Giovanni Giotta
People


 

Song of the Fisherman

by Giovanni Giotta and Kristen Jensen

Description:

Struggles and triumph of Italian-American immigrant, love, passion courage, music and adventure.

Biography (Kristen):

A forty-three year old world traveller, Kristen Jensen was a journalist in Saudi Arabia in the nineties. She is now a published poet and monologuist. She is also a historian and a biographer, and is currently working on a history of the Caffe Trieste (the first cafe in North Beach, frequented by many beat poets and artists) as well as a biography of Giovanni Giotta, founder of Caffe Trieste. Kristen will read from memoir, Rootabaga Girl of the Lake Country.

She speaks several languages and lives her life to the fullest. As she said in 2002, "I am coming into my own as a writer, working on two related book projects, one of which is on this site, and several other books, essays, poetry and stories. I have just bought a house in Croatia, and will spend a few months a year there as well as in San Francisco, where I am working with, among others, Laurence Ferlinghetti.... "

See also:


(Excerpt from the draft copy of part 1 of 4 parts) 

1

Far away in time, in a forgotten corner of the world, there is a green peninsula, its hills and coves held in the loving embrace of a limpid, turquoise sea. The little ports which dot its coastline have been occupied for nearly two millennia, the town folk coaxing a living from their beautiful waters and burnt- red soil, while governments and pirates, languages and history came and went. It is a town that has had at least six names in two thousand years. On this coast, ornamented with emerald islands like pendants on the golden necklace of a medieval madonna, on this peaceful coast, there is a town, a town so old, that it is citadel, island and peninsula all at once. The ancient houses, each with its cap of warm, red tile, are draped down the sides of the hill, and and stand at attention shoulder to shoulder on the lip of the sea. At the pinnacle of the hill, the cathedral of Santa Euphemia with its tall stern spire, fixes the neighborhoods to the sides of the hill, and keeps them from sliding into the sea, just as her ancient religion has given the folk of the countryside a sturdy faith to which they have clung through the turbulence of the centuries. The old saint=s green and aged statue poised on a wheel atop the tower, still turns in the wind, a weathervane, her arms outstretched in protective embrace, warning her sons home from the sea or giving them leave to go forth. The butter-colored stones of her narrow canyon streets are smoothed and rounded like old game tiles. Tucked into corners, beneath arches, in hidden passageways, throughout the town are window-sized shrines, each with its saint=s portrait, a candle or two, a fresh flower, all the more pious in their simplicity. This is Rovigno. Every hometown shapes the hearts of her natives. This is a town so dear, so beloved, her memory rings daily in the lives of her children, now scattered over the world. Though life was a constant struggle for survival there, her sons and daughters remember the beauty of their surroundings and the joys found in the traditions of such ancient community. Poetry is written, songs are composed, stories are told and retold by her children who still band together in far-flung lands just to share memories. Her presence in their lives tugs at them like the rope that swings the bell of the campanile without fail, day in, day out.

My friend, Giovanni Giotta, has told me the story of Rovigno, and the story of his life. It has been a life of incredible hardship, poverty and struggle. and a life of ultimate triumph. He began fishing with his father when he was six, spending long nights upon the sea, just the two of them in a small rowboat. At fourteen, he shipped out from the port of Trieste, on ships working as a cabin boy, and travelling all over the world, so he could send money home to his parents. He married his only love as a teenager, and she has been at his side for sixty years. He was on three different sides in World War Two, and still ended up losing everything. Forced out of Rovigno as refugees after WWII, Giovanni struggled to bring his little family to America, there to build a new life in another shining city on a hill, San Francisco. There, in the embrace of the Italian community, the family thrived, and Gianni built a cafè that has welcomed the artists and writers, the downtrodden and the well-off as family. The Caffe Trieste was the living room to the beat poets, and continues to this day to be a haven for the creative.

It has been a life of courage, strength, passion, and abiding love. Woven throughout the sorrow and the joy has been music, from the centuries-old folk songs his fisherman father taught him, the songs unique to Rovigno, to the opera arias he still sings every Saturday to the patrons of his Caffe Trieste, a place unchanged since its beginning in the fifties. And not just Giovanni, but his entire family carry on the musical traditions that are their heritage. Giovanni=s indomitable spirit casts nets around lost souls still today. As I have come to know Giovanni and his story, I have found myself snared in the nets of a place and a life I never knew existed. My own cynicism has fallen away, to be replaced by amazement , admiration, and great affection, and , at times, exhaustion that resulted from trying to follow this eighty year old whirlwind around. And, so, as Giovanni and his beloved Ida approach their sixtieth year together, the story has come full circle, in a way totally unexpected. Giovanni is finding at last the full reward of his struggles, his indomitable will pulling success and renown behind him as if they had no choice. His love for people is undimmed by disappointment. At eighty, he is renewed, invigorated, unbowed, eager for challenges of the future. As he has told me, he wishes to share the tale of this adventure, this great adventure that has taken him from the arms of an ancient mythically beautiful town, home of his ancestors for centuries, to America, which has shined for Giovanni like that far off citadel, first in dreams and then in reality. This story is a gift to his two beloved lands. As he says, God bless Rovigno, and God bless America!

2

Although I had been going to the Caffe Trieste for the Saturday concerts for nearly two years, the day I started working with Gianni on this book was the first time I had gone back through the coffee shop, past the barrels of fragrant beans, the shelves lined with coffee pots and related paraphernalia, down the two steps into the first office, tiny and dim, and then up the winding old stairway to the true office, the plate glass windows looking out on the passing traffic of North Beach;, the little cathedral across the way, the coffee drinkers discussing the world in chairs on the sidewalk, tour buses inching their way up the narrow street, like fat caterpillars through a keyhole. A deep ledge inside the window, covered in old red linoleum, holds; a big rubber plant, Coco, the little shepherd mix when she naps, and piles of framed photographs, the overflow from the walls of the cafè. This is part of the pictorial chronicle of the cafè from its beginning as the first Italian coffee house on the West Coast, and of the celebrities, artists and personalities who have sat beneath the mural of the Italian fishing village that covers the back wall downstairs. There is an old aluminum desk, with a business phone, a copier, another desk with a computer terminal, and against the far wall, a piano. It is at this piano that the singers for the weekly Saturday concerts warm up, and many voices have sung there, from professional opera sopranos to afficionados of Tom Jones stuff, and of Dean Martin.

Gianni and I first climbed those steps on October first, 1999, just after the death of his eldest son, Gianfranco. A devastating blow to the close-knit family, Gianni and Ida, his wife of sixty years, had been incapable of attending the funeral, unable to watch the last time their eldest son left the church where he had sung as a child. My fiance and I were there in the solemn cathedral, filled with San Franciscans from all walks of life, former mayors , musicians, waiters, the many, many people who had called Gianfranco friend. At the head of the long, broad aisle stood Sonia, Fabio, and Adrienne. Sonia, the sister who was born in Rovigno a year or so after Gianfranco, who refugeed with him and their parents to San Francisco after WWII and who had sung with him all her life, the last time being at the Trieste the day before Gianfranco was admitted to the hospital. He did not come out again. Fabio, the younger brother, himself a good singer and expert on the accordion, who was born seventeen years after Gianfranco, in San Francisco, when the refugee family had gotten on its feet. And Adrienne, Gianfranco=s widow, an Austrian American who was steadfast by her husband through his long illness, now left to raise their only daughter, Gianna, on her own. They stood for their parents, receiving the mourners in front of banks of flowers and candles, murmuring polite replies to the hundreds who spoke to them before the funeral mass. Gianni and Ida, however, remained at home secluded, and waited the service out. It was at this stark time that I began to know Gianni=s story. During phone calls when I tried to offer some meager solace or encouragement, Gianni would mention his hardships as a child; the poverty, the grinding hard work. In just a few words, I became mesmerized by the tale. I became excited as a writer, and when I told Gianni, AThis should be a book!@ he replied that he had already written it, but just needed a writer to help him realize his dream of finishing it. Recognizing that here were the elements of a life truly lived, every scrap of success hard-fought for, every joy made more beautiful by accompanying sorrow, all the universals of life were here, love, passion, loyalty, courage, and sheer will, I impetuously volunteered myself. The ensuing journey with my friend, Giovanni Giotta, has restored my faith in human nature and the power of the will to survive. Over the translation and writing of the manuscript, we have come to love each other as close friends, helping each other through difficult times, and finding much in common, something unexpected for an eighty- year old Italian immigrant, and a girl from Minnesota. I have also come to better understand the Italian character and the love of simply living. I have discovered a world new to me in this gentleman from the old world. Just as he spent years lowering his line into the deep, and pulling up fish, so has he been lowered to despair, within the sight of death, and pulled himself up and out every time. Scant education, war, sickness, lack of language, tragedy, nothing has held him back. He still sings , at the age of eighty, every Saturday, his beloved opera arias in his cafè. Nothing has stilled that voice, nor soured his love of humanity, not the vicious acts of war that he witnessed first hand, nor the personal losses. All have been met like a little fishing boat turning into the wind, facing the pounding storm with only a small sail, and a pair of oars to keep it from the rocks. And now, God has rewarded him. This year he returned to Rovigno, his beloved little city, something he thought he would never do again. He did it for me, and for this book, breaking a vow he had made to himself, when he thought there was no reason for him to return. He found true welcome there, and people he had thought long dead. During our stay there, I could see him daily getting younger, a real rejuvenation. He literally ran through the streets to just-remembered places. Again, he rowed a batana (the local wooden fishing boat), in the harbor from which he and his father had ventured daily. So happy was he to hold to work the oars again, that after a half an hour, we had to cajole him from the boat. Once again, he held the pronged harpoon, and leaned over the water ready to pounce on passing prey. He met the man who had saved his life with injections during the war. This happened just in passing. An old man walked slowly past the outdoor café where we were seated, and I pointed him out to Gianni, figuring him to be of nearly the same age. With a small cry Gianni rose and greeted his old friend Mimi, whom he had not seen since the end of WWII. As time passed, Gianni realized that his beloved Rovigno still exists, and that the government of Croatia is welcoming its sons and daughters home. So, with great delight, Gianni bought a beautiful little home looking directly out on the harbor. This year, in just a week, as a matter of fact, he will take his beloved Ida home. On September 16th, 2000, Santa Euphemia will gather around her not only her children of today, but also her children scattered for years throughout the world. The old songs, the Abitinada,@ saved just recently from extinction, will ring in the streets again, as she stretches out her arms in loving welcome. And I will be there with Gianni and Ida to see it.

3

Gianni=s manuscript.

My name is Giovanni Giotta. I was born on May 1, 1920, in the little city of Rovigno d=Istria in the province of Pola, in the region of Istria, then in Italy, now in Croatia. Today the city is called Rovinj. Before I continue my story, it is important to describe in some detail the beauty of my ancient town; the many islands that surround it, the crystalline sea abounding in a variety of fish, the healthy air. I also want to mention the beauty of its many little churches scattered through the town. It must also be noted that for many centuries many groups of people of every class could be found in Rovigno; farmers and their laborers, fishermen, sailors, artisans, and so forth. It was they who founded and attended these small churches through their devotion and faith. The social classes were made up of farmers and fishermen primarily, along with professionals, artisans and merchants. Since its earliest days in the third century, my town has always had a population that remained steady at 11,000 t0 12,000 souls, more or less. Fine homes of the well-born, and the homes of the poor have always existed side by side in my city. My family belonged to the second category, that is, the poorest class. .My mother, Benvenuta Cattonar, was born in Rovigno in 1896 of poor peasant stock. My father, Francesco Giotta, was born in Rovigno in 1894, to a fishing family. My family name, Giotta, first appears in the archives of the town some six hundred years ago, and we are considered one of the indigenous families. It has since been discovered that my family probably came to Rovigno all those centuries ago from Bari, located on the southern Italian shore across the Adriatic.

To think of Rovigno is not only to remember the place where I was born and raised. I particularly remember my beloved parents and family, and friends, for Rovigno is not only a piece of dirt, and a bunch of houses. Rovigno is life! How beautiful my memories are, however much the fog of time has flowed in, as it must, taking me farther and farther away from the details of the past. So as not to forget any more of these details, I write these lines recalling my childhood, my city and its inhabitants, especially those dearest to my heart.

It is important to remember humanity=s sufferings under the weight of time, and those events which have truly made an impression on men. It is a good thing to remember the actions of past generations, to record their lives before time distorts their shape, or before we forget them altogether. When I was a child, it was expected that our elders would tell us about past events. It is they who kept alive in my memory the ways and customs of my people. Memory was the instrument at the base of it all. It was memory which conveyed to us those past lived experiences. It should be remembered that in those days, books were a rare luxury for most of us, and the number of educated persons very few. When an elderly person died, it was as if a library had burnt down. The past is very much alive and must not be forgotten. I dedicate this memoir to my brothers, my sister, my children, and my wife, and to my relatives and acquaintances. I sometimes ask myself, A What does Rovigno mean to my brothers and my sister?= What do they remember about our beloved parents who left us alone on this earth all too soon? Perhaps they remember the street where they were born, because it is still there, and always will be. In those days there were no maternity clinics. Women gave birth in their own matrimonial beds, assisted by the women of the neighborhood, and the local midwife. I can testify, being the first born, that all of us, my brothers and I, were born in our parents bed, in the house on Via Trevisol, #7, fourth floor, at the top of ancient, creaking stairs.

4

My father was a fisherman, but not in deep waters. He had a small rowboat, only five meters long, no motor, with which he roamed the coastal waters, and the canal. The Abatana@ as it is called in our dialect, had only a single sail. When the strong sirocco and even stronger osto winds blew, the sea became so rough that he could not leave the port until calm weather returned. My father was known in the town for his excellence as a fisherman. In fact, the fishermen of Rovigno had a reputation for the quality of their hand-made wire fish traps, and weighted nets. My father was also noted for his skill at using the harpoon, which was tipped with a splayed head of seven or nine iron prongs, each with a sharp notch to pierce and hold the fish. Harpoons were used only at night along the darkened coast, with only the moon brushing the waves of the sea. Another method that was used was lines that were hooked and baited with sardines every yard, hundreds of feet long, each with a retrieval float. These lines were hauled in hand over hand, back into the boat, trailing the catch. Two men were needed to work the boat. One had to row, while the other kneeled down , his chest and shoulder against the side, and peered through a glass-bottomed box held to the surface of the water. When looked through, the box greatly enlarged the scene below, thus enabling the harpooner to see what fish swam there. Papa was great at this skill. When he spotted a fish this way, he would tense, harpoon poised in his right hand, box still in the left, ready for the precise moment to throw. Given his quickness, bravura, and precision, not a single fish escaped his thrust. To practice this skill, the following tools were also required; a gasoline lamp (petromas) of 800 candlepower, with enough power to light the sea bottom all around to a depth of at least fifteen feet. Harpoon fishing began in October, and continued every night (weather permitting) until May. Successful harpoon fishing needed the dark, and , moreover, every type of fish had its own season. I could mention granzevole, cuttlefish, squid, and so on ran in the springtime. In the summer, one would find the Ablue@ fish that abounded: the sardines, anchovies, and sgombri (mackerel). The best fishing though, as that of the cold winter nights. The months of January and February were brutally cold on the water. Some nights the shaft of the harpoon would become covered in ice between one throw and the next, which had to be shattered against the side of the boat.

To withstand such cold, thick clothing had to be worn, along with a hood. Always a thermos bottle filled with hot, sugared wine was taken along on these outings, not only to keep us warm, but also to give us the Acharge@ needed to face that bitter cold. My nona (grandmother) always made sure the Abrule@ wasn=t forgotten. Now I=ll tell you how my father went off to work. Although I was very young, I remember in my spirit the poverty , and the travails my family suffered in those days. My father=s batana, our family=s only possession, was moored in the small port at the foot of the hill. He would depart on his fishing trips at about one or two in the morning. He rowed out of the little harbor to that night=s chosen spot. Slowly rowing all the time, the lamp first had to be lit and hung on the prow, for in that profound darkness not a fish could be seen until daybreak. We crept over the face of the water, peering into that lower world, calling directions to the oarsman all the time. The fish did not always run abundantly. Sometimes things went well and sometimes badly, and at times things went very badly indeed. We could not presume to always make a good catch, and when the fishing was sparse, not only did my family suffer, but all the other fishing families in the town suffered as well. The word itself says it: Afishing@. In order to find anything, you have to fish for it!

But if it was a bad night, if the weather was perverse, or if the currents were to turbulent all these things influenced our outcome, and often any or all of these things left us poor and wretched.

5

When I was five years old, and my brother Pietro was three, we were living in indescribable poverty, unceasing, almost impossible to imagine. Our income, considering what our father earned as a fisherman, and never steady, barely enabled us to survive. Mother would take us to meet Papa=s boat each morning. The anxiety on my mother=s face was easily read by us innocent babies, as we awaited our father=s return from the sea. At the pier in the early light, we could tell while he was still rowing back into the harbor whether he had had any luck. If he was smiling in our direction, that meant we would have food on the table that day. If he looked grim, and turned away from us, then we knew he had returned empty-handed, and even we babies would shake with fear at the prospect of going hungry yet another day. Everything revolved around Father; the entire family, Mother and children, depended on him. If the fishing went well, .my paternal nona, (who lived with us), would take the catch from my father, and load it in a basket, which she then balanced on her head. In this fashion, she would carry it to the fish market to sell it privately, so as to make a little more money. The meager amount she was able to put together she handed over to my mother, who immediately went to the grocer to buy some polenta and a little something else with which to warm and fill our stomachs, for we were always ravenous. If Papa returned home without a catch, it was a great disappointment to the whole family, for that meant that we would not only have nothing for our supper, but also arguments would ensue between my father and mother. We little ones hated those times, and we would cry from both hunger and unhappiness, especially me, who was a little older and better able to understand our situation.

Sometimes, though, Papa=s luck was good, and he would bring home a plentiful catch, or perhaps just one enormous and beautiful fish. On one such occasion, Papa decided to get the most money for the prize by raffling the fish off. He printed numbers on many scraps of paper which were then sold around the neighborhood, as we paraded the fish to be won. Many people were willing to risk a few pennies on a chance at such a fine fish, large enough to feed a whole household. After we had sold all the tickets that anyone wanted, my father then selected a number at random to determine the winner. Unfortunately for those who had bought a ticket, but fortunately for us, the winning number matched none of the outstanding tickets. So, not only did Papa pocket some much needed cash, but at last, we were able to feast on our own catch. Today, this may seem a little odd, but considering our situation, any such bonus was desperately welcomed. My childhood was full of sacrifice, and deprivation. I considered myself lucky, indeed all of us in the family felt so to have a home, however old, and it was very old. Our apartment, where all of us children were born, was on the fourth floor of Via Trevisol, number seven. We had to climb sixty wooden steps to reach our apartment. All the houses in town were crammed in next to each other, with not so much as breathing space between them. The lack of available land had forced the builders of centuries past to go upwards, always at least three, often four stories. The tiny vias that ran between them were dim, narrow canyons, and the old paving stones, slick and smooth from years of passing feet, did not see sunlight more than a few minutes a day. The stairway was steep, narrow, and swayed most dangerously. Entering my house from the street, I was swallowed by darkness It moaned and creaked loudly as I carefully climbed it. On the second floor lived a frightening old man, a seeming ogre, seldom seen. I ran past his door in terror every time, afraid he would come out and snatch me. As we had no running water of any sort, my mother had to traverse this stair several times a day, equipped with a large tub for water, which she filled at the public tap and then hauled up again on her head the four steep flights. Yet, once inside the apartment, the windows, although small, afforded a marvelous panoramic view below of the town port, with its larger, closer pier, and the smaller one in the distance. I loved to watch the large passenger ships docking. Past those, just outside the harbor, could be seen the immense island of St. Catherine, with a rich history dating back many centuries, which presented a beautiful backdrop. The island was embellished with two sumptuous old buildings, surrounded by stands of Mediterranean pines. On this island twined old paths fenced by the pines, the whole being surrounded by fragrant oleanders and laurel. These old paths were made entirely of terra cotta tiles. This was the island of St. Catherine, at that time the property of a Count Miexcki, who was Polish nobility.

6

This view from our windows at number seven Via Trevisol, contrasted with the reality that was our home. The house had its own long history. At the top of the street entrance can still be seen a heraldic coat of arms carved into the wall. This herald has been traced back to the twelfth century, and it hints of past glories. The old town tribunal was located in this building, where the municipality recorded the births and deaths of its citizens. However, it has been divided into tiny flats for longer than anyone can remember.

Housing on our small peninsula was always scarce, there being no land available to build on further, and residences were crunched right against each other, not even the thinnest sliver of space between them. Like trees planted too closely, the buildings were forced upwards, and the stone- paved vias that thread their way among them are often no wider that two or three people walking abreast. Entire families lived in the smallest of apartments, often a set of rooms cut from the rest of the building without consistent plan. Today it may be different, but it took much time and the passing of many years for the system and the tenor of life to change.

My home was one of those tiny places, consisting only of a kitchen, with a wood burning fireplace over which was hung a cooking pot on a chain, a small bedroom, and another tiny windowless room, that also served as a bedroom. This small room was taken by my nona, who lived with us, the very same grandmother who would lug my father=s catch on her head to sell in the market. The rent was a pittance, but my father struggled for it, nonetheless. The family managed to hold on there during our childhood, though it was never easy. The apartment lacked all comforts. It had no running water, nor electricity, nor gas. Even though we had a fireplace, with a small hearth, we still needed wood to burn in it. Either we had to buy wood, which we usually could not afford, or we had to gather it ourselves in the woods far from town. Using our fishing boat, we would move through the coastal islands, gathering fuel wherever we could find it, dry sticks, twigs, or a tree trunk, if we were so lucky. These trips were taken with great caution, as some of the islands were privately owned by European nobility. Scavenging for wood, or even just trespassing was forbidden, and guards kept a sharp eye out for us, whom they considered poachers. Even the little ones in the family trudged along the beach, their shoulders stacked high. This hard-won fuel would then be used to heat up our home in the winter, and to heat up our supper, if there was any to be had.

The four flights of ancient stairs were a hard climb for my mother, who had to make the trip several times a day for water. Each return trip with the tub was eight hundred meters, all uphill, crowned by the climb up those stairs, the tub balanced heavily and carefully on her head. We all washed in a basin set in a wash stand.

Whoever was first in line to bathe got to use the clean water first, and it grew cloudier with each grubby child. The wastewater used in washing souls or clothing was all thrown out to sea. If, by luck there was a heavy rain, than the waste water would surreptitiously be thrown into the street to mix in and make its way downhill to the sea. Of course, the Asanitary plumbing@ also consisted of a tub, which people emptied into the harbor very early in the morning. Some of the wealthier people were fortunate enough to have their own cisterns, wherein rain water collected through a system of pipes trailing down from the roof. These tall round jars carved of native white stone can still be seen seated on flat stone slabs tucked away in gardens and courtyards. However, these were all privately owned, and very few were lucky enough to have one. Almost the entire population of Rovigno lived in such poverty; and people managed the best they could. Our water was drawn from the AAmpelea@ a small building at the base of the hill that collected rainwater.. There water flowed from two spouts, and housewives with no running water in their homes, went down the hill with pails, or with a tub that held about ten gallons, which they would fill. Then the tubs were hoisted to the tops of their heads to be balanced on a small rag doughnut, and the women carried these back up the hill, and then back up the stair to their homes. This was just one of the many hard chores women had to perform so their families could survive to another day.

7

There was no such thing as Christmas in our family, or any other holiday at home. If there was a religious connection, then everyone in town attended mass. But I could not expect any gifts or sweets for any sort of occasion. This did not deter me, as I was determined to have some small celebration like the other children.

Hoarding up a few pennies, the day before the Italian Christmas, I walked down the chilly street to the market. I looked and pondered long and carefully, before spending my hard-earned bit on a few toffees and an orange, which I hid at home. In the evening, I carefully arranged the meager delicacies on a plate, and snuck them downstairs, past the scary ogre=s door in the dark, to the street, where I left them on the front stoop. In bed next to Pietro, I rubbed my hands in gleeful anticipation before settling down to sleep. Early the next morning, I raced down like the other children in town to see if anything had been left for me. Imagine the sly shock on my face when I saw that I, too had a plate of treats. AWho could have left me this?=, I wondered out loud to complete the picture of a normal Christmas morning in our street, before sauntering nonchalantly back up to our house, where there was no Christmas. Madonna Benedetta, I was so stubborn not to accept things the way they were! Our hunger was constant, like chicks in the nest, and satisfying our demands was always a chancy thing. If my father=s fishing had been a success, my mother might have a few extra coppers which had to be spent on further feeding us. Every extra cent went to our stomachs, and nothing else. We had only the barest necessities of clothing and furniture. A few blankets and a couple of towels comprised our household linen. Each of us had a single set of clothes, pieced together. The days when she was able to mix up a little bread dough were filled with more anticipation than any holiday. We sat watching silently as she kneaded and worked the miracle of food. Our eyes were big and our mouths watered to think of the treat to come. Then, Mother wrapped the risen dough in a cloth and placed it in a flat basket on her head, leaving us to wait as she took the dough to be baked at the local oven just a street or so away from our house. Long before we heard her returning step on the stair, our sharp noses detected the arrival of the bread, its fragrance rising on its own warm current. Entering the door, mother and basket were set upon by our hungry tribe, each one clamoring noisily for his small share. Believe me, the miracle of the bread never lasted long in our house, not even to the next day. The taste of that stuff was sweeter than any cake I have eaten later in life.

Chapter

The school in my neighborhood, or district, was called the old school, and it was located on Edmondo de Amicis St. It was required that all the children of my neighborhood attend that school. At the age of six, stunted and thin and wearing my one set of clothes, I, too, began to attend class. I remember going to class for the first time. I joined the other students that morning in the square in front of the school. The other children were accompanied by their mothers. They were well-dressed, I recall, their school bags slung across their necks and shoulders on leather straps. In my childish way of thinking, I felt my lack. I wasn=t badly dressed, but then I was far from being as well-dressed as the others These memories are not easily forgotten. It was then that I first understood my place in life. I said to myself, AI cannot be like them, I=m the son of poor people.@ And I painfully felt the difference between us .As we know, we really don=t understand these things as children; things simply were the way they were, and that was that.. Thus, I began school. One can see in the only photo of me from that time, how skinny and hungry was this little boy. If the priests had not taken the class picture, I would not have any pictures of myself at that age, for where would one find the money for such a useless luxury? My next photograph was not taken until I was fourteen, and working on a passenger ship, which sailed the world.

8

I was registered with the town organization for the protection of children. Once a year, on January 6th, the feast of [the Epiphany], I would receive a pair of shoes which protected my feet from the winter rains and cold. I didn=t care about the shoes in the summer months, as I always went around barefoot. These shoes were my only pair for the year, my father being unable to purchase them for us.As I have said, I was very small for my age, skinny, undernourished, almost more freckles than kid. There was never enough food at home for my mother to send me off to school with snacks, like some of the other pupils brought with them. However, at school I was given, as a poor child, a tablespoon of cod liver oil by order of the district doctor and the school principal. It was said it strengthened us and stimulated the appetite! Such a noble gesture, since there was nothing to eat! Madonna Benedetta!

I shared a bench at school with a boy who was rich. He would bring the most succulent snacks from home; as he was the son of the owner of the largest hotel in Rovigno, the Hotel Adriatico. At snack time, I would stare at him as he hid behind his hands to eat. If he had dropped a crumb, I would have jumped on it like a puppy. Like all the other children, I tried to befriend him, even faking it so that I might be given a little piece of something to eat. Sometimes, he would have

compassion for me, and share. Other times, he didn=t give a damn, in which case, I=d be left open-mouthed, hungry, without a bite to eat or a drop to drink. We were about thirty in the class, and we sat two to a bench. We all knew each other, as the town was quite small. I knew my bench-mate was famous and wealthy, and he knew at the same time, that I was a poor child, son of an equally poor fisherman. In my heart, I knew my bench mate and I could never be equals. I

was an inferior being, and I felt intimidated because of it. On the few rare occasions my bench mate would notice that I had no food with me, he would sometimes be moved. He would then offer me a little bit of his bread. But hunger was a constant affliction in my unfortunate family, either because the catch was poor, or because my father was ill, which he often was. Small and young as I was, and tormented by hunger,( there is no shame in admitting this) I would go with other little children as hungry as myself, to beg charity from the friars of the Franciscan monastery, who, every day at 3:00 p.m.,would give us a slice of bread warm from their oven.

We children were in need of this addition to our meager diets, but even the friars were needy. They made sacrifices, going house to house begging foodstuffs and donations. During the grain harvest, they would go from farmhouse to farmhouse, with their little donkey and sacks, begging on behalf of the poor. They did the same during the wine season, and during the olive harvest. Once a week, they would provide us with a bowl of soup, without fail. That was possibly the only soup I would have that week.

Our family=s wretched condition was due to the fact that our father was almost always ill. He underwent a series of operations for stomach ulcers. Our home was miserably poor! My mother used to scrub the floors in the houses of the privileged Asignori.@ She always tried to bring home some discarded vegetables from Ala signora=s@ kitchen to add to our thin soup. Even my nona was forced to beg bread for us at the houses of the wealthy, going door to door. In the meantime, in 1927, my sister Yolanda was born B yet another mouth to feed. Now there were seven of us in the household. My father began to recover his health, thank God! But, to my distress, at the age of six, I had to spend nights on the sea with him, helping to row the boat. Small and skinny and weak though I was, I was now old enough to help feed the family. Every night, when the weather was good enough, my father would wake me a few hours after I had gone to sleep, whispering,@ Gianni, Gianni, get up.@ I would stir in my pallet and say, @No, Papa, no, I=m sleeping.@ ANo, Gianni, you must get up.

You must come help me in the boat tonight.@ And so, I would stumble down the dark streets with my papa to the boat, gently rocking in the black water. Since I was so small, a box was placed on the bench, allowing me to perch higher and grasp the oars. We would fish all night, >til first light, my head nodding sleepily as I rowed. Thus, out of the family need, I often missed school. Every grade took two years for me to complete, two years for the first grade, the second, etc. until I had attended eight years. I only completed the fourth grade and was finally graduated because I was simply too old to attend anymore. This was all the schooling I have ever had, though through no fault of my own. My family=s compelling need, and my love for my papa enabled me to make this sacrifice. I would have done anything for my papa.

9

Given my youth, I did find time for play wherever and whenever I could. I was, after all, a child. We children needed a little play, a little distraction, and play we did in our free hours. I would run , run with the other children, always bare-footed. Shoes? Not even their shadow! Shoes were too precious to waste in this fashion. The soles of my feet were always scraped and bleeding, my toes stubbed so often that the nails are disfigured even now. A beloved game of ours was that of cops and robbers (put Italian phrase here) and pirates, played with cane swords that we boys cut in the fields outside of town. These games of pretend manhood were played out with much joy in the darkened streets of the town. When I was a little older, I scraped together a little money for a cheap guitar, which I taught myself to play. This provided me hours of relaxation; playing it alone in my house, gazing out over the beautiful harbor. Late in the evenings, beneath the moon, the neighbors would come out and sit on their stoops, and I would quietly serenade them, and my family as well, with traditional Rovignese songs. I was glad to give them a few peaceful moments in their hard lives.

Another pastime involved the sea. I learned to swim at an early age. Not only did I swim for fun, but also out of need. Let me explain. I loved going to the cinema, I adored the silent films which played there. I hadn=t the means to get in; it cost 70 centesimi. So I would dive like a dolphin from a promontory of rocks in the harbor, deep to the sea floor below, where I would find bits of scrap iron that had been dumped there. Bringing these up, I would pile them in a heap until I had enough to sell to the local ironmonger, who paid me fifteen pennies a pound. When I had accumulated the fabulous sum, (to me, it was fabulous) I would go straight off to the movies. A bit selfishly, I had no desire to hand this money over to my mother, spending it only at the cinema, for I had earned it at great sacrifice. What could I say? This sin, if it can be called such, was stronger than my will to resist it. I would always try to see a film as many times as possible on the same ticket, spending the entire afternoon in the dark., especially those movies about cowboys, those gods of the day. I enjoyed those most, even more than food. Sometimes the usher would spot me where I crouched in my seat, trying to be part of the fixtures, hiding from him. He would get angry, taking me by the ear and strongly Aguiding@ me to the exit. Still, I went every Sunday afternoon. In the early evening , upon leaving the movie house, I would visit my maternal nona, who lived on Via S. Martino, number eleven. She was of peasant stock, and I could always hope to find a piece of bread or a bit of polenta in her kitchen. I was constantly famished. First, though, I was subjected to a thorough inspection.

Something was always torn and in need of mending or patching. She would have me remove my clothing, and I would seek refuge in her storeroom, embarrassed by the fact that I never had any underwear. From behind the curtain that covered the door, I would hand out my clothing and wait there, shivering, until the mending was finished. It was dark in that storeroom. All this for a bit of bread. My dear grandmother would give me whatever she could spare, as would my grandfather, even though they, too, were skinny as rails, as poor as we. Women like my grandmother piously endured the extreme hard life that was their lot in Rovigno at that time. Every afternoon, they would gather at the churches and chapels scattered throughout the neighborhoods, some of which were so small they were merely rooms. There the women of the town would pray the rosary, calling for blessings on their loved ones in quiet community. During great storms, which were frequent in Rovigno, the bells of the duomo of Santa Euphemia would be rung to warn the town-folk of imminent danger. The old ladies of the town would hasten to shut and latch the shutters of their houses, invoking the name of Santa Barbara repeatedly. Santa Barbara is the patron saint of cannoneers and miners, who use explosives, and also of the victims of explosions, protecting people from harm. She was called upon when the storms brought lightning which struck all around the town. I remember a bit of the prayer the women would recite behind the tightly latched shutters.

10

Santa Barbara and Sant= Simon, free us of this thunder,
Of this thunder, and of this bolt,
Blessed Santa Barbara, save us.

This is but another of my childhood memories, that world which is now so far away. Childhood is for every human being, the most beautiful time in the whole arc of life. It was now 1931, and another baby brother was born to my family. He was named Francesco. We were indeed too many now. How could we continue to survive this way? All six children and two parents slept in the same room. I and my brother Pietro slept separately from the others in a small bed with a straw mattress. We slept head to foot like canned sardines, and we often awoke with the other=s feet in our face. We washed in a bowl of cold water in the morning, with a bar of caustic laundry soap. (Fels Naptha) We left our hands and faces to dry in the chill air, as our family had so nothing as fancy as towels. It was always cold in the winter, drafts coming in freely through the ill-fitting doors and windows. Pietro and I spent much time gathering wood, as I mentioned earlier, in the forest near Rovigno, or at Punta Corrente, a most beautiful park, which was the private property of an Austrian baroness, the Baroness Kuetaro. This park was closed to the public. It was nearly impossible to gather wood there, since the baroness had posted many guards, and you couldn=t fool around, so each time we went was an adventure. This baroness was later killed by the local partisans during World War Two, but I shall get to that story when it is time. Another part of my childhood that needs to be told, is the rule of Fascism. Our Duce, Benito Mussolini, wanted to draw all Italian youth to himself; whether male or female, we were required to register with the local Fascist party, and the local leaders. All children were organized in order of age. From the age of three up till the age of six, we children were A Sons and Daughters of the She-Wolf@, (a reference to Romulus and Remus, the twin infants suckled by a wolf, and who founded Rome). From the age of six to the age of twelve, we children were members of the AYoung Balilla@; from twelve to fourteen, we were AAvant-guards,@ and as older teenagers, we became the AYoung Fascists.@ The local fascist leaders provided the uniforms, shirts and kerchiefs, that were meant as an incentive for our participation, especially for the children of poor families. We were meant to wear these outfits in the parades for which we were drilled. All the children of Rovigno were expected to be members of one of these groups, and much pressure was brought to bear on the parents to ensure conformity. I, though, often had to be absent through necessity, the need to work and earn bread for the family coming before any other concern. Eventually, after several warnings, there was trouble. I shall always remember the day my father was publicly humiliated, in front of the whole town, the town where our family had lived for at least six centuries. I was thirteen.

The local party had noted my repeated absences from drills and meetings for the Avant-guards. Even though they knew that my presence at home was necessary for our livelihood, it made no difference to the fascists, and one day, they sent two policemen to our home. These policemen arrested my father, shackling him in chains between them and parading him through the town, before jailing him. My poor father, his head hung low with shame, was terrified just as though he were an accomplice to an actual crime. News of his arrest spread quicker than electricity, and the streets to the jail became lined with town-folk. All the onlookers had something to say. AWhat has Mr. Giotta done?@ AHe must have stolen something!.. committed some crime or another.@ Everyone had some speculation as to the exact nature of my father=s evident crime. But there was no crime, nothing , he was not guilty of anything whatsoever. Only guilty of the absence of his thirteen year old son from the Fascist parade. He spent, thanks to their punitive laws, five days in jail.

11

My father was not unique in his experience. Many of the town=s children did not participate in those activities, and their families were made examples , also suffering arrest and humiliation. At least, this was the reason given to citizens by the chief of police, when they went to him in protest.

All of us in the family soon realized that there was simply not enough room or food for all of us, who were like a litter of puppies in that tiny apartment. As the eldest, it became my duty to leave, young as I was. I was sent at the age of nine to the farm of an uncle just outside of town. His name was Battista, and I was to work in the fields with him. Every day, I would push wheel-barrel after wheel-barrel of manure from the farmyard to the field, there to dump it where it would enrich the poor soil. Hour upon hour I would push and strain with that wheel-barrel, just to get my reward of a bowl of soup at the end of the day. This enabled me to survive. This stint with my uncle did not last long, though, and I was knocked about from one relative to another. For short periods of time, I would be with my maternal grandparents in Rovigno, then be sent on to my uncles in the town of Cademia. I shifted from home to home, to whomever felt sorry for me at the time. My father had a beautiful tenor voice, a light tenor, melodious and full of feeling. Perhaps I learned from him how to place my voice properly. From my early childhood, my father would take me with him to taverns or inns, especially when he had a few extra lira in his pocket. Passing the time with friends, he would drink his usual quarter of wine, and snack on bread and anchovies. All the men would join in the most beautiful choral singing, a coming together of different voices, in harmonious Abitinade,@ a centuries-old tradition of song found only in our town. In a bitinada, a lead tenor represents the maestro of an orchestra, while the other voices sing the parts of the instruments, a high falsetto for the mandolin, another tenor for a guitar, a baritone representing the bass, etc. Each phrase is sung first by the lead, and then echoed by all the different voices, the whole piece swaying in a waltz rhythm. These ancient songs re found only in Rovigno, where singing voices stayed pure in the sea air, and all sang whenever the mood struck. All Rovignese are lovers of beautiful singing, men and women alike, and all have superb natural intonation. There is the story of the Rovignese who gave a command performance of bitinade for Il Duce in Rome during the war. Word came back to us that so convinced was Mussolini that an orchestra could not possibly have been reproduced so perfectly by human voices that he himself got up on stage to search for instruments hidden behind the backs of the singers. He was astounded to find that, of course, there were none. I remember summers when the people of the town would row out with their families to the islands, to picnic and swim. They brought their supper with them, and all the afternoon long, the little ones would play in the sea, while their parents relaxed on the beach. Accordions and harmonicas were always taken on these outings, and everyone joined in song. The Rovignese have tuneful voices. At sunset, on the way back across the water, they would launch into traditional songs called barcaroles and Aaria de nuotta@, or night arias, sung only in the evening. As the purpling sunset lingered on the placid water, a song would begin in one boat, and then be picked up and echoed from boat to boat, until all the families joined in. Can you imagine the beauty of this scene, then so common, and gone today? I wish to tell you what I would do at that time, when I was nearly twelve. By then, I had learned a bit of guitar, and if I may say so, had a good voice, since my father had trained me since childhood. In Rovigno at that time, there was a band of stone cutters who worked in the caves of Montauro, a neighboring town. They had heard me singing, with my father, in some tavern or another. One day, we got to know each other, and they invited me to their town of Muggia, where all the townspeople turned out for the event. They were moved to compassion by my youth, and when I had finished singing, they loaded me down with all sorts of gifts, from eggs to prosciutto, to cheese and salamis. Given my straits at the time, it was a gift from heaven, I was thrilled at the thought of how this would help my family.

12

Chapter.

Being the oldest child in the family, although barely thirteen, I had suffered with the rest of them through the coldest weather, the greatest hunger , and poverty. I decided to leave my home for an unknown destiny. At that time, a cousin of my paternal nona worked as a telephone operator in the harbor office in the city of Trieste, an hour north of Rovigno. He used his influence to help me obtain a license that qualified me to work as a kitchen boy on ships. Thus, I obtained a job on a large passenger ship, the Conte Verde, weighing twenty thousand tons, which plied a route to the Far East, Shanghai, and back to Trieste. The trip took two months, and I earned the magnificent sum of 270 lira a month.

Even more wondrous, for the first time in my life, I had all the food I could possibly eat.

I did not like kitchen work. It was a job that worked you to death, so laborious was it. My job was scrubbing and cleaning enormous pots, much larger than I was. To polish the pots, steel wool was used. Being gloveless, the sharp bits of metal would prick my skin and lodge under my fingernails. As a consequence, my hands and fingers were constantly infected. At the end of the first trip, I had to disembark, and wait until I was cured, for I had become quite ill. Once cured, I returned to the ship, changing jobs and becoming a cabin boy. At least it was cleaner work. And, at the end of every trip, I would find my hands filled with tips.

These, along with my salary, I dispensed in the following manner: My entire monthly money was sent directly to my family back in Rovigno, through the Maritime Society. My family was stupefied by the sight of this sum, so great in need were they. I kept the tips for myself, and I spent them on clothes of different types, which I would then resell in Trieste upon my return. In this way, I made a little more. This caused a great change in my life. First, I had never seen such an abundance of food as I saw on the passenger ships. The variety of things to eat astounded me, the colors , the textures, the taste! And, I could fill my belly whenever the mood struck me. This was true luxury. Too, I had never seen so much money, in other people=s hands or in my own. The money I earned on the ships was a source of great happiness to me and to my family back home. I would buy clothes in foreign ports, and resell them upon my return to Trieste to make some extra money over and above my salary. My profits were more money than I had ever seen in my life. So, in 1939, I had a suit custom-tailored for me of expensive cloth, a gray coat, and a beautiful borsalino (hat), also gray. To complete the outfit I bought a white silk scarf, then the height of fashion. This was my first full suit, and young as I was, I was euphoric. I felt as though I had left poverty behind me on all counts; financially, socially, and physically, and why not? My body, now well-nourished, washealthy and able feel the natural arousal of that age, so much so that I tried to make out with a few girls, although with no success. The trips would take about two months out and back. The ship carried about eight hundred passengers, and three hundred crew. There was an orchestra on board for entertainment. We crewmen even formed a soccer team, in which I took part, playing halfback. Upon arrival in Singapore and Bombay, our team would go ashore to play teams from those cities.

One of the great memories of my youth is that of my trip to Africa on the merchant ship, AAnfora@, twelve thousand tons with a crew of forty. This trip was truly a great adventure for me. As the ship entered tropical waters, the temperature rose and rose, hotter than I had ever experienced. The mosquitoes were thick and aggressive, never giving us any peace, especially as we approached the African coast and the Matadi Canal {in the then Belgian Congo} near the jungle. The canal was fairly narrow for a ship of that size, and the jungle came right down to the canal bank. At night, the sounds of wild animals floated in the portholes to me lying in my bunk.

13

Even though the Anfora was a merchant ship, she also carried about ten passengers. In the hold we carried bales of cotton, and livestock, water buffaloes in particular. Most of the crew were black African, accustomed to the heat, and resistant to the native diseases. For the rest of us, our beds had to be enclosed in mosquito netting, as these mosquitoes were carriers of different diseases, including malaria. We were often given quinine as a preventative. Never the less, I fell ill, so ill that the third officer who also acted as the ship=s doctor, decided to take me to a hospital on shore. I don=t recall the country. To transport us from the ship anchored off-shore, a long canoe was dispatched which was propelled by ten oarsmen. Even though I was ill, my boyish self enjoyed this novel ride. When the canoe touched the bank, we were lifted to the shoulders of the natives who trucked us to the clinic. After the check-up, we were returned aboard ship in just the same way. After I finished my course of medication, I again took up my work on the Anfora as she traveled to her destinations. Often we had to cross tempestuous seas, and we could only move about by grasping the handrails, especially on the stairways. I luckily didn=t suffer from sea-sickness, though most of my crew-mates were less fortunate. I had received a promotion to cabin boy, assistant to the chief cabin boy, actually, and I served the ship=s officers. The food was good enough, and plenty, except the bread which at times contained unpleasant surprises, like bugs. So I continued to eat well during my time at sea. While the seas were calm, I would stand on deck at different vantage points, and observe the sea. I often saw the fountain waterspouts of the huge sperm whales swimming by, and I could also see the whaling ships that followed them, their sterns opened wide, like gaping hungry mouths. These ships were surrounded by little tug boats, like children . These were armed with a cannon which shot harpoons attached to lines. When a whale was sighted, the boat would close in on it, shooting a harpoon full force into its body. Deeply wounded, the whale would become furious, running and dragging the little boat with it. Vastly strong, the whale took a long time to die, but the loss of blood and the fight would exhaust it, and it would give up. Then when it was no longer a danger, the tug boat dragged it to the whaler, where it was winched inside to be quartered and butchered for its oil and other useful parts.

Even on board the Anfora, I did not stop fishing. I wove two wire fish traps, as my father had taught me. When we arrived in port, we would launch a small row boat, and drop the traps, baited with dried fish. We often found good fishing, in spite of the unknown waters. There were fish that resembled the fish in our home waters, Afraghi@ and Ariboni@ native to the Mediterranean. My wire traps were a success and we enjoyed fresh fish every day, officers, passengers and crew. Our delicious feasts did not continue long. One fine morning, I went to retrieve the traps, only to find the lines cut. The traps had been stolen. So I guess I could say I left behind me in the Congo, one of my creations, a fishing method unknown there. Between sailings and shore leaves, always fishing, five years passed.

At the end of the year, we would have three months of shore leave back home. I would return to Rovigno, to my family, who were in somewhat better shape financially because of my monthly remittals. My brother, Pietro, had also become old enough to work and contribute. As soon as I stepped foot back in my town, I=d take the boat out to sea, to do a little fishing. I had gotten quite good at it, becoming something of a sea wolf. Fishing always pulled in my blood. Together with my father, or with my brother Pietro, we would fish constantly, all of us reluctant to lose even one day=s opportunity. I became a sort of pirate, wanting to fish even out of season. Thanks to my father=s training, and his own vast experience of the sea, and also thanks to my sureness and ability, he conceded to me the privilege of the harpoon and the position in the prow of the boat, while he took up the oars. This meant that he had faith in me, and my ability. This was an honor and a source of encouragement, and I felt I had become a man in his eyes.

14

In the winter, while the temperatures dropped to freezing, and the wind switched, attacking from the north, all the fishermen of the town stayed at home in bed, trying to stay warm in their drafty homes. But I, having gone perhaps first to the movies, would return home about midnight. If the wind had died a bit, I=d wake my father and brother, (only about twelve at the time) and order them to get up and dress in warm clothes. Of course, we also took plenty of nona=s brule, the hot, sweet wine that would warm our bones at sea. We=d load ourselves down with oars, nets, lanterns, the lastra, (the glass-bottomed box used to view the sea floor), and harpoons, of which we always had two. The smaller of these was tipped with seven iron barbs, and the larger with nine barbs, always kept very sharp, ready for spearing fish of any size. It should be noted that certain fishermen of the town hated us because of the excellent catches we brought back. Besides, I had a profession, as a seaman, and they knew I was only home on leave. Some of these men were jealous of me, indeed nearly uncontrollably so. They would come to the dock as we landed and taunt me, insulting my skills, calling me foul names, and cursing me. I never let this stop me, though, and we continued in this fashion, months at sea, five years in all, followed by leaves at home, until I was nineteen. In this way, I contributed to the family=s welfare all year round. I may have been on leave, but there was no vacation from need.Our adventures on the sea were numerous in those years. We would leave port in the night, rowing in the direction of the town railroad station, outside the harbor.

Quickly, we would light the lantern, hanging it on a hook from the front of the batana, and ready the equipment, while moving slowly over the water. When we reached the fishing spot, I would kneel over the side of the boat, the lastra gripped in my left hand, its glass face flush with the water=s surface,, and two harpoons in my right hand at the ready.. In the eerie light, I scanned the seabed below, a pillow beneath my chest, for comfort from the wooden side of the batana. Directing my father which way to adjust the boat=s position, which he did with gentle tugs on the oars, we crept to the places where the fish hid in the rocks. In this position, I could sweep the seabed with the powerful light. When I saw the fish darting down below, I stopped breathing and tensed, drawing back my arm to aim. Instinctively feeling the exact moment, I fiercely launched the harpoon with great force and speed so as not to lose the prey and, drew it back by the attached line, often enough finding a fat fish on the other end. Thus the boat proceeded slowly, the oarsman rowing with patience and care, for several miles. We encountered all sorts of fish, such as scorfani, (a kind of spiny, poisonous fish, nonetheless edible) crabs, cuttlefish, branzini, (sea bass) etc. As we moved slowly over the face of the dark sea, we reached the spot called ASecco del Punte@, just at the mouth of the Canale de Leme. This was a most important moment, for here was found Aorate@ a truly prized fish. I waited patiently as the bottom rose and fell beneath me, mirroring the action of the waves. When that school of fish , twenty or thirty of them, came into view, I was determined to catch some. My joy was great at seeing those fish, all, white, with spots of silver here and there, and black stripes, flashing in my light. I poised myself, ready to throw my harpoon. I flicked it from my hand at just the right moment, almost wildly, spearing fish from the edge of the school, so as not to scare off the main body. Some nights, I would spear thirty kilos, each fish I caught weighing nearly two kilos.

When we caught orate, there was much money earned, for it was a prized and costly fish in the market place. Other kinds of fish of different value were caught as well. We fished all night until dawn. It was most gratifying to earn good money for this labor. You can imagine the envy of certain fishermen when we landed on shore. They would poke and pry at the catch, and to our faces insult us by calling us pirates, and hermits. But I didn=t give a fig for their comments, for I knew they were being malicious beyond malice, and wicked, too! They would repeat their insults not once or twice, but many times, unable to catch even a reaction from me! In bad weather, during the sirocco, it rained and was windy. Our little boat had but one sail, which we raised after loading on board all our tools. We=d set forth downwind out of Rovigno, the sail filled with wet wind from behind.. Down the coast we ran, towards the Canale de Leme. When we reached the point of entrance, we came about to the right, the sail swinging to the other side on its boom, and we breathed a sigh of relief now that the dangerous leg of the trip was complete. We entered the Valle de Saline, where we were sheltered from the wind of the open sea, and we proceeded down the shoreline to the Canale de Leme, an old gorge that had cracked open and filled with sea water, some six miles long.

15

We fished in these parts with wire traps, a time consuming method. We=d bring enough food to last the both of us at least twenty four hours. These provisions consisted of sliced bread, salami, wine, water, and fish freshly caught, which we roasted on a small grill carried with us. This we would light in the boat or on the beach, turning the catch over wood coals, the mixed aromas rising in the air, and driving our appetites. The flavor of fish so freshly roasted in this way was delightful.

Having eaten, we returned quickly to work, always at night, the lantern lighting up the seabed below the boat as we slowly made our way up the coastline. Sometimes the seabed dropped away suddenly and we could see nothing. All around above and below would be impenetrably dark, as though we had fallen into an abyss. I would be nearly panic-stricken when this occurred as I felt I was tumbling through space. Raising my head, and looking around, I felt I saw a huge black wall looming, about to crumble down on top of our little craft, splitting us all to bits. When we found ourselves in that situation, as we often did, we would row like the devil until we found the shallows again. Many times, sudden storms would overtake us, wind and rain whirling about us like mad dancers. Our little boat provided no shelter of any sort. We could only run to shore, tie the boat to a boulder, and then abandon it to find refuge in one of the many nearby caves, there to wait out the storm. Often we found refuge in a large cave well known to the Rovignese, the "Bus di San Rinaldo@, which was deep. When the storm let up we continued on our way to the Valle di Saline, but even our arrival there did not guarantee our safety, for sometimes the storm returned in its intensity, so furious that we could not return to Rovigno by sea. If we were overtaken on the water, our only recourse was to trim the sail in tightly and try to negotiate the enormous waves that would break over us. It was really dangerous!

Tacking back and forth gradually, we edged closer to land, where we would moor the boat, and make a run for shelter. There was a tumble-down shack on the shore of the canal that fishermen had sheltered in since olden days. The House of the Murante, as it was called, had a large fireplace in front of which we would dry our clothes and ourselves, making a small fire from wet wood and straw that we gathered nearby. There were no doors or windows in this hut, and no one ever thought to repair it. Still, it always served as a refuge for passing fishermen. When the storm had passed, we gathered our catch, the oars, and our gear, and trudge back to Rovigno overland, about an hour=s journey on foot. We couldn=t leave anything in the boat, for robbery was quite common, and our equipment was our livelihood. As soon as we arrived in town we went straight to the fish market to sell the catch. As there was a shortage of fish because of the weather, we would get good prices, and make a good profit. When I was nineteen, though, something happened to test me. We had rowed out to the Rocks of the Two Sisters, so called because they looked exactly alike. It was a cold February night, as usual we hadn=t let the weather stop us. With the lantern hung on the prow, we searched the waters around the Two Sisters. It must have been about one in the morning, and we had rowed completely around the rocks. I was standing by the lantern in the prow of the boat, harpoon in hand, with the hope of coming across a few Abranzini@(sea bass,) or even some squid. The boat struck a rock in the pitch black. I lost my balance and fell into the freezing water. The night was cruelly cold, and I did not have a dry set of clothes with me. My brother pulled me back on board, and we rushed for home, our hunt forgotten. I crouched shivering violently in the bottom of the boat, trying to shelter from the strong eastern wind. Upon arriving home, I quickly got into bed and drank hot liquids. I lay there in a fever for a couple of days, sweating beneath the blankets until every bit of the damp that had penetrated my bones was released. This was the traditional treatment for such an accident ; we drank hot white wine and sweated out the cold. I would be drenched from having sweated so much, the bed clothes soaked, and I would dry myself and change the bedding. Thus I restored my health, bit by bit. Though the fishing was a wonderful adventure, those were sad and difficult times.

16

We were young and strong in those days and little truly frightened us. I do remember, however, another occasion when the sea reminded me that I wasn=t necessarily the master. While rowing from one island to another gathering wood in our small boat, a huge shark appeared in our wake, and began to follow us. This shark was as long as our boat, some four or five meters, and it nosed its way through the water just inches behind the stern. All we could do was row as fast as possible and pray that it would not attack us. Such was its size, that it could easily have flipped the boat, and tumbled us into the water, to become the hunted. Thank God it was content to only dog us, and as we entered the shallows near the island, it left us, disappearing into the blue gray of deeper water like a shadow.In the Adriatic, sharks are not common. They are lured there by the large ships that throw garbage overboard. In the winter of 1933, a motor-driven fishing boat out of Rovigno was hauling in nets full of sole. The regular winch began to strip its gears, unable to pull in something in the net that was extremely heavy, and the hoisting equipment was employed. Bit by bit, the equipment straining and smoking, the net was winched into the boat. Inside was a vast white form. This was a shark that had been feeding on the same schools of sole that the boat had been harvesting. It had gotten trapped in the net, and in its attempts to free itself, had become exhausted and died. All they could do was tow the dead creature into the harbor, where a ship of the Trieste-Pola line had a amall crane, which could raise the shark out of the water onto the wharf. This monster was twenty five feet long, and its presence on the wharf drew a large and awed crowd. The townspeople were stupefied by this sight, never before seen in Rovigno. When the shark >s belly was cut open, human bones were found, along with a wedding ring, and several jute sacks. Later, the shark was mounted and put on display in the local museum.

Chapter

At the age of nineteen, just before my last voyage on the Conte Verde, a moment occurred to me that was so golden, so fateful, that my life stopped and started all over again. I met the angel who would share my life=s adventures for the next sixty years. When I think of it today, it seems impossible that all those years have passed so quickly. One cannot stop the passage of time, it=s true, and now I look upon myself in old age. So I will go back to that time, when I met Ida.I was on shore leave in Rovigno, my last, as it turned out. My father was in the habit of taking a glass of wine in the afternoon at one of the little family owned wine shops scattered around the town. One day, he came to me, imploring me to go back with him to one of these places to see what he had discovered.

APlease, mi figlio, you must see what I have found!@
AWhat is it, Papa?@
AAn angel, of such beauty I cannot tell you! You must come right away. You cannot imagine what my eyes have seen.

It should be said that I really loved my dad, and would do anything to make him happy. Since the age of six I had often gone with him on his afternoon jaunts where we would find his friends and spend the afternoon singing and enjoying the local vintages. So, I was willing and curious to see what he had found. He was proud of me as his first born, and as a young man with a strong, honest personality. He took great pleasure in introducing me around when we went out together. Dressed in my dapper suit, scarf and borsalino, I went with him to number nineteen, Via Grizia, only a two minute walk from our house. There, a local farm family operated a wine room in the ground floor of their home, where they sold their own vintage. This shop was no more than a room with a barrel and a [17] couple of benches, but the wine was superb, perhaps the best in town. It was here that he had first seen the girl who was to become my wife, the beautiful Miss Ida, and had rushed home breathless, to get me. We entered the room, and he formally presented me to the family as his eldest son, just back from Trieste. We shook hands all around, but when I took the hand of Ida, and looked into her eyes for the first time, I was shocked out of my very being. I no longer saw anything in that place but the vision in front of my eyes. How could my life have been hidden from me all those years, just a few streets from my home? I had only a few days left of leave, but each was spent at the wine-shop, supposedly savoring a glass of wine, but really trying to fill my eyes with her. I was finished, in short, crazy. My emotions centered on this gentle girl. I was filled with hope that my new-found dreams could come true.

The time came too soon for me to return to my ship and leave this gorgeous reason for living. I went to see her for the last time. Gathering my courage, I asked for her permission to write to her. She said nothing, neither no or yes, and I took this as permission. She had left it up to me. I returned to Trieste for the ship=s departure to the Far East, all the way to Hong Kong. There we turned around and made our way back to Italy port by port.

The entire trip was twenty days out, and twenty days back. .Day and night, my thoughts were filled with Ida. Sleep did not come easily. Upon the ship=s arrival in Trieste, I nearly ran to Rovigno to see the beautiful Miss Ida.It was difficult getting close to her. She was only fourteen and a half, from a strict traditional family, her father and maternal grandmother in particular. It was the nona who ran the household really. This tough lady was a hard worker, especially when it came to her family. In later years, I affectionately called her Athe gendarme@. Ida=s mother was a shy, deeply devout woman, to the point that the world held little interest for her. Ida=s father, a courteous gentleman, was also a hard worker. After a week of heavy labor in his fields, he relaxed by hunting, or playing a few hands of cards with friends in the tavern. He would try to invite his wife out to the cinema, but her spiritual devotion prevented her from granting him this small measure of companionship. After many such refusals, the marriage fell apart, and they separated, the father leaving Ida=s house.After the divorce, the task of caring for the family fell to nona, the gendarme, whose tough character stood her in good stead. It was from this formidable character that I had seek permission to court Ida. Nona was not happy with the fact that I was not only from one of the poorest families in Rovigno, but I was only nineteen, and her granddaughter a mere baby of fourteen. As we all know though, the heart must follow its path. I was essentially a good and honest young man, with great respect for our traditions. I had been struck with love from the first, and I didn=t want to lose her at any cost! We met often. During our courtship, I was always respectful, for she was a good girl from a rather well-known family. Following many walks by the seaside, there, right under the lighthouse, I finally kissed her. And what a kiss that was! Crazy with a great passion, our love cried, AYes!=

Given our intentions, it was now time to have the two families participate in our relationship, especially her family. With respect to my family, well, all that was really up to me. At that time , it was tradition to have someone close to the young man act as go-between between the two families. The girl=s family would first have to give its consent before the girl was formally approached with a proposal. Then with both families agreed, the young man would present the girl with a gold ring, a token of his love and promise. Ida=s nona had made several discreet inquiries about my character, and her sources always came back with positive reports.

AHe may be from a poor family, but he is a good boy, and a hard worker.@18So, it was agreed upon that Ida and I become engaged. So strong was our need for each other that we insisted on a short engagement of six months, rather than the more traditional waiting period of several years. Thus, the town was scandalized, for not only was I robbing the cradle in choosing this young girl, but we were ignoring up tradition out of passion. People were sure that we couldn=t know what we were doing. And in those last days of nineteen thirty -nine, the possibility of war also loomed before us all, like that dark sudden abyss sometimes encountered at sea.Two factors stood in our favor, though, as we pushed for a short engagement. Because of the impending conflict, I was due to be called into the military. If I was married, my wife would receive a government stipend of eight lira a day. Not much, but enough to live on. Also, if I was called away from Rovigno who could say when I might return, if at all? So, our wedding date was set for a mere six months after the official engagement. Even more scandal for the wagging tongues of the town! No more would we have to sneak kisses in the shadow of Santa Euphemia, where we often strolled in the evening.

Our wedding day was February 2, 1940. We married in one of the side chapels in Santa Euphemia=s church, in itself glorious with marble carvings and gilded wood work, at least two hundred years old. At our wedding feast, the celebration lasted into the early hours. Ida excused herself from the company early, and went upstairs. I had a little more wine, and then stood to take my own leave of our relatives and friends. AAnd now to my destiny!@, I cried, and left to join my beautiful bride for our first night together.Truthfully, I was proud of the fact that we could marry so quickly., unlike so many other couples who remained engaged for four or five years. I could not have lasted long in their place. As for us, we led a new life together. We were wiser than our years, and frugal. I felt deeply the responsibility of maintaining a new family, and since I was accustomed to hard work from early childhood, I had no fear of it whatsoever!

So, we began our life together waiting for me to called up by the Italian navy. We lived in Ida=s nona=s house, where we were welcome for the next few years. Nona, who actually owned all the family=s assets, had taken a real liking to me. I returned her affection by demonstrating what a indefatigable worker I was. It was only later that I found out she had been certain of my ability to provide for Ida from the beginning, in spite of my poor background. The family in that house were all women, nona, Ida=s mama, and three other sisters, Eufemia, Amelia, and Silavana, my Ida being the first born. So, I became the only male provider, as Ida=s father had moved out and established another home. I felt the responsibility of my position, all the while with war knocking on our doors.In only a few months, I was called to duty in the Navy. I entered on my birthday, May 1, 1940. The news that reached Rovigno steadily grew worse, and on June 10 of that year, Italy entered the war on the side of Nazi Germany. Our people=s sufferings were about to begin.From the nearby town of Pola, I was sent to Naples. From there, I boarded the ship, AVolturno@, a tanker ship armed with cannon. I remember it all very well.

We were docked in the city of Taranto. The British bombers were pounding the port, sinking several of our ships. Many young Rovignese lost their lives, along with many other young sailors in that awful calamity. After the attack, I was reassigned to the military depot at Taranto. There I awaited new orders. Who knew where I might be sent? Those were terrible days, every one was somber, worried.

19

But I met with a bit of luck! Next to the depot was the commissariat; there I met a fellow townsman who was a letter-carrier back home. On his recommendation, I was transferred to the commissariat, to work in the clothing department. My benefactor=s name was Gino Dandolo, whom I shall never forget.

 

The commissariat was a good place to be. I made many other friends there. We were all in the same boat in those terrible years of the war, and so, a great comradery developed between us. I met up with another fellow from home, a carpenter by trade, Domenico Petronio. We joined the local church choir and sang for Sunday mass. This was considered a good deed, and brought honor to the commissariat. The priest at that church grew fond of us, and we of him. In our free time, we friends always met, not just the Rovignese, but other Istriani from neighboring towns. We distinguished ourselves with our beautiful singing, always in perfect tune. Singing helped ward of sad thoughts of home. We all felt great nostalgia for our homeland, engulfed as we were by this terrible war. Our group sang in all ranges, from tenor to baritone, bass to alto. We sang bitinade, so characteristic of my little city. Bitinade are unique to Rovigno, and should not be confused with any other type of singing. I can say in all honesty that having traveled the world, especially on those ships of my youth, such clear, harmonious and perfectly pitched voices as we Rovignese possess are to be found no where else.Speaking of my military service, which took place in the depot of Taranto, I asked some of my superiors if a transfer to the depot at Pola, very close to my hometown, were possible. It should be known that I made this request of my superiors for a certain reason! Since the city of Pola is 36 kilometers from Rovigno, I secretly hoped that I could make a little run home, to see my beautiful wife again. I tried and tried, bothering the brass incessantly, and I was finally successful. One fine day the news arrived that I was to accompany two chest of uniforms being sent to Pola. It was a great responsibility, but I accepted it willingly, eagerly, actually, as I was also granted five days leave to be spent at home. I must be honest and admit that I stayed with my wife three days longer than I was permitted, so difficult was it to tear myself away from her. Upon finally returning to the depot at Taranto, I was arrested and given twenty-four hours detention, during which I had to sleep on top of a large table confined to a room. I suffered this gladly, for the eight beautiful days I had spent with my wife and family, who were my whole world. This was a great privilege in those sad times barely eighteen months after my marriage, in the midst of ugly periods of fighting, and continuous bombardments in almost all of Italy=s main cities along with an almost unending sounding of alerts and alarms, the population constantly seeking refuge in bomb shelters.Taranto, however, remained fairly tranquil. So I began to look for a furnished room to rent so I could bring my beloved Ida to be with me. I found such a place near the commissariat, a room owned by a lady named Filomena. Young as I was, I was an enterprising fellow, and I managed to have my wife with me during those terrible times.

As I had worked as a room steward as a civilian, when a request came in for an assistant to a major, I was the natural selection for the post, and I transferred, with Ida, to the Naval Center of Milan, where my major was posted, and there I remained at his orders. This was a fantastic assignment; I worked a regular day, and was free to go home every night. This continued even after my major was transferred to Trieste, close once again to my home.

Thus we continued, until the eighth of September, 1943, Armistice Day for Italy. On that day, the Italian military collapsed, and everyone fled their posts for home. I did the same, leaving the city of Trieste, for Rovigno, one hundred kilometers to the south on the coast. Danger existed everywhere, even more than I had faced during the war. As a result of the collapse of Fascism as a government, the Germans, unable to leave well enough alone, invaded every corner of Italy. Transport, especially for those of us still wearing our uniforms (having nothing to change into) was scarce. The German troops began to occupy the main roads. I was very frightened, and out of my fear, I devised a plan. To return home to Rovigno, I would follow the rural coastline, avoiding any roads, and thus, detection. If I were caught, I would have been imprisoned, as indeed happened to some of my relatives, sent on to concentration camps, from which many never returned. How much suffering, how many deprivations did this war bring down upon us! And, as we shall see, it was nowhere near ending.

20

So I sneaked out of Trieste, and headed home. My journey was simple and hard, all on foot. I merely needed to follow the coastline, and I avoided any roads, so as not to encounter any surprises. It took many, many hours. I had nothing to eat, and became completely exhausted. The coastline is rugged and hilly, and covered in bush, through which I had to fight my way. However, with great will power, I made it intact.

Once home, I hoped, in fact, I was certain that life would become calm again, and that I could return to my life as a fisherman. I kept hoping for a better future, for prosperity and happiness; what has gone before is finished, and a stone must be put on top of those troubling memories to make way for a solid future full of joy. I could not imagine the truth of the darkness to come.

Following the collapse of the Fascist government in Italy, its military in ruins, a partisan movement formed and began an insurrection marked in blood. The German occupation, aided by remaining fascist loyalist squadrons which formed after capitulation on September eighth, 1943, began extremely cruel reprisals directed at partisans and citizens alike. Thus a civil war broke out, far worse than anything yet experienced.

And so, that future full of solid joy was not to be; within a few days of my return, German troops arrived in Rovigno, entering from the sea and the land, bombing and machine gunning like crazy to announce their occupation, as they did all over the Istrian penninsula. They killed a few citizens initially, but then the shooting stopped, for the people, having found sanctuary in the wine cellars beneath their homes, offered no resistance. They occupying forces remained in the city for several days, and then left as suddenly as they had arrived, leaving the command behind. The officers took up residence in the Hotel Adriatico, the former home of my bench mate at school. They also commandeered the best homes of Rovigno, tossing the formerly privileged owners into the street, to fend for themselves. The relative calm of the city was not to be found on the provincial roads, however. Our partisans put up their first fight in the vicinity of the Canal de Lemme, where I had fished with my father, outside of town. A squad of 19 young partisans, having captured an enemy truck, engaged a large motorized column of Germans out of Trieste which was on its way to reinforce the German garrison at Pola. The German column had already had a major encounter with a group of partisans at Visignano: the leaders of which were quite competent. Not quite so with the young Rovignese; all nineteen were captured. A second squad of about twenty young partisans re-engaged the German column a half hour later further down the road. Luckily, only one of this bunch was wounded, and they were able to withdraw to safety. The German armored cars, however, responded by pounding the countryside heavily around the entire canal, pinning the survivors for hours, after which they managed to free themselves, fighting their way out and escaping back to base, newly established in Rovigno=s outskirts. The partisan command was already gathered there to plan an eventual re-taking of the city, freeing it from the German occupation. The following day, the sad news arrived at the base that a group of sixteen Rovignese had been executed by a German firing squad, part of the group of young partisans captured the day before. This sad news was confirmed by three compagni, themselves wounded but miraculously not killed in the execution. They then managed to escape back to camp, though wounded. The names of these young heroes, and the date, September 13, 1943, are inscribed on an obelisk erected on the spot of the execution, in perpetual memory of their sacrifice. Three of them remain unidentified to this day, but the rest are well known to the town.Under these circumstances, our townsmen were forced to find sanctuary in the woods together with the partisans. Had they remained in Rovigno, they would have been forced to join the German army, according to a directive issued in the town soon after the Germans arrived. Not a single man of Rovigno obeyed, the oppression of that army being too great to bear. The Germans behaved like absolute monsters, their only moral code was, simply; you are either for me or against me. Following September eighth, a curfew was ordered from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., doors and windows were to be kept shut, and no one was allowed to found in the street, even with the hot summer weather. Imagine the consternation and terror felt by the population; conditions such as these were completely foreign to us, especially the presence of an army of occupation that included the SS- the latter were the most heartless. We citizens were watched day and night, no one was allowed to go anywhere without permission. Even the poor farm workers had to show passes to go to the fields each day. The fishermen, too, had to carry a passbook with identity papers with them just to fish in their own waters.

21

The situation worsened day by day. For example, now middle aged men were being called to serve in the German military. That the men were needed at home did not matter to the Germans. In their absence, many families suffered financially, being left without husband or father. The situation was rapidly becoming intolerable.

The Germans then called up any men born in the years of 1921, 1922, and 1923. They were to present themselves immediately to the German command in Rovigno. It was the last straw. All those young men who had managed to find their way home, myself included, were now compelled to hide in attics, on rooftops, and in ancient subterranean passages so that they could not be seen or heard. Eventually they followed the partisans into the woods outside the town. Escape to some other European country was impossible, all of the continent was in turmoil, and the Germans and Fascists were everywhere.

Some thirty of us young men decided however, to present ourselves to the German command to ask what they wanted of us. .Seizing the opportunity, and us, the German command told us that we were compelled to fight along with them, in their army. We didn=t say a word. Had we dared to contradict them, they would have seen us as enemies, and for sure would have thrown us into a concentration camp somewhere in Germany, perhaps never to return.We were taken so suddenly, we had no chance to let our families know what was happening. We were marched to the former police station of Rovigno, where we could be kept locked up, the police having fled the town after the surrender. So, suddenly I was compelled to wear a German uniform. I couldn=t believe that after three years in the Italian navy, I should fall into the hands of these jailers, forced to fight alongside them and follow far worse orders than I had gotten in my own country=s service.We now had a drill sergeant who was pitiless. He was truly wicked, full of bitterness. He treated us as if we were Germans, all day making us crawl on our bellies, preparing for combat. Not once were we allowed to visit home, the Germans knew we wouldn=t come back. Our families, when they found out what had happened to us, had to visit us at the police headquarters, where we saw each other in the courtyard, separated by an iron fence. We were allowed to exchange only a few words, words which remained like poison in my heart, not a balm, because of what we had been reduced to. I had spent our entire marriage at war in the navy, and had only been home with Ida a month before this latest calamity. We conscripts were young men, full of life! But our joy for life was trampled underfoot by the will of others. I nursed a secret hope in my heart, born of the fact that the partisans were building their numbers outside of Rovigno. Perhaps they would mount a rescue operation to free us. Reinforcements were constantly pouring into the area. My hope was mingled with the fear that the partisans would not liberate us before the Germans shipped us to Nazi Germany, or before we were forced to fight side by side with them in some God-forsaken part of the world. I could not keep my morale up when the possibility loomed that I would never see my family again.We were due to be shipped out after our course of forced training. No one told us where we were going, and we feared for our futures. The night before our convoy was due to leave was moonless. In that dark, a group of partisans appeared silently before the gate of the police station. Silently and swiftly, they overcame the guards. The German command was but eight hundred meters away, and this operation depended on silence and detailed organization. A wildly bold act, but completely successful! Upon entering the barracks, they directed us to get up and out as fast and quietly as possible, before the Germans were alerted to the action.

We followed the partisans, whom we later learned were all Rovignese, out of town through the woods on old paths, running all the way, until we reached the command post of the Italian Partisan Battalion called the Pino Budicin. Formed on April fourth, 1944, the battalion was made up for (question of date) the most part of Italians from Istria and Fiume. All the veterans of the First Italian Company were gathered here. Their ranks were filled with partisans from the entire region, and by ex-Italian soldiers who had remained in Istria following Italy=s surrender. All were now united in a single partisan force. Many were the battles fought by these glorious battalions, many were the victories. Many too, the men who lost their lives.

22

The man whose name was chosen to represent the partisans, Pino Buducin, was a true anti-fascist, and had been so since adolescence. As an adult, he had been deported to Ventotenne Island, in central Italy where he was held until the downfall of the Fascist government. Immediately, he returned to Istria and joined the partisans, dying a hero's death in action against the fascists near Rovigno, on February 2, 1944. His name became an inspiration for the Buducin Battalion, which covered itself in glory during the fight for liberation.

In those perverse times, one had to be very cautious about expressing one=s personal beliefs. ASilence, the enemy is listening@ was the motto we followed at the time. We knew our organization was infiltrated by fascist spies. Woe to you if you even whispered a word against the regime, for however much it was in disarray, the fascists still believed they held power. If it was discovered that a man was an anti-fascist, he was captured and beaten, taken to the pine woods of Monte Molini and bound hand and foot to a tree. Then his mouth would be forced open, and half a liter of castor oil would be poured down his throat. The ensuing stomach pains were excruciating, and the resulting diarrhea catastrophic. Even worse was when the conflict forced the partisans to kill one of our own countrymen. My heart was shattered one day when two young teenage boys were caught and proved to be collaboraters. The judgement in camp was swift against them, and the sentence immediate, and of the harshest degree; execution. The two were led to the edge of a cliff near our headquarters. They sobbed and screamed for mercy, as they quickly understood their fate. But there was no mercy to be found in the hearts of the partisans that day, and as the sun shone down upon us, in that beautiful wood, the two were pushed over the edge to their deaths, their hands still bound with rope. Such a waste of young life! But there was nothing I could do or say to change matters. This has stuck like a thorn in my heart to this day, the memory of their screams.As for the great lady, the Baroness Kueterot, she, too, took the side of the Germans. This was most unfortunate for her, as she and her daughter simply vanished one night from the lovely island palazzo she loved so much. There has always been talk, even to this day, of whom was responsible, but not one person has ever been accused or taken responsibility for her disappearance. The two were never found, neither seen nor heard from again. Only her little palazzo , surrounded first by lush gardens and then by the turquoise sea, remain to show that she was ever there.

All of us, without exception, suffered the pains of hell during those years, soldiers and civilians, men women and children alike. Our only sin in those days was to have been born and to have lived with such fear and infamy day after day.

Here I will recount the betrayal and capture of Pino Buducin. On that morning, he was walking near the aquarium in Rovigno. A terrorist called Steno di Pola, infamous for his wicked deeds in the area, was by reputation the most dangerous man in Rovigno. He ambushed Buducin there in the street, shooting him dead on the spot. Then, as if that wasn=t enough, Steno took his bayonet, and split open the belly of Buducin, stuffing it with straw. No one dared intercede. Buducin=s companion, a partisan by the name of Augusto Ferri, was also shot and killed, and their bodies were dragged to the shore of Valdibora, where they were left exposed for two days, an example and warning to the populace.From that moment, Steno was a marked man in the minds of the partisans. We would not rest until he had met his just fate. One of our hot-blooded Rovigno sons took on the job, and with the help of a few other partisans, executed Steno with one shot. It was around ten a.m. when the men found Steno, in the vicinity of Laco, visiting a salt vendor and having a quiet chat. The partisan burst in the door of the shop. Pistol in hand, he called out to Steno, @Turn around, coward!@ As Steno turned to face the intruder, the partisan shot him in the belly, wounding him mortally. The partisans then fled to the vicinity of Cademia, where the rest of the group awaited them. The terror and reprisals continued for the poor people of Rovigno

23

My own days with the partisans were shared with twenty men, a group called Ceta ( a word perhaps of Yugoslavian origin). Of the twenty, I alone was married.

My wife was always in my thoughts. The irony that we had been married for several years now, and yet had spent so little time together was painful. First taken into the Italian navy for thirty-nine months, conscripted by the Germans, freed to join the partisans, I was unable to be close to my wife for much of the first years of our marriage. Often, I would fall into deep depression on this count, then it would come to me that all of humanity was in the same fix. And my companions, the partisans, were drawn from my own people; they fought and made sacrifices for our common goals; to drive the enemy from our lands, both Germans and fascists.

My thoughts at the time were intense. We hid out in the environs of Rovigno, constantly on the watch for the Germans. Often we had to suddenly break camp to escape the German round-ups. It was chilly mid- November, winter just around the corner, and warm clothes and shoes were at a premium. We were poorly armed, just a few rifles and one or two machine guns. As for food, we often went without. It was highly dangerous to enter towns or to take refuge with families.

Townspeople would have been happy to aid us, as they loved us, and fervently hoped we would be victorious, but every town was taken over by the Germans, and their armored cars patrolled the streets everywhere. Every damned day the German columns arrived; seemingly pouring in from all directions, converging on our area. They had all kinds of armed vehicles with them, and were constantly forcing their way into homes, rounding people up, and taking them away. Even the smallest villages were not spared. Both men and livestock were hauled away. Consequently, what men were left never let themselves be found at home. They took to living in the woods rather than be seized by the enemy. Not satisfied with men and livestock, the Germans looted everywhere, completely depriving people of any food that they might have stored. Nothing was left for anyone. And the consequences were grave if you did not comply with their demands: either you were deported to a labor camp, or shot on the spot. Victims of such shooting were picked at random, and women and children were not spared. For our part, partisan organizations came from Croatia, bringing us supplies and reinforcements. The women knew how to deal with this way of life, for they too had husbands and children with the partisans. Even the support they could offer was not enough.

On the morning of April 27, 1944, an order arrived at base to go into action in the city of Rovigno itself---covertly. Three men of courage were chosen , myself and two others. At around four o=clock in the morning, we were in position in the naval yard. where a German naval vessel, a Ascooter@ was to be Adecomissioned@ by us. This we accomplished by swimming beneath the boat, and fixing explosives to the keel. We lit the fuses and quickly distanced ourselves. The resulting huge explosion worked beautifully. That Acamion@ would never see service again; it was completely destroyed. I was only ten minutes walk from my home at 19 Via Grizia, but it was far too dangerous to go anywhere near it. I had to content myself with a feeling of gratitude for the success of our foray. This action of ours took place right in front of the police barracks where we had once been held by the enemy, and from which we had been sprung by our brave partisan brothers. When we got back to the base, we were warmly congratulated on the success of our mission by the commander of the base. I did not know it then, but in that house, only ten minutes away from where I had stood, my son, Gianfranco, my first born had come into the world on the very same morning.We were a mixed lot in the Ceta, and each of us had special qualifications and tasks. My task was to carry a rifle and ammunition; whereas my companion was in charge of the machine gun. We never remained in one place for long, changing locations daily to evade the Germans. Our scouts always proceeded these movements, and we would receive all kinds of information from them suddenly. We always moved under the cover of night, never in the day, using small paths through the woods and rural areas. We walked in the Indian manner, one behind the other in single file. Often storms would overcome us and we were forced to seek refuge until it was past. We suffered from especially sensitive feet, since our shoes were in tatters, our flesh constantly in contact with the frigid earth. After one of these secret marches, we often were unable to move, paralyzed by fatigue and cold. Sometimes we wore shoes of tough bull leather, which we bound to our feet with rags. The curious thing about these Ashoes@ was the way they loosened on our feet when soaked with water, making walking even more difficult. It took a long time to dry these shoes. What an impossible situation! After three or four days wear, the shoes would be worn so full of holes that we had to stuff even more rags into them to protect our feet from the sharp stones and thorns.

24

In spite of our best efforts, the situation worsened. The Germans were digging in, the round- ups of people became more frequent. The Germans used their arms ever more destructively. The partisans continued to receive arms from Yugoslavia, despite the thousand difficulties involved.

I recall that when a river was to be crossed, we had to throw ourselves in up to our chins, our necks under water since we had to raise our arms over our heads protecting our rifles and ammunition until we reached the other side. Continuing our journey, always on the move, we searched for refuge of some sort, to light a fire and dry our clothes. We may have dried our clothes, but our bones were always cold and damp. Thus two months went by, full of pain, exhausting labor, and hunger. I constantly wondered when this war and our suffering would end. It was already 1944 and too much time had elapsed since I last saw my family. I could not receive a single word from them, either. If the Germans had proof that I was with the partisans, my family in town would have suffered severe consequences.

So, we distanced ourselves more and more from our land, and moved towards Croatia. Our group, the Pino Buducin Brigade, were to join up with the AVladimiro Gordon Brigade@. We could no longer function in our area, having neither the means nor the ways. All that was left at this point were ambushes, suffering and deprivation. At times, during periods of rest, there were always some of the group who gave the rest of us courage, and we in turn encouraged others. We even sang war songs, and melodious folk songs. So, we did not lack for spirit in those rare moments of relaxation. Even some families made their way to our camp, women who brought buckets of food with them and words of strength. One of our actions took place near Monte Maggiore, where I had sung as a young boy in the town square. From afar we saw a patrol of three or four Germans.

The leader of our group chose three of the strongest of our number on the spot to watch their movements. As we closed in on them quietly, we saw they were in the act of taking cheese from a nearby farmhouse. They spotted us - and took off running. We entered the abandoned house and found cheese which the German patrol had left as they fled. We decided to take the cheese, and we turned it in to the leader of the group, who told us to keep it for ourselves as we had earned it.

So, we divided it amongst ourselves, I for one devouring my portion like a desperate man. Nearly the same thing took place near Pola. The partisans had captured a boat that was loaded with barrels of wine. It would have fallen into German hands, but fell into ours, instead, and so we drank white wine for several days. It helped restore our energies. This type of incident was a form of sabotage that helped to bring the German forces down.

I was in Croatia still, when one fine day a messenger arrived delivering a letter from my wife in Rovigno, which said she was ill, very ill with an infection of the breast. What should I do? I decided not to lose any time; immediately I went to the commander asking his permission to return to my town to see for myself what was what. Knowing my strength and diligence, and my good will and courage in the most difficult of times, the commander granted me permission, saying, Aokay, go@. Without a moment=s hesitation, I left on foot from the commander=s tent, in spite of the great dangers involved, to which I never gave a thought. The entire area, all crossroads, and towns were watched by the Germans. My journey was a risky business indeed. Very slowly and cautiously I approached my native land, after three days in the bush. All I had with me was a ragged shoulder bag of sorts in which I carried an oilcloth raincoat, still with me since my days in the navy. It was my only protection from the elements, for often I had nowhere to sleep but hidden under a bush. The shoulder bag doubled as a pillow. I=d lay the coat on the ground to keep the damp off me. I must have looked a real tramp, dirty and ragged. Fearing the snakes that were plentiful, I remained alert to keep them from crawling across my body. Fortunately, this never happened. I was always vigilant for any eventuality. Thus I kept walking, always on the lookout to avoid capture by the Germans, who were still constantly rounding people up. Knowing this really threw the fear of God into me.

25

I never took to the main roads, but always followed hidden paths that revealed themselves to me as I walked. Of necessity, I kept to the hills, which were steep and covered in tough scrub. If by chance, I came across something suspicious, even if it weren=t German, I=d approach with great caution, especially since I didn=t speak more than a few words of Croat. At the most, if I was certain of the person before me, all I could do was beg a bit of bread, or some clean water. In those days, hunger was my constant companion. Many times, a dog would some up to me and invariably I would stand stock still , hidden, waiting for someone to come and call the dog away. Then I=d leave that spot quickly, continuing my journey, living on the hope I would make it home. Constantly fatigued, disoriented, and in terror that the Germans would get me, I pressed on. By the third day, my hunger overwhelming, I could press deep impressions into the flesh of my arms which would last, so swollen was I with edema. It was on that day that I found a compost heap, from which I gleaned bits of rotten potato peels, which I wolfed down like some berserk creature. But, at least I had gotten something into my stomach. I also came across water to drink. This was luck indeed! Twenty minutes further down the trail, I was overcome with a deathly nausea. I had to come to halt, falling to the ground and vomiting until my stomach was again empty, and I felt a little better. Standing up again, I talked some courage into myself, driven by worry and the desire to see my beloved Ida, and walked on. Before I realized it, I had walked out of Croatia. I used the sun and the winds as my guides, I=d had plenty of experience doing just that as a fisherman on the sea. Slowly, I drew closer and closer to my town, finally arriving at my Uncle Giovanni=s farm, where I had labored as a boy, on the outskirts of Rovigno. It was almost evening, and no one appeared to be around the farm workers having left for the day. In those days, those who could afford it, returned to town in donkey-drawn carts, or riding the donkeys themselves, as was the tradition, while the poorest of them returned home each day on foot, pouches slung over their shoulders. Without a donkey and cart, my uncle would have had to trudge an hour and a half on foot to reach his fields, and then return home in the evening. @Calandra@, the farm, had a stone hut on it to provide shelter from the rain, and to hold the livestock during the day. I knew my way well over the land, and could have found the hut with my eyes closed. Arriving in the stillness of the evening, I entered my uncle=s hut, whereupon a great happiness came over me, and my spirits were freed from their heavy fear. I was exhausted, of course, and I stretched out on the straw-covered floor. I pulled this straw over my body as a blanket, waiting the night out for my uncle to arrive early the next morning. I had gotten so ill living as a partisan that I was bloated all over, looking as if I had gained weight, but really retaining so much water that when I pressed down on my arm with my finger, a deep hole appeared which did not go away. Not only had lice infested my scalp, but also every hair on my face, including my eyebrows - these were the outward signs of my suffering, and of the sickness that was brewing deep inside of me. However, luck had decreed that I come to no real harm in Croatia; if I had, I=m sure the future would have ended then and there for me. But let me return to the stone hut, and the first night I spent there waiting for my uncle. He, of course, hadn=t the slightest notion that I had returned, for that matter, neither did my wife. I hoped that he would arrive early the next morning, but I could not be certain of this, as he owned other acreage, and there were times when he did not return to this spot for several days. The thought plagued me through the night in the cold that I would find this to be so, and he was not likely to arrive any time soon. So, the night seemed endless. Finally the light of dawn began to spread. Luckily, as fate would have it, early the following morning I heard a cart approaching. As it drew closer, I recognized my uncle=s voice speaking to the donkey. I rushed out of the hut towards my uncle; I cannot describe the scene that took place following this great surprise. My uncle=s eyes filled with tears upon seeing me, and the tears kept falling, as I began to tell him what I had been through.

He was shocked at my terrible condition.

26

We quickly drew the best possible plan for getting me the rest of the way into Rovigno, not an easy thing, for the situation was extremely dangerous. The German troops were everywhere, there was no avoiding them. So, my uncle and I decided that I should remain at the hut another night, affording him the chance to survey the situation in town, and to more calmly organize my entry without being detected. Truly my uncle Gianni had assumed a grave responsibility and undertaken a great risk in getting involved in this affair. But he was a willing accomplice thanks to his love for me. The evening of the next day, I left his fields concealed in the back of the donkey cart, completely covered in straw but for a small opening left for me to breathe through. As dusk fell, we made our way down the familiar road to Rovigno. It happened often at that time that if the SS became suspicious, they would have all the carts on the road stopped and searched. The soldiers at the roadblock would punch through the straw in the cart with their bayonets, hoping to flush out anyone or anything concealed beneath. But that evening, everything went smoothly, and we didn=t encounter anything so ugly as that. Finally, we arrived that evening at Uncle Gianni=s barn, which was at a distance from his house of about five hundred metersYSuddenly, my wife exploded from the doorway of the barn, carrying in her arms my first baby, my son, all mine. Such a pretty and delicate face he had. He was only three months old when I first laid eyes on him. Soon enough, we would have him baptized with the name Gianfranco, derived from my own name and that of my father, Francesco, it being the custom in those days to name the firstborn boy after the father and the paternal grandfather. The night my wife came to the barn to meet me, she brought with her her grandmother=s dress, long, nearly to the ground, a pair of women=s shoes, and a head scarf. Disguising me this way, she and my uncle walked me arm in arm to my uncle=s house, where I remained in hiding for a couple of days. Then I had to run the risk of making it home to #19, Via Grizia. We decided to attempt the same ruse, and I got myself into the women=s clothing again, whereupon Ida took me by the arm, and we set off like two little old ladies. My disguise worked perfectly, no one noticed a thing amiss. Arriving home safe after so many dangers, I found my parents waiting to greet me; we exchanged a thousand kisses and embraces. Even though I would have to remain in hiding, I at least could begin a new life of sorts.

Months passed, and food was getting scarcer and scarcer. In order to eat, we had to exchange linens, clothes, or jewelry with the farmers, in the black market if necessary to get a bit of flour, polenta, oil, or soap. Then, in the early days of May 1945, the entire country was liberated by the Anglo-American armies, and the partisans. With the fascists and Germans on the run, the partisans finally entered the town victorious.

Unfortunately, my health had continued to deteriorate daily, and I lost weight steadily. It was in that month that my paternal grandmother, who had lived with us since I was tiny, died. She was quite old, and also very ill. I loved my grandmother very much, for I had grown up from the youngest age with her loving presence.

Her place in my parents home was very important to me. In those times, a loved always died at home, thus, we had to carry her body down those extremely steep and dark stairs from the fourth floor. Grandmother was very heavy, and the descent down those last stairs were extremely difficult. Although I was ill, I wanted to do my part for Grandmother. To help move her was my duty, with the help of others.

I am convinced that my grandmother must have been praying for me, considering what was to befall me. We did manage the descent, the stairs groaning and creaking the entire way, as if to protest her leave taking.

27

A very few days after her burial, my entire body was overtaken by terrible pain. The family called the doctor urgently, and he ordered me taken immediately to the hospital. But how? There were no such things as ambulances in those days. In this emergency, the police were called. They had a medical unit by the name of St. Podelmengo. Now it was my turn to be carried down those stairs and out of my home. I was loaded into the back of a Aporsantina,@ a cart which served both the living and the dead. Set on two large wheels, the bed of the cart was narrow and long, and covered with a black curtain so no one could see inside as it passed through the little streets. It was pulled by hand, either to the hospital or the mortuary, depending on the state of the occupant. Upon arriving at the hospital, my state was so bad that I underwent emergency surgery without delay. The diagnosis was acute appendicitis, which had progressed to peritonitis. Few survived peritonitis in those days, there was little that doctors could do for such a raging infection. Luck, perhaps, was with me, as I did not die. I am convinced, though, that my grandmother was watching over me, and praying for me all through that terrible suffering. I know that I fell ill because the hard life I had led as a partisan; no shelter from the rains, the extreme cold, the damp, the hunger, all had taken a toll on my health that finally even my youth could not fight off.

During the operation, the surgeon discovered an even wider spread of infection through my body, the pus invading all the way into the chest cavity. My heart was strong, though, and I held on to life throughout the procedure. Hours later, my family were told by the doctor that the operation had gone well, considering my state, and he explained how difficult it had been, and the daily medications and treatments I would now have to undergo as part of my recovery. This included regular changing of the internal and external dressing.

I felt horrendous pain during the days following the surgery, pain that was only relieved by morphine injections. The dose would last five or six hours, and then I would be swept away in pain again. I was so unnerved by the magnitude of the agony that I would scream for another injection. But the chief surgeon had ordered the nurses not to increase the dose, as it was already close to toxic levels. The pain held me in an iron grip. I was moody and behaved atrociously. I offended everyone; doctors, nurses, even the nuns had had it with me. Days passed and I showed no improvement. I was still full of pain and fever. The doctor decided that the infection must still be present inside of me. Re-examining me, he found that my left lung was full of pus. After several days, which to me seemed like years, the head surgeon decided there was no option but to operate again. This time the incision was made on the right side of my back, towards my spine to open a new route of drainage. Poor me. Here I was set up to suffer even more. After the operation, a rubber tube was inserted deep in the incision, to remain in place night and day.

When I coughed, the pus was forced up through the tube. This was always very painful.

Forty days passed in the hospital, after which I was sent home to continue my treatment. My wife=s family arranged for me to stay in a small two-room apartment that they owned, where I could rest quietly. My wife, pregnant again, and my mother were always with me in the little flat. Through the night, they helped as I was so wracked with pain, I could not even turn my body on my own. My entire body hurt from the original surgery in my abdomen, still healing, and the second surgery which had opened my back. I could not sleep at night for the relentless pain. I lost weight steadily, unable to eat. I felt that death was near. As the weight fell off, my bones poked at my skin, and I was uncomfortable in any position. I was given a rubber pillow with a hole at its center, so I could sit up straight without pressing down on my spine, which protruded from my flesh into the bedding. I continuously begged for the ever-famous morphine injection, but at that time the doctor only permitted one every second day, when the tube was pulled to be checked. Sometimes, when I think back on those days, I cannot believe myself what I endured.

Only my wife can testify to the truth of my words, as she was there with me every moment, caring for me and comforting me.

28

My suffering became so great, so endless, that I determined to die, rather than continue as I was. I attempted to jump from the window, to fall to my death. My mother managed to grab me and desperately managed to stop me with her pleading. I was not myself, and I knew that such behavior would harm my entire family.

But the suffering was so great, I was past caring. Though I did not jump again, a few days later I pulled the tube from my back, knowing that the pus would build up and I would meet my end. My poor mother screamed for my wife, when she discovered what I had done. Ida ran for the doctor, knowing the danger in which I had placed myself. He came immediately, and re-inserted the drain. By this time, I was too exhausted to fight anymore.

So time again began to pass slowly, and slowly, I began to recover. Even my chest pains began to diminish. I was aware of how weak my body had become, but it only made sense that my return to health would be long. My pain continued to diminish, which meant the infection was drying up both at the site of the peritonitis, and at the site of the second incision. My internal wounds improved, and my incisions began to close, bit by bit. Every day now, the doctor drew the drainage tube out a little further, until it remained just under the skin. In the meantime, my appetite began to return.

All throughout my illness, our neighbors, knowing how gravely ill I was, consoled my wife and urged her to remain strong, take heart, for they actually believed I was going to die. But I didn=t die, not this time.

As I felt better and better, Ida would bring the baby, Gianfranco, over from the family house for me to see. He was only sixteen months old at that time. She would set him on the ground and he would run over to my bed. I was filled with joy to have a son, and to see him toddling, holding the edge of the bed for balance, filled me with tenderness. I needed nourishment so as to gradually regain my strength, and I consumed great amounts of my uncle Giovanni=s home-grown wine, which he brought to me from the family farm. The wines and grappas of our area are famous for their healthy properties. The time then came when I could leave my bed for short periods. I began to walk outside, holding my wife=s arm, to breathe a little fresh air, which I sorely needed to improve my circulation and bring some color to my cheeks. I had walked all the way from Croatia, to be with my wife for her illness, which turned out not to be so terrible. In this way, though, she saved my life. Fortunately, I had made it home before my appendix ruptured. Had this happened to me back in the woods, I would not have received more than rudimentary medical care, no where near sufficient to save me. All the hospitals in the area were commandeered by the Germans, and it would have been too risky for all of us to take me to any of these. Fortunate, too, was the presence of my family during my illness. They spared no effort in my care, and their love was vital in my restoration to health. The road to health was a long and painful one, and much patience was required of those who took care of me. Thanks be to God, in whom I have so much faith. As for my wife and I, well youth and impetuosity overtook us, before I was hospitalized. As I mentioned, she was pregnant during her nursing of me. How had that happened even in such difficult times? Since you know how it happened, I will only tell you where it happened. Right in the back of her grandmother=s storeroom, which was full of wine barrels. Destiny wanted this, and I wasn=t that sick, yet! My health improved every day. I began to think of returning to the sea to fish. When one is young, strength flows back into the body. It=s to be expected.

29

On November 21, 1945, Ida was close to giving birth. I had indeed returned to fishing for my livelihood. That night, I decided to do some lantern fishing. The weather was fine and still. We rowed out in the direction of the canal, some six miles from town, where we fished at the opening, moving slowly until we had reached the opposite side. The fishing that night was excellent, I remember, with a varied and plentiful catch. I especially recall a large Acadelli@ which I landed in front of the cave on the bank. As the light began to wash the sky, we decided to return. I was a bit anxious, knowing how close Ida was to giving birth. Upon arriving home, I got the news at the pier that a baby girl had arrived during my absence. I rushed home and upstairs to our bedroom to see this Aesserino@, this little being whom we named Sonia. As you will recall, it was custom to give birth at home. So it was with my two children. Everything that day seemed blessed, the health of my wife and new child, my new-found strength, and the fine fishing I had found with Pietro. The Acadel@ which I hooked at the mouth of the cave weighed in at twelve kilos. This fish would bring enough to pay not only the expenses of the birth, but of the baptism, as well! I was truly happy now. Following stormy times, the sun came out and shined on us once again. I was happy besides that following such evil times, and so many dangerous adventures, I was coming out of the maze. I was happyY and my dreams of making a living at fishing were finally coming true. My brother and I earned considerable money at our fishing. At that time, just after the war, food was still scarce. Often families ate by making special arrangements with farmers, or by buying food on the black market. The country had been devastated by the Germans, and all sorts of goods were needed. Our fish were especially in demand, and Pietro and I made a great fishing team, he patient and mellow, and me all fired up. We were competent and productive. As time passed though, the population began to mutter over certain events that were then taking place daily. Some of our Italian speaking veterans took over the reins of government in Rovigno, though still under Yugoslav rule, who then kicked out by the Yugoslav government. Economically, people were still suffering. As the situation worsened, people became very discontented. It reached the point where townsfolk began to demand Italian citizenship, and began to abandon their lands and homes for Italy, as everything was now under the jurisdiction of Yugoslavia. This was done with a heavy heart, as they left their lands and all they possessed, all which had been gotten through their sweat and sacrifices. A mass exodus followed. Some ninety percent of the Italian-speaking population of the Istrian peninsula left for new lives in Italy, so as not to live under a dictatorship. This was the result of those years of danger and distress, hunger and death. Some 280 young Rovignese lost their live fighting for their homeland in that catastrophic war. I, myself, had been involved in three separate armies, whether through my own desires or not, and still I lost everything. Nonetheless, the only thing to do by people of good character was to face with courage these adversities and abandon the homes of centuries, to our destiny, facing and beginning another life, in full knowledge of what might lie in store for us. One word only was our new name. Refugees!

This is the end of the draft copy of part one of a four-part book. This draft is reprinted by special permission from Kristen Jensen (email: LTCoast@aol.com). © All rights reserved.

Sources:

  • Draft text - Kristen Jensen
  • Part of short biography of Kristen Jensen - http://www.miralomapark.org/Past%20Newsletters/Oct-2002-newsletter.htm

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Created: Friday, October 13, 2000. Last updated: Sunday January 27, 2013
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