After one month, the order to board for Sicily came.
On July 9th and 10th, 1943 the Allied Anglo-American Army started one of the most important military operations of the war in order to invade the island. Pietro remembers how many times the allied ships tried to land. The Italian-German army ferociously fought to thwart and repel the allies. After thirty-six days of continuous siege the Americans landed in Sicily. It was the first Italian soil that fell into the hands of the Allied Forces. When he found himself on Italian soil, Pietro felt inexpressible emotions. He was in Ital,y but he didn’t feel at home. His thoughts went to Francesca, his Francesca with whom he had had no contact since 1940. Pietro had been informed that Settefrati had been occupied by the Germans and that the majority of the people in the village had fled into the mountains looking for shelter. Most probably Francesca had done the same. He hoped that she was alive, that she had not forgotten about him and that she was still waiting for him.
In Sicily, Pietro was assigned to drive a supply truck. One day, while he was on line for the daily ration he heard someone calling to him using the Settefrati dialect. He jumped at the sound because he thought he recognized that voice. He turned suddenly and he found himself face to face with a lacerated, pallid man, whose clothes were all torn apart and whose shoes were tattered and tied to his feet with pieces of rope. Pietro recognized his old childhood friend, Domenico, wearing a ripped Italian uniform.
Pietro, visibly moved by the memory of that unexpected meeting, pauses and stops talking while his eyes wander to that distant day and become veiled with sadness. Lucia fills up his cup with coffee while Gianni puts in a generous helping of Sambuca. Pietro drinks heartily. The scene went on without anyone saying a word. Gianni and Lucia, in that moment, knew exactly what to do for their friend. Pietro recovers and continues: “It amazed me and it moved me, seeing my old friend in such bad shape.” He went towards him and they hugged passionately. The friend, lacerated and pallid, and he in a clean, ironed, impeccable uniform and shiny new shoes.
His first instinct was to help his beloved friend, but he knew that helping and comforting “the enemy” was prohibited. But the strong friendship and the bond that united them since their childhood was stronger than any rule or war prohibition. Secretly, Pietro brought his old friend to a villa previously occupied by an Italian officer that had been abandoned when the allies had landed. In the villa, they found new clothes, shoes and other garments. Domenico dressed up like a “prince.” But Pietro did more for his childhood friend, he dressed him up with an American uniform and he recommended him to his superior officers, asking them to help him. Domenico was hired to work for the American officers. They would even pay him. In only one day, Domenico had gone from a bedraggled fugitive Italian soldier to working for the Allies.
In the meantime, many war refugees were arriving in Sicily, and among them there were many people from Settefrati. They arrived tired, hungry and confused, after having wandered all over Italy for months. Pietro would help them, comfort them and try to do his best for the people from his town, and when he could, he would find them a job with the allies.
Delia Socci Skidmore