Last summer I read two books about WWII: The Nightingale and Irena’s Children. I soon realized that the people who survived the war were getting old and it wouldn’t be right to let their stories die with them. The best way to remember them is to make a detailed record of their first hand experiences, so I bought a voice recorder and decided to interview my Nonna. I dedicate this post to her for her birthday. *Note* Some information may be disturbing.
This is her story:
My Nonna was born 96 years ago on this day in Milano, Italy. However, she lived in a fishing village on the Mediterranean Sea called Santa Margherita Ligure. (Next to Portofino if you’re familiar with the area).
Her family owned a hotel in town called ‘Lombardia Bristol,’ making her more blessed than others because she didn’t have to worry about where her next meal was coming from. She was around 19 years old, when the war started to effect her. At the time she was a student and also worked in the hotel helping her parents take care of guests, prepare food and serve customers in the restaurant.
However, her town would soon be occupied by Nazi’s and she would have to serve them as though they were welcomed guests. She would be around them 24/7, serving their every need.
I asked her about her worst memory of the Nazi’s. She told me two stories:
One day there were a group of Nazi’s in the garden of the hotel and they seemed as though something exciting was happening. Accompanied with them was a frightened cat and dog…. She went to see what was going on and immediately realized it wasn’t something she should be watching.
The German soldiers were bullying the dog to attack the cat. At one point a soldier took the cat by its tail and started spinning it around in circles. Eventually, the dog was bullied to the point it killed the cat.
She recounts this story with tears in her eyes and her face in the palms of her hands.
On another day, two student came into the hotel to eat at the restaurant. They sat at a table and studied quietly as they waited for their food. All of a sudden, a Nazi officer grabbed one of them by the collar and took him outside to the garden.
He shot him in the head.
Not only did my Grandmother have to deal with serving Nazi’s in the hotel with continuous fear, she also had to live under a shower of bombs.
The townspeople nicknamed the bombs “Pippo.” Whenever the allies would bomb the town, they would say, “The Pippo are coming! The Pippo are coming!”
I asked her if she was scared when the bombs were being dropped.
She replied, “No. What’s destiny is destiny.”
One time she even resorted to spending the night in the train tunnels. People used to live there to shelter themselves from the bombing. She said she only did it once because the conditions were so horrible. “It was dirty, packed with people and smelled like human feces.”
She continued to say that, “If anything should happen, I would rather be in the comfort of my home.”
While she stayed in town, her brother Marco went to war. Eventually, he was captured by the Nazi’s and became a prisoner of war in Germany. When he was finally found and brought home, his family was shocked to see that he had a huge scar starting from his knee, leading to his ankle.
When asked about it, he refused to recount what happened and when he died in 2007, his secret died with him.
Although difficult a time, my Nonna and her family survived the war. The Americans freed the town of Nazi’s and they went on with their lives. My grandmother met my grandfather and they got married!
Now….she’s turning 96 years old and kicking as though she’s still 19 ahaha All thanks to daily walks through town and red wine with every meal! I mean A LOT of red wine ahaha
I thank my readers today for taking your time out to read about my grandmother. I’m using my blog today to be her voice so that in another way, she won’t be forgotten.
My challenge to you is to talk to your relatives, learn about your family stories and ask questions. If you have relatives that lived through WWII ask them about their experiences. Sit down with them and give them your time! Because, by now, they’re probably ready to talk about it.
Auguri Nonna! 🎉🎊💋
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