.. I don’t remember. And my mother said ..- Cornelia, Cornelia… are you still alive?- So I recognized her voice and I said- Shut up, shut up please.. Don’t talk otherwise they hear you and they kill you..!- And she said – The twins are dead..!- Because they were really close to her… And I said – Don’t talk please…!- I was afraid. Then she started to call my sister and she was alive… But suddenly they shot between her head and someone else head… And she shouted – My head, my head…I’m hurt..!- She shouted like she went crazy… And I said – Shut, shut up…I’m coming..!- But then she wasn’t hurt… Just the shot and the others’ blood leaking…
(At that point the Germans weren’t there…?) ..Because 3 or 4 persons had escaped… So the German left behind them…”Liola”… the sister…of the one… she was close to us… She was seriously injured at one leg… (It wasn’t easy after all that to escape that situation…) I could free myself finally…. (It was heavy?) Dead bodies are really heavy. But there’s always a small “hole” to get out… (Did you find then…the others…your sister…). Yes, but there wasn’t so much to them.. There wasn’t the way to help… My mother was seriously injured at the legs; the gun-machine practically destroyed…. (Destroyed her legs…?) Completely.. (There was nothing.. At that point…) We realized that the German soldier wasn’t there anymore… So I stood up and I took my mother away from the crowd… And I ranged her close to the wall,… close to the chapel’s wall..
Then I tied up… I had with me the fabric I needed to sew my coat… I had it in my bag because I thought –If they burn out the house they burn also my coat..- With the sleeves I tied the legs to stop the blood. Understood? I knew that it had to be done in order to stop the blood. And I hoped to find somebody to help her. .(And then…?) So I said – Mum stay calm here..- my sister was also there, -..I go to look for help- And so I left… I was so afraid, so afraid… Behind the cemetery it was an open field.. So they could see me. But I didn’t see any German.. so I escaped to look for help. And I wanted to go to Cerpiano. But I didn’t know what happened there… And when I was out the cemetery… I heard people shouting on the other side of the valley. Cerpiano was exactly there. Not so close walking but close if you looked at it on the other side of the valley… I heard people shouting and then I saw a soldier just in front of the door… I could see it clearly. So I changed my mind.
So instead to go to Cerpiano I went to Garbelletta. Down in the valley. I ran down the hill, bared feet… I didn’t have my shoes. I had the clogs on but I left them there at the cemetery. So running I arrived down the hill through the bramble bushes… There wasn’t the road there. But I tried to pass through anyway. So when I arrived at Garbelletta, in the small square…close to a small bridge… There was a German soldier there.. So I saw him and lucky he was turned back so he didn’t see me. I came back along the railways. I said – I go home..- When I arrived there I couldn’t enter… I thought – Why should I enter…Nobody is there..- I looked at the door and I thought – I don’t go-. So I went up for 300 meters more or less where a farmer lived. We were used to get the milk there… And we left there our small lamb before leaving. And I said – I go to look for somebody..- I arrived in the courtyard and I enter the house… And the wife was dead on the floor… And also her husband. I thought – So everywhere they did…- But where was the lamb and I went to look for it… and I saw the lamb…also dead. When I saw the small lamb I started to cry and cry…
(Until that moment you stayed…) I was taken from a strength lie…(superior..?) Yes a strength that I don’t know who gave me… maybe the survival, …or maybe because when you’re 18 years old you don’t want to die. I’m a fighter in order to get it. But when I saw the small lamb, covered by blood…, everything came out… And still I don’t know why at that moment… .Maybe because I realized that they destroyed everything… (it’s incredible…. and you don’t know how you’ll react to dangerous situations…) But I felt something that I don’t know if everybody had the same… When I realized what was going on… inside that cemetery,…. my brain blocked…., I could only think how to escape that situation and nothing else…. I could only think – Shall I jump there… to hide…-
But that was it because there was no way out. And you feel something tremendous… you feel like… I don’t how to explain it… (you felt blocked..?) I felt like a horse pang that closed all my brain. When I watched the movie on TV “Jesus from Nazareth” when he feels depressed because he understands that he’s going to die….I understand him so well because I felt the same… some people give up and cry. But after that experience I had enough strength to overcome so many other circumstances…
(After…during your life…You overcome…) I would say yes… I always tried to overcome any circumstances. After that there’s a solution to everything in life. Everything not death. It’s true! Even with my children… they both suffer of depression…a little.. also my son… He’s disc-jockey. He also want to go to England, America. Dee-jay… (dee-jay?) Luca Trevisi. They wrote about him on some English magazines… I don’t remember the names…
(And after the small lamb…what did you do?) After that… because I went there to look for help…. Because there was anybody…. so I say,….after I saw the lamb I started to cry… thinking that mother had died, my sister shouting and seriously injured…. Everybody left me alone. I really started to think that there was nothing left around me… And I walked… And I said to myself – I’ll go to Bologna…- Walking I passed Casa Veneziani that’s very close to this farmhouse I went to look for help… You cross the railway and it’s just there… And also there dead bodies on the floor… They really killed everybody… So I said – I’ll go to Bologna..- I crossed the river and on the other side there’s Villa Elvira… Gianni lives there now. Right there.
I crossed the river…The water was at my legs… I crossed the river… And suddenly I felt shooting bullets all around my legs… I could feel them through the water… So I got scared… I raised my arms and I said –Mum help me!!!- And they stopped shooting… Then I came back… I didn’t know where to go… A family I used to know lived not far from there… So I shouted the name I remembered – Sara…Sara!!- Loud. So a person appeared… He was one of my father’s colleagues, and he said to me – Shut up, shut up, please… otherwise they kill you!- They also killed all his family… He was hidden in the forest and I went with him to the refuge where he was hiding himself… There was also Sara and a baby… They took him with them and he was there in this hut. I stayed there the whole night.
(So you hid yourself in this house…?) Hut, it was a hut… There were 3 or 4 persons… There was Sara, a friend… she was from Bologna… He moved there because of the war. (And did you feel safe in that hut..?) It was nearly in the forest… there weren’t… Because the Germans passed all the houses and the roads… But they didn’t go through the bushes of the forest… It was a little bit safer there… And staying there. Then I said – My mother is injured there at the cemetery… Who comes with me up there…- Nobody… They said – We cannot move..!- (So nobody moved…?) – We cannot move otherwise the Germans will kill us…We’ll go tomorrow..- Just to keep me calm until the day after… By the way it was already dark… So they said to go the day after. (And the weather during that day..?) Fog, rain.. A bad day, sad, sad…Grey.
(And then the morning after?) We laid down on some straw that was there… There was nothing else.. The baby.. dead… I was covered by blood..still… My hair, everything… And the morning after they said – We cannot move…we have to wait…- They neither let me go alone…They really forbade me to go back to the cemetery… (So you were in despair for your family…?) Of course… Only on Tuesday I could go… Saturday, Sunday, Monday.. (All those days in the hut..) Yes because they were afraid… There were only 2 men, then the two of us, 3, with the baby…We were five and they were afraid to show up because the Germans kept to round out… (And you went to the cemetery…?) Well finally I could and somebody came with me…We could get to Cerpiano.
We arrived first at Cerpiano, because anyway it’s on the way…When we arrived I found a woman looking for food… She was bended not to show herself… And when she saw me she said – Cornelia it’s you…? Are you alive? Your sister is here in the refuge..- When I heard that I was worried because she thought – How bad she’ll be…? How much she suffers…- So instead to be happy I was in despair… But then she was fine. She was hurt to her leg but nothing serious. So she told me everything happened… They carried my mother to some relatives’ house… She died on Sunday loosing blood and for infection. And my sister could hid herself in that refuge of Cerpiano. The man who was with me wanted to check the chapel of Cerpiano. They were all dead …So he came out completely white and he told me – Don’t go…- But actually I saw the cemetery so…. Then he left and let him die…
He really wanted to die. Tristano, he was from Bologna and he was there in order not to go in the Army. (And your sister was there in the refuge of Cerpiano?) Yes… Before she assisted my mother in that house and when my mother died and they took her to the cemetery… My sister went to find refuge at Cerpiano. They told her… (Refuge…?) They made holes in the mountain, in the soil… (When did it start…?) So we were alone no house… nothing…What could we do? We went to another refuge at San Mamante, bared feet as we were… (At this point you had already absorbed everything happened..? The pain was alive or you were still shocked..?) Still fighting… because my father… Now there’s the story of my father… I still ignored where he was… They told me later..
(Then you went where you thought your father could be…?) No…more or less in the same area. We went to San Mamante and there were some saved people… There a farmer lived, mother of many children… (But did you go there for your father or to find a refuge…?) For everything… We knew there were people…. Yes friends, friends of our childhood still good friends now. This poor farmer… there was a refuge close to her house…. She gave us corn to grind… for free, poor lady , because there wasn’t anything to eat… We ground it with the machine we used to grind the coffee beans and we prepared “piadine” (= plain pizzas) on the fire. (And your father?) We found there a dear friend and her family… Her father was my father’s colleague, also working at the railway station…We felt immediately at home… happy to have found somebody… But I still didn’t know about my father…
Then a colleague came and told us that he saw our father. And he said – He’s alive, he could save… but he’s under shock because he heard and saw everything.- He was on Monte Sole. He heard people shouting in the cemetery… he saw… because they could see… here were 3 or 4 of them and some partisans, 2 or 3. And my father said – Come on guys do something! Distract the soldier so they can escape…!- And one of the partisans replied – It’s impossible…We lost.. we cannot do anything..- My father didn’t have a weapon… nothing. Nobody came to help us. If some partisans were there they could fight… some escaped… (So some soldiers escaped to avoid the action…?) He said they escaped and they didn’t do anything… But they could…We also said it… “Lupo” fought there…
“Lupo” was at Ca’ Dotto… Ca’ Dotto is close to San Martino and they said that early in the morning they realized… He fought and he died immediately… While the others just said that they had lost and so they couldn’t do anything… (Nobody is safe…) (And your sister…how did she do?) Do you watch war movies? Well it’s exactly as they show it… My father heard everything… This we knew it later… He heard the shouting, screaming… he was desperate. He hadn’t neither the courage to come and see if we were dead. At midnight he came to the gate of the cemetery but he couldn’t enter to see… And my mother who sometimes recovered… she said to my sister – I’ve dreamed that dad was here…- And it was true. That he came… (So he came…) … to the gate but he couldn’t enter. Otherwise he would have found her still alive. And then my sister was there…
He hadn’t got the courage… And then even worst…They told me that they saw him escaping without caring of the Germans, of anybody… He had lost his mind. He was beating the floor and other things that made me feel really bad… Because I always saw my father brave, very strong, optimistic… Hearing that… I really felt bad about it.
(But when did he escape?) The day after… They saw him .. (young v.: the 30th of September?) Yes the 30th… And then the Germans, somewhere else not at Casaglia, stopped him. He showed his documents and they let him go. Can you believe it? (Why did they let him go?) Because they understood he wasn’t a partisan… He was legal… And then he was already a certain age… He wasn’t so young anymore. He was already 44 or 45.
(And how was your sister?) When I met there in the refuge..? I found her fine.. She was well and she told me everything happened … the story with my mother… How everything was over… She was fine.. it’s only that we were alone. (When did you see your father…?) So a person, my father’s colleague saw my father… He told us that he escaped to an aunt, one of my mother’s sisters to tell everything happened… She wasn’t in Vado but down there at Lamadisetta (?)… So he went there and told everything… He also had got some money… He left it to my aunt… And then he said – I want to go to cemetery… at least I can see them dead..- On the way he met this colleague… And he told him – You know Cornelia and Peppina are still alive…- My sister and I… And he replied – Don’t tell me so… It’s impossible… Because I heard everything… I saw everything..
And he couldn’t believe it. After one week …( Lamadisetta..?) close to Vado ,..down there .. (Then he went back…) …to the cemetery, so at least he could see his family dead… And he met …(He met this colleague..) He didn’t believe it. The colleague said – I know where they are… In the refuge of San Mamante. I take you there. Also my family is there..- So he arrived. When he saw us he laughed and cried…of pain, of happiness.. Then he said – How could you manage to survive..?- I said – We could save…!- But he couldn’t ask about my mother and the children. (What was your emotion to see him…?) It was a strong emotion to see him not shaved, …it was one week he didn’t shave…, depressed, skinny.. Another person… It was a pain to see him like that… I felt bad for him … for everything he suffered.
Because I didn’t think of what I passed through. I could only think. (But for you it had been worse…) But I suffered to see my father like that… A lot… (And then the Allies came…) Well it’s a long story… I could tell for two days. Because if you want me to tell you all the story it’s neverending. If I just tell you the story,… but if you have to translate it.. It’s even harder if you have to write down. I think so… (Shortly. How could you manage to survive with the little left from the work…? And then what’s happened?) Well I was saying… now you want me to go on with my father’s story? (What’s happened to you during the rest of the work..?) The rest of the work..? Well we saw our father once… And then he said – I go to get some food .. I’ve still got some corn..- To those farmers neighbours that died.. There he found other colleagues. But he didn’t come back here anymore.. We didn’t see him anymore.
We spent the night, the day… Then we knew that the Germans picked them up. They got him to go the front to carry the military arms. (Where in Russia?) No, always there.. The Germans left to fight… But we didn’t see our father anymore. He let us have a message through a lady, a farmer,… that the Germans got him and that he had escaped when he could. But we didn’t see him anymore. And then the Germans sent us away because of the war front that couldn’t stop. Still cannon-shots.. It was still so dangerous.. And they sent us away. ( And your father?) He stayed with the Germans. Always to make a long story short… After the 29th of September we arrived to Bologna as refugees… the 15th of November… One and half month hidden in refuges on the mountain…
We went as refugees to Bologna, here close to where I live now. (With your sister?) With my sister. Bared feet. On foot. And then in order to get news about my father…what did I do?…. I went to the hospitals because they told me that some injured soldiers came from up there, fron Marzabotto. And I met someone who saw my father… He gave me some pieces of information.. Then another one who told me – Your father… I was with him. He’s injured to a leg by a bomb splinter. They treated him and then he went back to the front-. (So he was injured but sent back to the front…?) That’s what they said… But I couldn’t have any more news about my father… I looked for him everywhere, in the hospitals, at the Red Cross… But no news..
Until that moment… I think it was for telepathy… I don’t know. My father had some relatives around Crespellano, close to Bologna. So I knew that he was injured at the beginning of January and the 2nd of March I went looking for him moved by my sixth sense, completely somewhere else that usually, to the hospital of Balzano. But it was bombed. Nothing to do. They sent me to some nuns who took care of the soldiers at the hospital. And they sent me to Castelfranco. They told me – There’s a German camp there. There’s an interpreter-. So I found this interpreter and I asked him if he knew something about a soldier, Paselli. He could speak Italian and immediately showed interest about my case. He made a phone call. A long one, even with animosity I would say. And so I thought – What a luck… Such a good thing that he’s so interested. It means that this time I will have some results-. And it was true.
He asked me several times – On what date?- I kept on saying the 2nd of January and they say the 15th of January. Conclusion: He spoke with the German, but in German, so I couldn’t understand. But I was hopeful because I thought – I’m so happy I’ve found somebody who can help me…!- But he stayed serious. I realized something was wrong and I asked – What’s wrong? Is the right one? Paselli Virginio!- And he replied – Don’t go there, don’t go inside the villa…-, because it has been equipped as an hospital, -…You’ll find there two officers. But don’t go inside…! Go to the interpreter.. He knows everything- He didn’t want to tell me anything. So I went to the interpreter. He knew everything but he didn’t tell me of course. He took me inside. He got the register and they came close to me but not a word. So I asked – Isn’t he there?- So I watch the register and I said – This is my father… This one!-
So they stayed quiet and then they said – Unfortunately we did everything we had to but he died…- (Where was that interpreter, sorry..?) It was Castelfranco. The wound from the leg went through the tummy. I dreamed about it before it happened, can you believe it. I dreamed that my father was in a lake of blood; I knew where he was but I couldn’t see him. (And during this time you and your sister…?) We stayed at home with some friends. They gave us hospitality there in Bologna and we stayed. We were refugees anyway. The houses destroyed, everything destroyed. Then I started to work on my own and my sister… (Always as a tailor..?) Yes, I organized myself immediately. It was still during the war. Because my father died on the 2nd of January 1945. The war wasn’t over yet.
(What was it then Castelfranco? Was it a hospital?) No it was a villa arranged as an hospital. It was quite a big villa. (Managed by the Germans?) Yes. And this two German officers explained me… You know I dreamed it when my father got injured,… dreaming.. I was in that place and two guys told me that they had seen my father, but I couldn’t see him. And it went like that. They took him there because he got injured together with a German soldier. So they took him there. This German interpreter I went to ask to, he called this villa to ask for my father. – Paselli Virginio, Paselli Virginio!- So I said – So is he there, is he there?- And he said – He was there but I don’t know now..-
But he had the common sense not to tell me immediately.. But they’d told me already.. So he told me – He was there but not anymore. But don’t go inside. Go to the interpreter..- The interpreter was in a small cabin at the entrance where he produced the permissions and other documents..
(Did you stay in Bologna for the rest of the war?) Yes we stayed here in Bologna… There were bombs also here.. ( With family friends..) Yes with this friends of us. (And then it’s another story…) Yes another story. Because of the bombs, a lot of people were used to tun up to Saragozza street, at the Meloncello where there was a big refuge. So running and sweating I got pneumonia. At the time it was dangerous because we didn’t have antibiotics.. (Running on the street..) I did. So when I arrived to the refuge I was completely sweating. And it was very cold there. (That was too much..) And I had high temperature..
They took me to the hospital on one of those small cars… With a big blanket because it was cold… And I went to the hospital. (young v.: at the beginning of april?) Well around the 25th… (Who took you there?) Thes family friends I stayed with. (And you stayed at the hospital?) Yes at the hospital Sant’Orsola. At the beginning of April … I don’t know.I only know that I was at the hospital on the Liberation Day, the 25th.. Then I escaped… They started to say – They’re coming. The Germans are escaping. There’s nobody anymore..- They all ran away and me too, walking. I went home. All San Vitale street walking.. When I arrived at San Vitale that was a girl crying for her father. They killed her father because he was a fascist. He was already dead when I arrived at the Two Towers and she was crying leaning on him. All around it was such a party… But I started to cry desperately.
Instead to be happy because finally I was free I had a shock, a bad one… To see Bologna liberated… It was impressive. (Were you destroyed?) Yes. Instead to be happy I fell apart. (It was too much all together..) And then when you’re alone it’s even harder.. (And your sister?) We stayed always together. What a bad story, don’t you think so? A story like this… ( young v.: A story of war.. War is harder for the civilians..) Yes (But then you could manage to have a good life..) Of course. A family. It always stays the will of surviving of getting through…
(young v.: and your sister she had a worse time..) Yes because worse thinks happened to her, let’s say.. She was more introverted… On the other side even after the war I had the need to talk about it.. to get it out… (To start again…) Yes…And then I always tried to find a solution to every problem; I was used to say to myself: – A part from death there’s a solution to everything!- This was my philosophy. (What you felt…) And then to find always a reason for everything… And a compromise among people and friends… Always trying to.. Because I get scared…do you understand? I’m afraid to see people getting angry to each other. I still have it… (A mediation…) Yes for everything.. (But you look fine and full of life…) Well not so much… I’m old so it’s not so easy. You say… ( you look fine..) Well not too bad even with my troubles..
Since the time of what happened at the cemetery I’ve got ulcer. Since I’m 18.. I suffered a lot… ( But it’s clear that after the war you’ve been able to build up a life..) Yes.. (a normal life…) Yes, normal. This is my daughter and then I’ve got a son. Well I got married 3 years after the war, in 1948. 3 years later. Then she’s born. ( But you stayed here in Bologna?) Always here in Bologna. I married that boy I met the first time I was working in Bologna, with those relatives… Because he lived in the same building. (Family friends, let’s say…) No…The first time I worked in Bologna. I was 16. (But this boy lived..) in Bologna. He was my cousin’s neighbour and they knew each other. So we also became friends. (What’s his name?) Franco… Unfortunately he’s not here anymore….
(What you told us… there aren´t so many people that know all that…) Because a lot of us are dead already…of my age. (You have to tell this story because as you say there aren’t many people…And maybe in 10 years…) (young v.: but unfortunately everything is politicized here) (That’s your fear about this book..?) (young v.: No, no. I mean here at Montesole especially. They use these people for political reasons. I say this not my mother…) I just tell what happened to me. There are many stories like mine. Sometimes invented ones. My story is true. Then it also depends on the writer.. ( It’s quite a responsibility…)
The interpretation… (These subjects take time… Not from one day to another… James wrote a book about the war in Malta. Before to publish the book he sent it to all the people he spoke to…) No Giaccosa, the writer, didn’t behave well… (Why?) We agreed that I would read it before the publication… But I didn’t see and hear anything. And when they published the book I learned it from friends. (James would never do something like that…) And he wrote things he wasn’t supposed to. And he came here many times because he was really interested. So I called the publishing company, Garzanti, and they sent me the book. And also another book that I cannot find anymore… “Impiccarsi all’inferno” by Longanese.
(James says that it’s very important that you’re happy with what he writes. He promises you that before it is published he will send you what he has written… For you, so you can check, verify and tell him if there’s something wrong. He also says that nobody before published anything about the experience of the Italian civilians during the war. He considers it really important). Actually here in Italy they haven’t been so interested neither…. You know? Maybe they don’t want to show it too much… (When the tapes are translated he will send you the Italian translation to make sure there aren’t mistakes. If he’ got any doubts can he contact you?) Yes, of course. You know I’m alone… She (her daughter) lives on her own… I’ve got all the time to answer your questions.
(You’ve been working as tailor, then…?) Yes, on my own. (And your husband?) He employed at a bank. Before it was the bank “Credito Romagnolo”, then it became “Rolo”, now they’re all belong to the same group of banks.. he worked there for 36-37 years, then he retired and unfortunately he died… (And your sister?) My sister could work for the military hospital… They took her because she was orphan of war… Even before she was the right age for the job… (So she worked at the military hospital..?) Yes, in Bologna. ( Always?) Yes… She died 3 years ago. (James interviewed so many war veterans… but your story is the most incredible one he heard..) Well… we made it short… I left behind a lot…
We’ve been quick with the story. Because around the 8th of September when everybody escaped, the soldiers and refugees from Bologna… A young lady knocked on our door and she carried a baby not older than 10 months. She was alone because her husband was in the Marine. So she escaped from Bologna when they started bombing…etc. And she arrived at our door and said – Could you take us with you? We don’t know where to go..- So my father was on the door and said – How can we do…We’re so many already..- – But I can sleep on the floor..- She was young around 24… I liked her from the firs moment..- I don’t where to go..- And I said – Dad why don’t you take her… She can sleep in the living room..- We had 3 bedrooms and 1 living room so it was possible..
But my father said – No we cannot we cannot..- And she insisted – Please do a a good action..- So in the end we took her with us. (young v.: when was it?) The 8th of September 1943. (This happened…?) Yes before… We were in the house on the railway station…So she slept with us and she was of great company, happy and sociable. We really understood each other. And we organized parties… There were soldiers all over the railways and they were used to visit us. They were from Bologna. And they became friends with father. We felt braver with them around. So we organized parties at our place. And she…because we didn’t have the gramophone.., said… She was from Bologna, but they moved to Florence because her husband was captain of Marine and they had their house there in Florence.
So one day she proposed – Why don’t we go to Florence? We take the train and pick up the records and the gramophone..- And we did so. We left the babygirl to my mother and we went to take the records. When we arrived there there was only one record “Parlami d’amore Mariú”, that now you often listen on TV. And the all day we played that song, you know? So this episode is not bad…(no, not bad..) Then she decided to go back to Bologna so she rescued herself. (Have you ever come back to Montesole?) Where? (Montesole) Always, I always go there. I feel the need nearly… I feel so peaceful there.. There’s a nice park. Well in the beginning I felt bad to go there.. I lived again the scene.. (Do you often think of it?) Well, during certain years, those years before I had my children especially, every night I dreamed of escaping to find refuge in the forest.
As I told you I always wanted to rescue myself. Always the same nightmares. Then a little… (young v.: then I started to have those nightmares. Because as a child I always dreamed that I escaped, I dreamed the war. Maybe because my mother always talked about it..) Maybe talking about it… But in my dreams I always rescued myself. (Did you have nightmares?) (young v.: Yes) It hasn’t been easy with her. She didn’t want to eat, and the school, I only would eat that… She didn’t want to stay at school. She always refused. She grew up like that. Maybe she inherited by me.. (where are your mother and your little brothers buried?) In the cemetery of Marzabotto. Before they all were in a big grave. Then they all were buried in the Cemetery.