Presentation today of the Italian version of Bernard Moscardini’s book La Vacanza.
The book was first published in English in December 2009 – article here but has now been translated by Sara Moscardini and published by the Cento Lumi group here in Barga
This is the true story of a young boy’s holiday. In May 1940 nine-year-old Bernard Moscardini and his mother set off from Bedlington, Northumberland for a summer holiday in the tiny mountain village of Sommocolonia in Northern Tuscany.
Soon after their arrival Benito Mussolini declares war on Britain and France, and Bernard’s mother frantically attempts to arrange passage back to their home in England but, by now, all the frontiers are closed.
Thus begins the absorbing story of a child’s life in wartime Italy and his daunting experiences when Sommocolonia becomes the front line during the German retreat from Italy in 1944.
Through the eyes of a child, this is a tale of peaceful peasant life abruptly shattered by the rigours of war. It is also the story of a brave mother’s determination to return, against all odds, safely back home to England with her two children.
We were still struggling to find enough food. The next day we heard that one of the mules taking supplies up to the village had slipped and broken a leg. Consequently it had to be put down.
The best part of this accident was that the soldiers had decided that it would be a shame to waste this meat and they proceeded to distribute it to the civilians.
Mother made sure that we would get some of this unexpected bounty. She managed to get a few mule steaks. The meat was quite tough but I nevertheless declared it to be quite tasty.
In consequence of this I can truthfully say ” that one should always savour a gift mule in the mouth”
Bernards’ story finally puts some meat on the bare bones of just what happened in Sommocolonia during that time when the famous Linea Gotica – Gothic Line was halted right through the village for several months.
A must read for anybody interested in more background information about Lt. John Fox and the Buffalo soldiers in Italy
Just on a personal note, I did have a copy of Bernard’s book with me while I was sitting outside Aristo’s bar in Barga Vecchia. Some of the people sitting with me at the table were very interested in just where the book came from… not least by Aristodemo Casciani himself, who pointed out that the teacher mentioned in the book a number of times, Signora Ersilia Casciani was in fact his aunt. Somebody else also remembered being taught by Signora Casciani. Within minutes the stories and reminiscences were flowing backwards and forwards across the table.
Sommocolonia è stata teatro della battaglia del 26 dicembre 1944 quando i soldati della 92^ Divisione Buffalo, e partigiani, affrontarono l’invasione nazista. Alla fine della battaglia morirono oltre 135 persone.
Nella battaglia di Sommocolonia, che fu luogo di paura e sacrificio, morirono 7 civili, 7 partigiani e 60 soldati americani, soldati tedeschi oltre ai molti dispersi, fra questi morti il Tenente John Fox, sacrificato sotto il fuoco amico e decorato postumo da Bill Clinton con la Medal Of Honor (la più lata onorificenza concessa dagli Stati Uniti). Solo allora infatti l’America si è accorta del contributo dei soldati afroamericani alla liberà dei popoli.
Il tenente Fox, per il suo sacrificio, è da sempre eroe per Barga. Asserragliato nelle torre della Rocca quando richiede il fuoco di artiglieria dando la sua posizione che quindi venne colpita dalle proprie artiglierie. Ritroveranno il corpo del Tenente sotto le macerie.
Una battaglia che ha distrutto quasi tutta Sommocolonia: abitazioni, l’acquedotto, le linee elettriche, l’antica Rocca e la chiesa di San Frediano. Addirittura vaste aree coltivate e boschive sono rimaste impraticabili per mine e ordigni fino al 1950. L’ultima bomba d’aereo inesplosa è stata rinvenuta nel 1985 nella Rocca.
La Vacanza – Bernard Moscardini can you bought online at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vacanza-Bernard-Moscardini/dp/1907294279