Category Archives: Memories

Book Review: More Than A Soldier

Standard

More Than a Soldier

 

A few weeks ago, I posted a spotlight of the book More Than A Soldier by D.M. Annechino.

D.M. Annechino

At that time, I had not read the book yet. Reading the excerpt, I was anxious to actually read the entire story – it sounded so fascinating. I’m happy to report that I just finished reading it (and I read it in record speed)! It was excellent! The writing style was such that you felt like you were experiencing all the emotions that Army Ranger Angelo Di Marco did while he was fighting in combat as well as trying to survive as a fugitive from the Nazis. His heartaches at losing his fellow Army Rangers, and his worries for his own survival and those of his comrades, were so real that the words touched my heart. This is an amazing story of determination, strength, courage and hope – as well as devastation and desperation. It’s also a story of love – the love that he felt for his family and for his fellow servicemen. The bonds that connected him to everyone, including those kind Italians that helped him survive, were so strong and beautiful. Knowing that this is a true story is all the more poignant and meaningful. I’m so glad that Angelo decided to share this amazing story before he passed away, as it is a story not to be forgotten. I can highly recommend this book as a great historical account of World War II – I very much enjoyed the humanity of this story.

Italy Book Tours Logo in colour

 

 

Risotto with Chives

Standard

FullSizeRender

As I’m trying to watch my carb intake, I don’t eat much rice…but every once in a while, a good creamy risotto is such comfort food!

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice

1 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 c. white wine

3 to 4 cups chicken broth, warmed

1 c. grated parmesan cheese

2 T. butter

Truffle oil or truffle salt

I package chives, minced

2 T. parsley, minced

Directions:

Heat some olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the rice and sauté a few minutes. Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the wine evaporates. Add the broth, one scoop at a time, and cook until the broth is incorporated. Continue in this manner until the rice is tender.

Add in the parsley, chives, butter, and parmesan cheese. Stir for a while and add some pepper and either the truffle salt or the truffle oil. Stir and serve.

Top with some more Parmesan cheese, if desired.

La Macedonia di Frutta

Standard

FullSizeRender

Nothing reminds me more of the summers I spent in Italy as a young girl than La Macedonia! My aunt used to prepare for me a HUGE bowl of this delicious fruit salad, with all the freshest summer fruits she could find. She used to stare in awe as I finished off a whole bowl of it. “How can such a tiny thing eat so much Macedonia?”, she’d wonder.

Since those days, I’ve always been a big fan of summer fruit salads. I like to throw whatever fresh fruit I have and mix it up with just a little bit of lemon and orange juice, and a tiny pinch of sugar. When I had my first child, in August of 1986, summer was in full bloom and it seems like I survived on Macedonia di Frutta! I lost all my pregnancy weight, plus 4 pounds, within 2 weeks of having my baby! Was it the Macedonia di Frutta or just the fact that I was a first-time mom and was so nervous I forgot to eat!

Good from Tragedy…

Standard

nicholas-green

On September 29, 1994,  an American family (Reg and his wife Maggie, 7-year old Nicholas and 4-year old Eleanor) were vacationing in Italy when, late on a Thursday night between Salerno and Reggio Calabria on their way to Sicily, masked bandits opened fire on their car. “There was a small car following me from close behind,” Mr. Green told reporters later. The car came up alongside their car and the masked bandits began to shout something that he and his wife did not understand. The story goes that the bandits mistook their car for that of a jeweler whom they wished to rob. Reg Green accelerated while the bandits followed and opened fire at the rear of the car where the children were sleeping in the back seat. Mr. Green kept accelerating and the bandits kept following and shooting. It was only after the gunmen had abandoned their pursuit and the Greens pulled  over did they realize that Nicholas had been shot in the head. Sadly, Nicholas passed away in Messina a few days later.

Rather than seek vengeance and blame Italy for their tragedy, the Green’s selflessly decided to donate Nicholas’ organs to allow other Italians to live. “I would have liked him to live a long time,” Maggie Green said of her son. “Now I wish the same thing for his heart.”

“Perhaps they do not realize how rare that gesture is in our country,” said Gregorio Botta, a columnist in the newspaper La Repubblica. “Perhaps they do not realize that half the children with heart ailments in Italy do not make it and die while awaiting a transplant.” Italy was filled with an emotion they had never felt when the decision to donate his organs and corneas became known. Organ transplants had been very rare in Italy, but since this generous act shown by a foreign family to the citizens of a country where their personal tragedy occurred, organ donations has tripled. The “Nicholas Effect” was born out of this horrible event. This is the title of the motivational book written by Reg Green, but mostly, it’s the movement that sharply increased awareness of the multitude of deaths around the world cause by the shortage of donated organs. As stated in the book, “it sent an electric shock through the human spirit.”

The Italian populace, inspired by this generous act, donated bells to create an everlasting sign of gratitude to Nicholas Green’s family. A moving memorial was erected in their home town of Bodega Bay, California. My friend Susan recently visited and here is her story and pictures:

13508858_1233515583338718_626876575703661178_n

A beautiful memorial for a 7 year old boy in Bodega Bay! Nicholas Green was on vacation in Italy his family, all from Bodega Bay, when road thieves shot him. His parents lovingly donated his organs to seven Italians who were awaiting donations. The Italian community were so touched by the gesture they collected bells and sent them to his family and the Bodega Bay community erected the tower for the bells. The large center bell at the top was forged by the Papal Foundry and was blessed by Pope John Paul II. It has ‘Nicholas’ at the top and the seven Italian’s names who received the organs below it.  

13495170_1233515723338704_5709830461186183585_n

Some bells donated had been in Italian families for generations, or had been donated by churches.  There  are sticks at the base that people use to reach up to bells to ring them if the wind is not blowing

13557928_1233515610005382_543238819707251298_n

The bell tower memorial is at the end of a short path – in wide open field because Nicholas loved playing in wide open spaces! This bell is especially touching as it depicts his giving of himself to others…

13516421_1233515670005376_2375223448727327318_n

 

If you are in Bodega Bay, stop by for a visit and honor this little boy’s legacy, and the love his parents showed despite tragedy.

Two men were arrested in November 1994 for the shooting:  Francesco Mesiano and Michele Iannello. They were tried, but in January 1997 they were found not guilty because Reg Green could not positively identify them. However, a year later, with no new evidence, another court with a jury convicted the pair. This decision was upheld by Italy’s supreme court in 1999 and the two are still behind bars – hopefully to stay there forever!

Digging up the Past – and Discovering Treasures

Standard

The purpose of my trip to Italy this year was to do some research into my mother’s side of the family – particularly her father’s family. I became interested in finding out about them because, unlike the other places in Italy where I have roots, the province of Padova has online records available through http://www.familysearch.org and I was able to do some research before the trip. The records available date from 1879 – 1910. This part of Italy is also where you find Cittadella – my “home town” and where all my civil records are located! My mom was born there and when I became an Italian citizen, I had the opportunity to choose either the town of my mom’s birth or my dad’s as my “home”. I chose Cittadella because it’s a beautiful medieval walled town which I’d be proud to call my Italian home!

Through my online research, I discovered that both my grandfather’s parents died in 1910 within months of each other. He was only 11 years old and was one of the oldest of 8 children. So my first thoughts were: who raised them? Were they kept together? What did his parents die of? My mother didn’t know any of this and I wasn’t sure how I was going to find out since those kinds of details aren’t readily available in civil records. Determined to figure it out, I did a search for my grandfather’s last name in the White Pages for the town where I knew they lived (in my case, Campo San Martino). I came up with 3 names and addresses, and so I wrote them a snail-mail letter! In this letter, I spelled out exactly who I was and asked if perhaps we were related. Lo and behold, I received a response from 2 of them. One response was from a man who had the same last name but was not part of my direct line of ancestors but nonetheless, he was excited to know another person with the same last name and offered to help me find my family. The other response was from the son of my mom’s first cousin! This was a direct hit! His response included pages from a manuscript which told the story of my grandfather’s family and what happened to them. It turned out that my great grandparents died during a cholera epidemic, leaving all their children behind. An adopted uncle raised the children along with his own children. In 1916, he was responsible for 21 people! This manuscript was beautifully written, but I only had parts of it and I wanted to find out who wrote it and how I could get a full copy! All of these things, plus the desire to meet these newfound cousins, sparked my desire to make this genealogical research trip to the Padova area. Here is my story of discovery and amazement – how all the pieces came together, even more so than I had ever expected!

Our first stop on this journey was Busiago, within the city limits of Campo San Martino. This is the town where my mom’s mother’s family grew up and so I thought that this might be where my grandparents had gotten married. We tried to go to Mass but got the time wrong and so ended up at the church after Communion. We hung around after Mass to see if we could meet the priest and ask some questions about locating my grandparent’s marriage records. We didn’t get to speak to him but we learned that the church had been rebuilt in the 1950’s and therefore the original edifice was no longer there.

We wandered around Busiago a bit – there were prosecco grapes growing all around!  That was all the research we had time for that day, but we had plans to return.

The next day, Monday, we headed back out to the Campo San Martino area and made a visit to the archive office. I was able to locate my grandparent’s marriage certificate as well as my aunt’s birth certificate. Another mystery opened up to me – my grandparents didn’t legally register their marriage until 1927, even though my aunt was born in 1925! Their marriage certificate indicated that they were registering their marriage to legitimize the birth of their daughter. My aunt’s birth certificate showed only my grandfather’s name and no mention of her mother. Did they perhaps get married in church years before and didn’t legally register their marriage civilly? As I found out, only beginning in 1929, did the priest have the authority to legally marry a couple. Before that, a church wedding did not constitute a legal one. I am currently awaiting news from the priest from to see if he can locate the church records of my grandparents’ wedding to see when it really took place.

A trip to the cemeteries of Busiago and Marsango was next. Sadly, most of my ancestors’ graves have been dug up – evidently, the graves are dug up from the ground after 30 years. The only old ones remaining are those that have a crypt. Wandering around Marsango’s cemetery, though, I found two graves which were of interest. I took pictures to remind me of the details.

The next day, we visited the archive office of San Giorgio delle Pertiche which comprises the town of Arsego. Arsego is where my mom lived when she was born and before moving to Lago Maggiore. We didn’t find any real info at the archive office, but decided to visit the church in Arsego to see if maybe my mom’s baptismal records were there. When we met with the priest, he informed us that he had a gentleman who was responsible for the research for these types of records and for me to give him a call in the afternoon to set up an appointment. When we met him in the afternoon, he welcomed us into the rectory. I explained my research and when I gave him my mom’s name, he reacted with a surprised stare. When I confirmed the name, he sat back and said that that was a name that meant a lot to him since he was the grandson of the man who had been adopted by my great-great grandparents and who raised my grandfather after his parents had died! This was a huge surprise and totally unexpected. I told him about the pages of a manuscript that had been sent me and he informed me that he was the author of that manuscript!

He had been a professor of history and therefore very knowledgeable about the historical details of the time period in question. He promised me that he would make me a copy of the entire manuscript to have for my records. He and I were so excited about this coincidence that we had to celebrate! So he took us to the children’s afterschool snack shack at the church where we ordered prosecco! Ha! Ha! Only in Italy! We made plans to see each other the following afternoon, when he would give me the manuscript.

The next morning, Wednesday, I had made plans to visit with my mom’s cousin. When we arrived at their house, we were greeted by a whole group of people. They were so warm and welcoming and invited us into their home…and fed us some delicious pastries! They pulled out a lot of old family photos and were explaining to me who everyone was. They were all so excited to meet us and promised to show us around the Veneto the next time we go! Such a warm welcome from everyone!

That afternoon we went to pick up the manuscript. It was given it to me with so much enthusiasm! He was so excited to be able to share his story (and the story of my ancestors) with me! It’s a great memory which I will always treasure. I plan on translating it into English so that I can pass it down to my children! Once more, to celebrate, he took us to the local bar for another toast (Prosecco)! They sure like to celebrate in Italy every chance they get!

Our last day of family research took us to the church in Marsango. This may actually be the church where my grandparents were married, even though I’m still waiting for the results of that search.

Also, with all the excitement, we realized that we never located my mom’s baptismal certificate in Arsego. But then, after talking to the priest, he mentioned that she was probably baptized at the hospital in Cittadella immediately after her birth, and that those records are probably there. Getting these additional records and maybe some others that are missing from my research will be for a future project. For now, I am so excited about the discoveries that I made – this trip exceeded all my expectations!

Port of No Return – A Book Review

Standard

9781922200280-Cover.indd

Historical fiction novels about Italy during World War II always seem to fascinate me – probably because the stories hit pretty close to home since my parents lived through this horrible time in Italy.  Neither one of my parents, though, remembers it as being really terrible – I guess they were the lucky ones.  But after reading several accounts of the atrocities that occurred in Italy, I am devastated to learn that so many innocent people lost their lives – and if they survived, they lived through some pretty horrible experiences.  My parents speak about the poverty, but their stories tend to be more human interest stories rather than accounts of despair and fear.  My mother tells a great story of her and her sister going to collect the rationed jam, of which each family was only allowed one jar per month. The two little girls, aged 8 & 7, were sent by their parents to go and pick it up.  On the way home, they decided to sample some. One spoonful for one, another spoonful for the other, and by the time they got home, the jam was all gone! My mom says that it tasted so good that they just couldn’t stop!

Michelle Saftich’s novel, Port of No Return, speaks of life in Fiume, a town now a part of Croatia.

image004[1]

Back before the war, it was a part of Italy, and during the war, it was occupied by the Germans. Towards the end of the war and even afterwards, it became a hotbed of political tensions between the Yugoslav Communists (or Partisans) and those who worked for the Germans. Families were just trying to eek out a living to support themselves and therefore found work wherever there were jobs.  Many of those jobs involved working on German projects.Tensions became so high that the Partisans fought everyone they felt supported the Germans. Families had to split up and flee their homes, taking refuge in refugee camps.  This story tells the story of the Sartoro family – mother, father, nonna and 5 children.  Ettore, the father, had worked in the naval yards run by the Germans, even though his allegiances were always to Italy. Word got out that the Yugoslav’s were coming to even the score with the Germans, and everyone involved with working for them was fair game. Ettore ran for his life, leaving behind his entire family. Months passed and the family had to escape Fiume as well.  They had to leave everything they had ever known.

The story tells of the hardships that both Ettore and his family faced, and their struggle to find each other.Even after the war was over, life was still unbearable – they were living in horrendous conditions in refugee camps – but their spirit remained strong and their commitment to family was beautiful.

images[8]

They were determined to create a better life, and this meant leaving the world they knew and venture to unknown lands. The end of the book finds the family embarking on a voyage to Australia and to the new life awaiting them there.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I hope that a sequel will follow that tells of their new life in Australia.

Finding my Family’s Roots

Standard

I have always been interested in finding out about my Italian family, but the roadblocks were almost impossible to maneuver unless I were to make a special trip to Italy and spend lots of time in the churches or city halls.  But Familysearch.org changed all that by making some Italian civil records available online (and they keep adding more)!

IMG_0807

Lo and behold, when I looked up what was available, I found that the province of Padova, in the Veneto region, had online records!

IMG_0810

My mother’s family “immigrated” from there to Lago Maggiore in Lombardy back in 1936, so I knew that I might have some luck in locating information about them while they lived in Padova.  I began by finding out where my mother and her sisters were born – that gave me the name of the town in the province. People didn’t move around as much back then, so once you have the name of the town, you can usually find loads of family members’ statistics. And I was right!  The records I found contained a lot of information – among them parents’ names, locations of birth, and whether the parents were alive or deceased at the time of whatever event you are researching. The records available online are from 1871 – 1910, and they contain birth, marriage, and death records, and therefore I knew that I should be able to find information about my grandparents within those years, as well as their parents (and maybe grandparents). With just a few simple word clues, you can decipher a lot of information from those documents (of course, it helps immensely if you can read Italian).  For instance, if the words “fu” or “furano” preceeded the names of the parents, that means that they were deceased.  If it said “di”, then chances were they were still alive.  It was tedious going through all the records, but fortunately there were yearly indexes to help with the search.  The hardest part was keeping all the clues straight!  I had to make a spreadsheet and cross reference all the information I found to see if they really were part of my family’s branch of the tree.  I was successful in tracing my grandfather’s part of the family tree back 4 generations!  I also unearthed a mystery which I was determined to figure out!

My mom’s mother died when she was 9 years old, so she really hadn’t ever spoken to her about her family back in the Padova Province.  But her father lived into his late 60’s so I thought she’d have more information on his family.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.  He never really talked about them, other than to say that he had lots of brothers and sisters. Well, from doing the research, I realized why he never spoke of them – when he was just 11 years old, he lost both his mother and father (and baby brother) within one year of each other, leaving him and his 7 younger siblings orphaned.  But who took care of them?  Who raised them?  These are the kinds of questions that genealogy research leads to – these human interest stories that make you want to find out more.  I was like a dog with a bone and needed to find out what happened.  I decided to try something the old fashioned way and did a white pages search (online) for my grandfather’s last name in the vicinity of where they had lived. I found three people with the same last name and decided to write them a letter.  Yes, a real letter! In that letter, I described who I was and mentioned the names of my grandfather’s siblings, in the hopes that one of them had descendants still living in the area. In this letter, I did give my email address so that communication would be easier!  A couple of weeks after my letter went out, I received an email response from one of them.  I found out that they weren’t direct relatives but shared the same last name. She told me that she would be glad to help me find my relatives!  She was so nice and I feel like I made a friend – these are definitely the benefits of putting yourself out there and asking for help.  People are more than willing to help you!

My second response came about a month later and it was the answer to all my questions.  The author of the letter was my mother’s first cousin, whom she never met because she never went back after she moved to Lago Maggiore. Back then, if you moved even only a couple of hundred miles away, you may have well moved to the moon!

FullSizeRender

Communication, many times, sadly was lost. Not because of family feuds but simply because it was just too hard. Anyway, this letter contained photo copies of pages from a typed manuscript which detailed what happened to my grandfather’s family. Turns out that his parents and baby brother had died of cholera, during the outbreak of 1910 in the Veneto. When they had fallen ill, they had sent the other children (my grandfather included) to live with the grandparents and an adoptive uncle.  This adoptive uncle had, at one moment in time, more than 21 people in his household to take care of!  Amazing that families cared for each other so closely! This manuscript was written like a story with heartfelt words.  But who wrote these beautiful words? How can I get a copy of the entire manuscript, which I’m sure has lots more family treasures? These are questions that I posed to the author of the kind letter after I profusely thanked them for sending me these treasures. I am currently anxiously awaiting their response!  I can’t wait to find out more, and I’m so thankful that my curiosity paid off!

The next part of my search:  my maternal grandmother’s family!  Hopefully I’ll unearth more lovely stories about my ancestors.