Diary of Writing Italy’s Sorrow

Bologna, March 24 2003
Our last day. We were to meet three former Partisans, Gastone Sgargi, Hector Benassi and Carlo Venturi, in Bologna – actually, at Bologna FC to be precise, where Gastone has an office. All of they had been born and brought up in Bologna and for them running away to become Partisans had been a simple but terrible choice. Either they stayed and fought for the Fascists, or refused and faced execution as ‘deserters’. The only alternative was to flee to the hills and join the Stella Rossa. When they did so, they had to get rid of all means of identification and have no contact whatsoever with their families – to do so would have been far too risky. Even British troops away from home for years at a time had letters. Gastone told us he did not hear a word about his family until August 1945. All were lively and generous to a fault. Hector had to leave after an hour or so, but Carlo and Gastone insisted on giving us a pair of boxing gloves, a bottle of limoncello and then took us out to lunch. It was a fantastic day and as I left Roddy at the airport afterwards I felt more than happy with what we’d learnt in the previous few days. I am definitely going to tackle this new book from all sides and include the fate of the poor old Italians, so often overlooked by British and American historians.

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