From Italy With Love

This post has been inspired by pscapp and his blog about “Reading, Writing, Running, and Rhythm”.  He frequents a retirement community where he plays guitar and sings the old tunes for the residents. In this post, he talks about one story that a resident told him about his army time in the 1940s.

It reminded me of a story about my own father.

My dad was an Italian immigrant and he joined the Canadian Army in 1942 as a Signalman. Perhaps it was inevitable that he would find himself back in Italy for the invasion of Sicily in 1943 where he was often called upon to act as an interpreter.

Dad - passport

Passport photo of my father and my grandmother – 1920.

My father rarely talked about his time in the army and after he passed away in 1999, my brother-in-law shared a story which I had never heard before – one that my dad had told him some years earlier.

As the Allied troops were pushing their way north from Sicily towards the French border, my father recognized one day that they were within 3 or 4 miles of his home village.  He asked permission to leave the unit briefly to visit his family still living there.

Dad 1942

My father and my grandparents – 1942.

My father was given permission and told to take another soldier with him since the area wasn’t yet secure.  They were to return by 8 pm.

So it was mid-afternoon when they set off.  He quickly found his aunts, uncles, and cousins who – according to my dad – had welcomed him as the ‘great liberator’.  Celebrations began and lasted well past the 8 pm curfew.  Before they knew it, it was 8 am the following morning and they were in big trouble.

They eventually caught up with their unit, which had continued to move northward.  His Commanding Officer was not very happy with them, but considering he had thought they had been either shot or captured, he considered it all good.  They had managed to get off without punishment for their tardiness … and hungover condition.

I was thrilled when I had heard this story because I had always believed my father had never returned to his home town.  That just seemed very sad to me.

As it turned out however, there was another side to this story which I was going to hear years later.

The year was 2013 when Gilles and I headed to Rome to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Since we were “so close” to my father’s home town, I wanted to make the 5 hour drive to visit my father’s birthplace in the province of Calabria.

Pietrafitta

What I hadn’t expected was to actually meet family while we were there …. which is a story all of its own.  This was family I had never met and quite frankly, I didn’t know even existed.  During the brief time we had together, I mentioned the story about my father having returned to Pietrafitta in the 1940s.  I received a very odd expression in response.

It turns out they had heard a similar story from their grandmother about a Canadian relative who had unexpectedly returned during the war.  They heard the knock at the door and saw the uniformed soldiers standing outside.  They had not recognized my father and were terrified.  They refused to open the door.

It took considerable persuasion to convince them of my father’s identity … at which point the celebrations did eventually begin.

What I loved about this story was that many decades later, 4 strangers would meet unexpectedly – connected by two sisters who were long dead.  Their distant common history would suddenly become strong connective tissue because of a story about a Canadian soldier who had returned to his home town to visit in 1943.

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in Family, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to From Italy With Love

  1. A wonderful story for you to cherish Joanne.

    Like

  2. bkpyett says:

    Joanne, loved hearing of your Italian connections and then meeting up with some of your relations. Lovely story.😀

    Like

  3. ChristineR says:

    A wonderful story Joanne, and it’s good to hear of finding relatives. This reminds me of finding my second cousin who was born and bred in my maternal grandfather’s home town – Bolton, Lancashire. She was thrilled to find our family connection via the internet, as she had grown to stories from her mother who told them of her brother coming to visit in his Australian uniform during the first world war. I thought it wonderful that he got to see his family again. He deserted the Royal Navy in 1908, jumping ship in New Zealand, so he hadn’t seen them for some time.
    🙂

    Like

  4. treerabold says:

    Such a great story Joanne! How wonderful to find people you knew nothing of and learn there is DNA as well as a story that binds you!!

    Like

  5. mickscogs says:

    Nice story Joanne. Jo and I hope to visit Italy, maybe next year. I’ve never been further than SE Asia so I am looking forward to it.

    Like

  6. terryb says:

    Wonderful story! My friend found long lost family in Cape Verde several years ago after telling her family name to the woman sitting next to her on the plane. The woman told my friend she had many relatives in Cape Verde and when the plane landed, she introduced my friend to one of them in the airport. When they got to talking, sure enough, they shared the same family history. My friend’s time in Cape Verde to “see where Grandpa came from” turned into one visit after another with yet another family member! Now they are all in touch regularly! 🙂

    Like

  7. LB says:

    Great story! My friend had a similar experience with unknown relatives in Ireland.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Like

  8. Every story, every person, every life–six degrees of separation. Although these days, with the ways we connect, we are likely much closer than that. Still, a beautiful story of how lifelines braid together. It’s such a hidden blessing to discover how people who have left our lives still have the capacity to touch them long after they’ve gone.
    Cheers, Joanne. Definitely worthy of sharing.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Funny – I had been thinking about the 6 degrees of separation when I was writing this post.
      How very true that our lives continue to be touched by those who are gone in ways we could never imagine.
      Thank you for the lovely comment.

      Like

  9. Oh, this is just the most marvelous story. You know, Joanne, when we lived in Massachusetts we were surrounded by Italians and I absolutely grew to love their warm, ebullient family-loving culture. At Jen’s graduation party, we looked out over the crowd and said “Do you notice everybody here has a name ending in a vowel?” That immensely strong connection with Italy and family is such a common trait in Italians and something I just love. I’m delighted your Dad made it to his village, survived the Italian campaign, and lived to have his sweet little girl who went on to close the circle. Great post.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Barbara, you have such a wonderful way of saying things 🙂 Thank you so much.

      Ironically, my dad came from a small family – only one brother. Everyone else was back in Italy.
      My mother’s family was all back in Holland.
      As a result, I grew up with virtually no extended family since my grandparents died when I was still quite young. I haven’t had the normal ‘Italian’ family upbringing … and rather envy those who did. That’s one of the reasons why this trip to Calabria was so surreal 🙂

      I love that line about everyone having a name ending in a vowel! 🙂 I’ve always loved names that end in a vowel and wished that I had been given one. I’m likely not the last person who dislikes their given name 😉

      Like

      • Cardillo, Turini, Faiola, Bussolari. I loved them all. One of my Italian friends let her daughter bring a friend with them on vacation to the beach. The whole Italian clan was there including brother, Anthony. Pronounced Ant-knee. Anyway this poor little girl asked to go home after two days because she was upset over all the “fighting.” Fighting? What fighting? We’re just talking! OMG, Joanne, we laughed for days and days over this story. XXX

        Like

        • joannesisco says:

          LOL – they do get loud!! Having lived in a Greek neighbourhood at one point, I can safely say they are the same.
          I remember my husband coming home one day saying that he thought our neighbour didn’t like him because she was always yelling at him … and the more excited she got, the louder.
          I still laugh when I think about it. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Connecting the family dots is always so amazing but to have done so across the world and in such a serendipitous manner…. Awesome!

    Like

  11. jannatwrites says:

    That is such an awesome story, made even better by you also being able to visit the village and have them ‘back up’ the story your dad had told. It’s like it came full circle.

    Like

  12. Really enjoyed reading this and the great family photos… and went back to read the amazing story from 2013 when you ‘found’ family in your Dad’s home town. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks. It was one of those amazing little experiences and since I’ve been playing around with old photos the past few weeks, the old stories have been bubbling around in my head.
      I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Like

  13. Joe says:

    Wonderful photos and story Joanne 🙂

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Joe. Our past always seems to hold a certain fascination for us.
      I didn’t know my grandmother’s passport still existed until after my mom passed away. It’s the one and only passport she ever had. This photo is one of my favourites 🙂

      Like

  14. Heyjude says:

    What a lovely story Jo. My father was also in Italy during the second world war and Egypt and Greece. I think that his experiences of these countries influenced my travel bug. But like many of his generation, the real story of the war remained hidden.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I hope you got a lot more stories from your dad about his war years than I did from mine 🙂 They sure were a stoic bunch, weren’t they?
      I’m glad you enjoyed this story. It still feels a little surreal for me!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Tina says:

    I never get tired of hearing great family stories and this is one of my favourites. Thanks for sharing it, Joanne.
    It makes me wish I had asked more questions and prodded our parents for more stories while they were alive to tell them.

    Like

  16. Coolest. Story. Ever.

    Like

  17. Sammy D. says:

    Oral history and loving connections to your past. These are the best snippets of families and I’m happy you share these, Joanne 💖

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Sammy. A few years ago I started to write down these stories, including my stories of growing up with my parents. I wanted this history to be preserved for my children, nieces, nephews, and their families.
      As I get older, I become more sensitive to how much family history is lost with each generation as it passes.
      I guess however with all the social media sharing, there is an abundance of stuff being preserved … some of it I’m sure people already wish wasn’t there!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. NancyTex says:

    Love hearing stories like these, Joanne!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Nancy.
      You and I have talked about this … getting our parents to tell their stories. I hope you have much more success then I did.

      Getting to know a bit about our parents and grandparents as young people somehow manages to give our lives a bit more substance 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. What a great story Joanne. I have fond memories of your father and his corner store. He was always cheerful and so kindhearted.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Patty – that’s so kind of you to say.

      I’m sure that you are the same and have days when you wish your parents were still around to answer all the questions that bounce around in your head.

      You’ve also had the amazing experience of discovering and meeting family. How thrilled would your parents have been to hear those stories!!

      Like

  20. What a great story and I love how you came to it all in pieces like that. Lots of fun and what a way to stay connected to your father even after he’s gone. Amazing!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Connecting dots is always so fascinating. To have it happen so many years later is a thrill.

      I have so many questions I would love to ask my parents now. Unfortunately when we are younger, we don’t think to ask many of these questions while our parents are still around.

      Like

  21. Sue Slaght says:

    What a fabulous story Joanne, both about your Dad but then you returning to the town. It gives me goose bumps actually thinking about it. How wonderful lo connect with them.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Although I had imagined this amazing scene where I would discover family in this small village, I couldn’t have predicted the sequence of events that actually happened.
      Honestly, it gives me goose bumps too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. SUCH a strong family resemblance, Joanne! Wonderful story. As others have said, thrilling.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Yes – I’ve heard that I bear a striking resemblance to my grandmother. At least there’s no denying my paternal lineage 😉

      Glad you enjoyed my story. I love these old stories and I really wish my parents had shared more.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. pscapp says:

    It seems that we are connected by stories sometimes more than anything else.

    Like

  24. bikerchick57 says:

    I love your story, thanks for sharing. It’s a small world, isn’t it? The fact that you found relatives over 70 years later who had heard the same story about your father. Amazing.

    Like

  25. That’s a fabulous story. It’s a very ‘twist of fate’ kind of thing, like it’s destiny xx

    Like

  26. Mrs. P says:

    Wow…I love everything about this story and you have the picture of your dad with his parents,,,priceless!

    Like

  27. This tugs at my heartstrings. Amazing what finding and joining up with relatives you don’t know or didn’t know you had does so much for the heart. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Like

  28. Lynn says:

    What a wonderful story to share Joanne. So many stories we will never know about we lose our loved ones. This is one definitely worth hearing & holding on to!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Lynn. I really wish my parents had been willing to tell more stories. It’s sad that so much family history dies when each generation passes away.

      After I lost my mom, I started to write their stories … what little I knew … so that they wouldn’t be lost when I’m gone too.

      Like

  29. Thanks for telling me this lovely story x brought a happy tear to my eye x family – love it x

    Like

  30. A story that made me smile and gave me chills all at the same time. I love the vintage pics!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I’ve been buried lately in old photos as I continue to sort, scan, and organize them. As a result, these old stories have been bubbling around in my head.
      I’m so thrilled that you enjoyed my story and photos 🙂

      Like

      • Oh yes, love old photos. I have a few from my grandparents time. I could look at them all day.

        Like

        • joannesisco says:

          Unfortunately in my case, so many of the photos are of people I’ve never met or know only from stories since we didn’t grow up around extended family.
          To a large extent, I feel like my family history is like a dark hole.

          Like

          • That’s kind of funny and I guess sad too. It would be kind of fun to make up a story about them. I have a photo of my grandmother and grandfather from their honeymoon which has become kind of famous in my family and I was just looking at it the other day and realized that there was a guy in a tree in the background of the photo and now it’s like all I can see when I look at it and I’m kind of fascinated by that guy, like, is he still alive? what’s he doing now? I know this isn’t exactly what you are talking about but it reminds me of it a bit.

            Like

  31. bulldog says:

    What a brilliant memory and then to repeat it in later years … how wonderful

    Like

  32. Helen C says:

    What a heartwarming story! It reminds me of the time I went back to my dad’s hometown. We’re blessed that we have had this kind of experience! Thanks for sharing. Helen

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s