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This is a translation of the Italian story “Aspettando la Liberazione (parte I)”
by G. Berni, 86 years old, Italy
I remember that in the countryside near Pistoia, close to my home, there was a German camp where many British soldiers were kept as prisoners. Some of them escaped and we, the local people, helped them by feeding them and dressing them as if they had been Italians and we brought them into the wood where they could hide all day long. In this period German soldiers were writing on the walls that all those, who would help British soldiers, would have been shot on the spot, while on the other hand the British army was throwing leaflets from their aircrafts promising rewards to all those that would help British soldiers. The name of the British soldier we helped was Giovanni: during the day we sent him in the wood to a farmer, while during the night he slept in the shooting box close to our house, apart from the winter when it was too cold and he stayed in the house.He didn’t speak Italian, but he made himself understood so well that in the end he also learnt the rough language of the farmer in the wood. Sometimes he suddenly swore and cursed with fury, and when we asked him why, he just answered that he was doing like the farmer in the wood… he was really funny! And also brave and fearless. I remember that one day German soldiers arrived, fired two shots that almost touched my mother and brother. We all ran at home, waiting that they were gone, but we had to stop Giovanni, who on the contrary had decided to face and kill them one by one. He liked a lot to eat roast bacon and when we sewed him civilian clothes he wanted to have an “English style jacket”: it took us some time to convince him that it would have been better to dress an Italian style jacket in order to be not identified as an Englishman! (….After the end of the war I saw Giovanni again during the 30th anniversary of the Liberation, in the occasion of a ceremony organised by the city council of Pistoia. His wife was accompanying him. We asked her if, when he went back home, he sometimes spoke about us, and she answered that he was speaking about us all the time and remembering how much we helped him.We could say the same of him: in fact thanks to a letter he wrote when he came back to the UK, we received by the British State a reward of 22.000 lire, that was a lot of money at that time!
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