Waiting for the Seventieth: impressions and memories (2014)

sommocolonia towerWe publish the full version of the memories of the people appeared in the December issue of the journal The Seventieth:

When they got to the Allies lived Frascone and I was 13, they were the last days of September 1944. The first to arrive were the Brazilians who reached S. Pietro in Campo and went so far as to Sommocolonia. Then the Germans started shooting guns on Mologno on Frascone and Fornaci.

The family lived Cavani where there is now the coach park. At the first cannon Cavani left the house to go to the barn where the collar was a place prepared between two walls making an opening in the outer wall. Unfortunately Monteperpoli saw them enter the barn and immediately fired cannon on the hut, certainly large caliber because the bullets pierced the roof and the floor of the hut and reached the barn, killing three people and wounding others that had not had time to take refuge among the two walls. The dead were Cavani Ignatius, his nephew John and a Calabrian soldier escaped from the Germans, who had been hosted in the family Cavani.

Unfortunately, the front stabilized and the Allies were able to advance only after seven months, namely 18 April, 1945; then stopped the German gunfire. During this time I have been in danger of being hit by gunfire in particular twice. The first time I was on pianello to feed a lamb, gunfire began to arrive, then I led the lamb to the fold then foolishly went back to the forest to do some ‘ivy to give the lamb. Just came back I heard a loud explosion, and I went to see my father: three bullets had reached the cornfield, two right in the middle of the field, one had exploded just in stradellino where I spent the first few seconds. The second time I was in the forest from Paoletto to feed the cows, I was sitting on a little hill near a chestnut, I heard a hiss, I turned and saw a bullet pass close to my head, fortunately passed the hill and went to the coast.
By now we were accustomed to gunfire, so much so that on Easter morning, April 1, went to Mass at St. Bernardino infuriassero despite the bombings both allies that Germans, who had tried to advance towards Nebbiana. The church was full of faithful and Don Ranieri Andreotti had come from Barga to celebrate Mass.

Don Giuseppe Cola

I attended the first grade when my teacher announced that Italy had entered the war, allied with the Germans. We children of six years is taken as if he had said: “Now let’s play toy soldiers.” We were under the rule of the beam, that was what he wanted and we kids were small soldiers (especially the males). Sunday is not going to run around on scooters (which there was not) but even by bicycle, all lined up in procession to parade through the village, the girls dressed as “little Italian”, the boys from “small table”. After a few months they start to see around the Germans, instinctively I did not like, just smiled and spoke harshly to me personally to induce fear.
So they were three years, including machine guns and a few clips of the train on the bridge Bolognana, but not that much, in these three years sirens SMI warned them almost every day and large planes flew over the sky. I remember one day in 1943, he returned to Loppia with Fr. Salvini, a man came up to us saying: “The war is over, there was the armistice!” And all the bells were ringing in celebration.
Don Salvini arrived in Fornaci did stop ringing bells and said: “The war begins now!”. Had at home the enemy, the Germans were not so many compliments, they took everything that happened, cattle, bicycles, chickens, rabbits, more of everything. Then they began to round up men to bring them to Germany as laborers. The war had really begun! The alarm sounded more often, even at night, the Americans lit with flares, was an almost spectral light and all out of the house, who down the path of Loppora, those on the old road of Barga. One morning we began to see columns of Germans who were leaving on foot. There was a day, or two, of absolute silence. Was to fall, remember the month, in October, it will have been 16.00, it was getting dark. The Two Roads began to see the soldiers, approaching cautiously, were different from those gone the day before. We went to meet the guys curious, them, motioning for silence, sent us in our homes. The first to arrive were from us Brazilians, came even food, chocolate and chewing, which we had ever tasted. The next day the streets were full of soldiers, jeeps, trucks to bring the necessary infantry. They occupied several buildings: the villa in front of Agip, because shut (the bosses were in America), all the rooms of SMI, the whole school / gym and everything was free. Where there is now Via Italy were all fields, there they placed a spun gun, another row of cannons went up to the end of Fornaci Loppia. From morning to night firing cannon always directed towards the bell tower of Sassi, referring to Castelnuovo. After a while the Brazilians were replaced by colored troops, “the blacks”, as we called them, there were the good and less good, if drinking became a problem. With us children were generous, chocolates and candies were always no. An ugly incident happened to me and my mom: we were on the ground floor of a house where we lived at that time, when a “black” went to the window (there was railing), wanted to drink, he was already drunk, He threatened us with a gun. Not knowing what to do, hoping to calm him down, the adults thought they let him in. And there was the beautiful! This pointing the gun to my mother wanted to drink. We girls, me and Leda, frightened screamed, and he heard someone went and called the military police who took him out and he just came out fired. We felt a bit ‘miraculously. So the months passed, from October to December, there was approaching Christmas, which for Americans is big party. The Germans taking advantage of the fact that the Americans had stopped firing cannon shots, they returned to the valley. On Christmas Day, we began to see wagons-armed, one behind the other, go out of their seats, thus began the famous retreat. Although we escaped from home leaving everything. Walking arrived in Ghivizzano with Leda who was only four years, he hosted a friend of Vanda: we were 40 in a single room on their feet. The next morning we continued until Fornoli, where he lived a family friend, who was home for a week. The Germans came up to Fornaci, they were hungry, so we told those who had remained. In our house they had not taken anything. A cannonball crashed through the roof of the church, the shell landed in front of the altar of the Madonna without exploding. Defused, for many years the bomb remained there, now it’s gone, because someone has bothered to remove it.
Back in Fornaci not found Americans but Indians. They had large white turbans and black beards. For us kids was another surprise, we had already seen at least four different races. So while being Fornaci it seemed to see a little ‘of the world. He came the end of the war. The entire population in celebration, all the streets shouting: “It’s over! It’s over!”. Cinema Puccini threw open the doors, all dancing young and old, also Americans rejoiced with us. After the first moment of euphoria began the first bullying: who was with who drew on whether the communist state was fascist. After this time began with the women who had been with the Germans. I had several but they took only one, took her to the Via File, the shaved to zero and did paraded around the country, between shouts and insults. What deplorable (this is war).

Maria Grazia Benvenuti

On Christmas Day 1944, our priest said Mass at four in the afternoon and when it was finished he entered the church a large number of American soldiers who knelt, sang their praises and I, my friend and others were left to listen to a little.

That evening dinner with what we had. We were about sixty, all gathered in the basement of a house that is still standing at the end. At one time in the same fund we went to school, but at that time we were sleeping. Christmas Eve went quiet. It was the following morning, early, we began to hear footsteps claims in the country.

The exact time I do not remember, but I think they were seven in the morning. We recognized that we brought them from the cap but especially by the steps, because the Americans had shoes loaders, while “they” (the Germans) had the iron under the soles.

I had a terrible fear of the Germans. And then he began the shooting. Tremendous. The bullets ended all the bells, so that he felt the blast and the ringing, and then screams, cries, weeping.

It was a fierce battle that took place throughout the morning in chief. We we stood silently in the background until a certain hour my father, who had slept in a family that had demanded his presence, he came and told us: ‘Come on, come out, the Germans let us pass! “And so we set off in single file. With us it was also a child who came to the door of our fund crying: he was the son of Cascianella and his were all dead because of an incendiary bomb that hit their home. He introduced himself in his underwear and stained with blood and a lady who was with us took it with him.

Leaving the bottom of some German soldiers direct us towards the square and here we found the first dead was Giocondo Gonnella called “Fragolino” of Fraia. He was 18 and had pulled down the window. We continued our journey; with us there were some young men dressed as women because they were not recognizable. Having reached a certain point we came to hear crying and screaming. Mario Cassettari had killed before his mother, his wife, his daughters. Then they gave another barrage and killed another child and wounded his brother Nardino, who throughout his life has had to deal with injuries on that occasion.

We are moving past the cemetery to a place they call “Campo”, in a little house that was people who were with us. The next morning, December 27, also without eating, we came to Merizzacchio. We were three or four families in a caravan and welcomed us into the house of a family there. That same day there was the bombing of Sommocolonia. The men were sent to hide in a nearby metato but when, after a while, the Germans arrived, were found the same. Li tried to have the workforce and among those taken away were my father and my brother Adelmo. They needed to carry away the wounded from Merizzacchio Riana: these poor people had to go on foot Lama, Calabaia, Treppignana to reach the church of Migliano where was the German command.

The head of the Germans gave a pass to return to my father who was the oldest of all, and told him to go into the street that would redone, which was undermined from all sides. When the men came back, we had tears day, night and day, and then when we have reviewed can not imagine the joy. During all this Sommocolonia remained only three old men who had a fund full of barrels of wine under the church. They stayed there all the time thinking he had pulled a “wind whore” who had rickety doors and windows. When the villagers went to pick them up to take them away it took all. But so Sommocolonia was deserted and destroyed.

Renata Rossi, born in 1922, at that time resident in Via Traversa in Fornaci

The military nazi-fascists were part of an army of occupation and as such behaved. I remember one episode that gave me a lot of fear (apart from the Anglo-American bombing). A day began to rant about that, if within a certain time, it had not been delivered a bicycle that was gone, they would make a sort of retaliation … luck would have it the bike reappeared. He had been taken by a German military do not know what to do … For us, however, until its discovery, the fear was so great.

They were taken to the hungry. We were almost without eating. When the Americans arrived for us was a boon. I remember that it was in their kitchens with a pan and never returned back empty-handed. Something is always remedied. In exchange for food often he washed their clothes: wool quality, not like our poor clothes!

Christmas Eve had the porridge. Oh God, it is a misnomer to call it that! It was little more than flour kneaded and baked. It lacked almost all the best ingredients, the ones that gave substance and especially taste. However I remember that we ran in Borgo a Mozzano and we took her back in a dish covered with another bundled up with a kind of towel … when we managed to eat there seemed still good and that says it all. We were welcomed in a house with another family. He slept on straw with lice and fleas! Sometimes he went to get something to eat from the Americans by other monks. They had a soup with peas … We sat down a few months because checkpoints Americans did not go easily. We returned to Fornaci few weeks before the end of the war. Dad, however, was unable to reach Fornaci before they all fell. He found that the doors and windows had been removed and that some villagers, certainly Italian, we had taken everything …

Near the well near the house of Lenci, a bomb killed some people. The dead were Ophelia of twenty years and the youngest brother, who were with their mother (family Silvani).

Renata Rossi

A few days ago you entered the second half of December ’44 (exactly seventy years ago), and the usual shelling, departing and arriving, they were at a minimum. From the house where I lived with my parents, placed at the beginning of the plan Filecchio, on the height overlooking the bridge of Loppora, they could see the planes Anglo-Americans, fluttering in Garfagnana, hitting positions on Italian German Gothic line. On the same night German planes spezzonarono our area, throwing propaganda leaflets; then the activity of the artillery of the Axis became more intense, increasing daily. This led to Christmas, and I went to Mass in the nearby village of Piano di Coreglia.
The church was packed but we found we were sad and worried. In his homily the priest urged us to persevere in prayer, and concluded: “… Like after a terrible storm back then the sun shine, so well after dark in this time of war, as well us will return to shine the sun , that of Peace. “The next day the artillery of the two opposing sides began shooting wildly, against each other: the whole territory was under a rain of grenades! Someone, Fornaci, brought us the bad news: “It seems that the Axis forces have begun a major offensive: you fight across the front line and the Allies are trying to prevent opponents to advance.”The news made us cringe, but I had confidence that the African-American soldiers of the division “Buffalo”, the US Fifth Army, well-equipped and armatissimi, manning our territory, would have “held” the impact of the assailants. Then, during the day, from the top of the hill, at the house, he followed the unfolding of the battle on the right side of the Serchio, where there were the alpine division “Monterosa”, the Italian Social Republic, the fighting moved down towards Gallicano. He said movement of the front you could see both the hot and the bursts of heavy weapons, both the crackling of machine guns. Same situation in the territory of Barga, to the left of the river, where the Germans, with a large army, descended from “Blade”, were attacking the stronghold of Sommocolonia, strategically important for the defense of Barga, the bloody, bloody battle, lasted until in the afternoon (and is known to history as “The Battle of Sommocolonia”); but eventually the Germans prevailed and reached Barga. At nightfall we heard a strong movement of vehicles, down the main street, in the stretch on the southern outskirts of Fornaci: passing retreating tanks, artillery, trucks of all types, sad sign that the “Buffalo” had been defeated; and among them there were also military civilian groups. What to do? We conferred among all the inhabitants of the house, seven people, and decided to not groped immediately escape, for being dark was too dangerous, but the first light of day. Later he began a violent bombardment ally, from positions backward, toward the lost positions: large areas north of Barga and Gallicano were on fire; explosions, uninterrupted, with their flashes lit up the whole front of the battle, while high above us, hissing bullets, in clusters, sailed the sky. Eagerly we prepared what could be taken away in bags, backpacks, shoulder bags: all the better prepared. When suddenly a huge explosion jolted the house: a German bullet had hit the north facade of the house, causing a large circular hole in the wall, in a room where no one was found. All we fell to the ground: frightened, yes; but fortunately unharmed. At dawn the shelling ceased German and resumed fighting: by the firing of small arms, approaching, now calculated that the fighting could take place already in Filecchio, a kilometer and a half from us. We gathered the stuff frantically prepared, loaded him succeed, instinctively made the sign of the Cross and so, out! On the ground there were many fragments of the bullet that struck the house: I picked one, managing to keep it, I still. A few meters and here came from a ditch some American military color with weapons take up, and when we cried to them: “Do not shoot, we are civilians, we are here!”. And they told us to proceed swiftly. When we came to the road to the valley floor, we were immersed in an impressive stream of people who proceeded south: more than an escape was an exodus! There were men, women, children, old people; and many soldiers, many of them without weapons: they were members of Division “Buffalo” (which we called “Bison”), in disorderly retreat, virtually a rout! In Ponte all’Ania our column intersected with another that, from the area of ​​Filecchio, descended to the ground from Pedona. The two hordes of desperate, dressed as lowly as beggars, they ingolfarono to cross the river Ania, the military bridge, almost at water level, many to do before passing wading from one stone to another and someone fell in water, while the excessive crowding caused compression of persons between them. Is not enough, there was the fear of being hit by gunfire: it would be a massacre! But no bullet hit the streets packed with fugitives. Across the river Ania is undertaken the climb that took us to plan Coreglia and there, at the old ‘customs’, unexpectedly we found Indian soldiers, belonging to a division of the British Eighth Army, who were testifying Who held the’ helmet, who turban; and they were driven, with tracked vehicles, and already digging gun emplacements and they placed machine guns. These Indian soldiers, who were commanded by British officers, were calm, confident, and that gave us confidence that the advance of the Axis would be arrested. (And in fact it was just that: the Germans occupied the whole of Barga, while Italian soldiers Salò stopped in Gallicano). A German plane flew low over the column of refugees, without firing and launching propaganda leaflets. When it came to Calavorno, one passes in front of a workstation incorporating the cinematic scenes of exodus. It was composed by the British military and civilian: I remember well that when my father raised his broom that had strung over one shoulder with the handle a few bags, the operator, smiling, followed the short movements with the camera (who knows, maybe this movie will in some film library English: what would be interesting to see it!). Meanwhile, the column was thinning: who would stop somewhere, who took a different direction, and we sects continued to Bagni di Lucca: that it was our goal, because two of us (mother and daughter), were friends a married couple, residing there, to which would be asked for help, hospitality. And in fact the two good seniors received us with generosity and hospitality to us sistemandoci with mattresses and blankets in the attic of another tenement where they lived, located opposite the Ponte a Serraglio Lima. They are moving us to dinner and finally, exhausted as we were, we slept soundly until the next morning! Then we checked in to the City as displaced persons, and usufruimmo some help in food stamps. And they began to spend his days waiting, anxiously, the Allies re-conquered Barga waves return to our home, which happened about a week later, albeit with troubling questions and unknowns …

Mario Camaiani

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