Beauty in a Person Letter #8
Beauty in my mother, a beautiful person, outside and inside.
Italy , La Turina 1943 during WWII
Background: US bombs are falling heavily on Torino, the site of Fiat where war heavy equipment is made. My mother’s uncle, zio Camillo, a General in the Italian Army, convinced my mother to move with the children to the mountains, away from Torino. We went to LaTurina, a very small village in the mountains on the border with France. From the balcony of our little apartment we could see Torino in flames. My mother is teaching high school math and physics in Pinerolo, a small town in the valley below La Turina. My father is in Varese. He is a principal of the first scientific high school in Italy. It was his dream to work in a scientific educational environment. He knew that math and physics were the foundations of modern technology.
Mussolini joined Hitler in the war against France. Our soldiers are sent to fight the French troops; they have to go up the mountains separating Italy from France. Not every soldier reaches France: some come down the mountain before reaching France and La Turina is on their path.
The kitchen is crowded with men…on the wood stove a big pot of soup boiling fast…man clothes and small maps passing from man to man. My mother starts talking:
Yes, she says, I know you cannot fight the French; they were our friends until yesterday. You are in a dangerous situation: German soldiers are at the bottom of this mountain waiting for you and ready to shot you at sight. My sister-in-law, Anna, and I are going to take you one-by-one down the mountain, to the valley, to the railroad at the bend where the train for Torino slows down. You will jump on the train that will take you to Torino. Torino is in a state of chaos; there will be easier for you to avoid the Germans and find your way home. The maps come from school books; I ripped them off textbooks and library books. I hope the Germans believe you are our drunken relative and we are taking you home. Be sure to act drunk… It is a dangerous situation but this is the best I can offer you. It will take few days to move all of you. In the meantime you stay at my home; we share the food we have. I gave you all of my husband’s clothes; I will try to get more clothes from friends. Two of you should always be on the balcony looking for the Germans. If you spot Germans, go immediately to the cellar and hide behind the stack of wood.
My mother is getting ready to take the first two soldiers down the mountain. She is putting on her mountain boots…something is wrong, the foot does not go in…she removes the foot and a good size mouse jumps up…everybody burst in a loud laughter ….and keeps on laughing …for several minutes the present danger and the war are forgotten..
All the soldiers made it to the train…..we hope they made it to their home…