Roberto Rossi’s parents were born in Barga and he was born in Glasgow.
He has just written a novel based on real events of a Barga descendant who was awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross in World War 2, in fact the youngest recipient of the VC in World War 2.
During World War 2 there were 181 recipients of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery and gallantry in the face of the enemy. 85 were awarded posthumously.
The youngest recipient was a certain Dennis Donnini, born in the North East of England of Garfagnana ancestry. He was only 19 years of age.
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for gallantry “in the presence of the enemy” to members of the British Armed Forces. It may be awarded posthumously. It was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours.
It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command although no civilian has received the award since 1879.
Since the first awards were presented by Queen Victoria in 1857, two-thirds of all awards have been personally presented by the British monarch. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.
Early last year I discovered, by chance, the family story of a distant relative who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honour for bravery and gallantry in the UK. The family were from Castelnuovo in Garfagnana, some of the family later living in Sommocolonia, near Barga. How was it that I had never heard of Dennis Donnini, a young 19 year old, only 5 ft tall, who possessed the bravery and guts to sacrifice his life facing the Nazi enemy head on? I had visited Barga in Tuscany many times, yet Dennis’ family story was not known. Even more telling was the fact that the family lived little more than 30 minutes’ drive from my home in England.
Other members of Dennis’ extended family played their part too in the Second World War, his father was interned, a brother survived Dunkirk, cousins were gunned down by the Gestapo and another spent the war in a prisoner of war camp in Poland.
This family story touched my soul and I decided to bring it to life in a fictionalised novel. Though based on real characters, the novel itself is of my imagination. Except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance in the novel to actual persons, living or dead, is purely co-incidental.
In parts, the novel is a reflection of my own family history of impoverished immigrants seeking a much improved standard of living in a new land. Similar story, in fact, to that of the Donnini family
Fascinating emigrant stories are not uncommon. Around the turn of the 20th century they left Barga and Garfagnana in their many thousands. The descendants of those pioneering emigrants are now spread the world over and their number are in the millions. The descendants have made their mark in all fields, from the Sciences to Business to Sports to Religion to Politics and in all aspects of the Arts. Today Barga and Garfagnana should be so proud of those emigrants – Roberto Rossi
Italian Blood British Heart – An Act of Self Sacrifice
Inspired by the true story of a forgotten hero, Italian Blood, British Heart is the epic tale of an immigrant family’s torment and resilience in overcoming the traumas that threaten its livelihood.
Fredo is repulsed and angry when his mother discloses a family secret.
Living conditions in a previously prosperous hilltop village in Tuscany have worsened since the unification of Italy.
Fredo follows the path of many compatriots before him and emigrates to Scotland. Harsh times await Fredo in his new home.
Earning a living amidst the poverty of a coal mining town is not easy.
He is determined to shun his Italian heritage and integrate himself fully into a new culture.
He manages to build a small business while raising a large family. But both world wars impact heavily.
During the Second World War each of his six children plays a vital role in defeating the Nazi machine, despite the personal anguish of his internment as an enemy alien.
Fredo’s crowning glory is the acceptance of the ultimate award for bravery from King George in Buckingham Palace.
The honour is laden with a heavy heart.
The paperback and kindle version of ITALIAN BLOOD BRITISH HEART is available on Amazon.