Tag Archives: partisans

Port of No Return – A Book Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

Viva L’Italia!

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The war years in Italy were difficult – innocent people were killed by the Germans because they were believed to be helping the Partisans (see my post about this at  An Italian Tragedy), people were hungry and not sure if they would get food, and idlyllic and peaceful places full of history, art, and beauty were being destroyed.  Once the Americans came in and the Partisans triumphed, Italy began to breathe a sigh of relief.  La Festa della Liberazione, a National holiday in Italy marking the end of World War II and the fall of the Fascist government, is celebrated today, April 25th, with parades and other festivities all over Italy.  Rebuilding Italy after the War would turn out to be a significant and difficult task, but the Italians worked hard and persevered.  Even though it is not immune to the problems plaguing the rest of the world, Italy has come a long way from those horrible days during and after World War II to become the Italy that so captivates and enchants those that visit her.

Below is a song written by Partisan sympathizers and sung during the War by the Resistance.   It was sung in the underground and only became popular to the public after the War when it was introduced by some Italian student singers at Berlin’s Youth Festival in 1948.  I have to make note, here, that I am purely sharing this song as part of Italy’s history and I’m not making ANY political statement here!!!  With that said, here it is:

BELLA CIAO

Una mattina mi son svegliato O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Una mattina mi son svegliato Eo ho trovato l’invasor

O partigiano porta mi via O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao O partigiano porta mi via Che mi sento di morir

E se io muoio da partigiano O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao E se io muoio da partigiano Tu mi devi seppellir

Mi seppellire lassù in montagna O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Mi seppellire lassù in montagna Sotto l’ombra di un bel fiore

E le genti che passeranno O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao E le genti che passeranno Mi diranno: “Che bel fior”

È questo il fiore del partigiano O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao È questo il fiore del partigiano Morto per la libertà

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One morning I woke up O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao One morning I woke up And I found the invader

Oh partisan, carry me away, O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Oh partisan, carry me away, For I feel I’m dying

And if I die as a partisan O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao And if I die as a partisan You have to bury me

But bury me up in the mountain O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao, But bury me up in the mountain Under the shadow of a beautiful flower

And the people who will pass by O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao, And the people who will pass by Will say to me: “what a beautiful flower”

This is the flower of the partisan O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao This is the flower of the partisan Who died for freedom

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Here is a song that was sung by the Alpini – a branch of the military that patrols the mountains all around Italy.  It captures the sentiments felt during the War by those Alpini soldiers and their love of the mountains of Italy.  It is in a sort of dialect, and therefore I will try to translate it as best I can!

IL TESTAMENTO DEL CAPITANO

 El capitan de la compagnia l’è ferito stà per morir el manda a dire ai suoi Alpini perchè lo vengano a ritrovar. el manda a dire ai suoi Alpini perchè lo vengano a ritrovar.

I suoi Alpini ghè manda a dire che non han scarpe per camminar O con le scarpe o senza scarpe i miei Alpini li voglio qua. O con le scarpe o senza scarpe i miei Alpini li voglio qua.

Cosa comanda, siòr capitano, che noi adesso semo arrivà? E io comando che il mio corpo in cinque pezzi sia taglià. E io comando che il mio corpo in cinque pezzi sia taglià.

Il primo pezzo alla mia Patria secondo pezzo al Battaglion il terzo pezzo alla mia Mamma che si ricordi del suo figliol. il terzo pezzo alla mia Mamma che si ricordi del suo figliol.

Il quarto pezzo alla mia bella che si ricordi del suo primo amor. L’ultimo pezzo alle montagne che lo fioriscano di rose e fior L’ultimo pezzo alle montagne che lo fioriscano di rose e fior.

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The Captain’s Testament

The captain of the company is wounded and is dying.  He sends a message to his Alpini soldiers for them to come and visit him.

His Alpini soldiers tell him that they don’t have shoes to walk.  He says that with our without shoes, he wants them there.

What do you command, Captain sir, now that we have arrived?  I command that you cut my body up into 5 pieces.

The first piece to my Country, the second piece to my battalion, the third piece to my mother so that she may remember her son.

The fourth piece to by girlfriend so that she can remember her first love.  And the fifth piece to the mountains so that it can be covered in roses.