Pietro was transferred to Florence and after a short time they allowed him a short two week vacation.
Pietro Gentile left immediately for Settefrati. He held Francesca in his arms again and told her that he wanted to get married right away, that he would never leave her again. The young girl started to organize everything for the imminent wedding. It was not possible to have the wedding that she had always dreamt of. But for her, it would be the most beautiful wedding of any girl in town. In the mean time Pietro went to inform the priest of his intentions. There was still war in Settefrati and it was absolutely prohibited for a soldier to get married while he was still in service. The priest told him that it was impossible and that they could not get married without the permission of the military officers.
But Pietro did not give up and explained the situation to the priest and told him that if the priest did not marry them, he would take Francesca with him without his blessing, and he was also ready to pay the tribute, the “fee” that every couple used to pay the priest when they got married: not one but two chickens. The abbot consulted the prelate and told him about the two chickens that had been promised. And since hunger and poverty do not know laws or war prohibitions and do not disappear even in front of an armed force, the two priests decided that it would have been a serious misdeed not to marry the couple in front of the Altar, in front of God and in front of witnesses with the Holy Blessing. On February 1st 1945 ,Francesca and Pietro were married in the church that had been damaged by the war.
Pietro knew that he would remain in Florence for six months and decided to take Francesca with him. But it was absolutely prohibited for soldiers to transport civilians in military vehicles. Pietro had gone to Settefrati with his friend Tommy in a military truck. They came up with the idea of having Francesca wear a military uniform and travel in the back of the truck. And so they did, and left for Florence with Francesca as a soldier. The two friends would take turns driving. When they were halfway there, they ran across a brigade of American soldiers. Luckily the soldiers did not check the truck and they were able to get to Florence without any major incident. Francesca went to live at the house of some friends for the entire time that Pietro was stationed in Florence. In May of 1945, the war was over in Europe. Pietro was given ten days of rest and recovery. During this time, Pietro went back to Settefrati with Francesca.
He remained with her a few days and then was transferred to Austria. But now Francesca was pregnant.
In those few days that Pietro was in Settefrati, Pietro was lucky enough to see his old friend Domenico again, having survived his experience in Sicily. Domenico had gone back to his family with a nice amount of money that he had made while he was working for the Americans in Sicily.
In January 1946, Francesca gave birth to a little boy and called him Ralph.In the meantime Pietro had returned to America with the American Army. When he finally arrived home in Stamford, he immediately started working on the papers to bring Francesca. Because he had become an American citizen when he joined the Army and he had served the Army with honor, the papers were processed right away and without problems. He wrote to Francesca telling her that soon they would be together forever.
Francesca was uncomfortable and did not know what to do in America and the unknown scared her. But she knew that Pietro was waiting for her and that he had done a great deal of planning for their future. Pietro reassured his young wife and told her not to fear anything because everything would be alright. In America, she would meet his parents that were waiting anxiously for her.
They had prepared a nice little house for her and the baby. Then he wrote to her to come without worries because in America she would find money in the streets.
Francesca and Ralph arrived in America on May 17th 1946.
Before they came, Pietro had opened a chicken shop. His entire family was working in the shop: his father, his mother and his brother.
Francesca was warmly welcomed by the entire family. After a year, the couple had two twin girls. Francesca could rely on the help of the relatives that were living in the same house to take care of the twins and when she could, she would go and help in the shop. Pietro and Francesca lived happily for many years.
Still today, Pietro lives in the same house that belonged to his parents, next to the chicken shop. Francesca is gone; she died years ago leaving a huge emptiness in the entire family. They had hoped to return together to Settefrati for a visit. To see the little old town again, the fields where they had worked, the olive tree groves, the mountains. But like all plans that are postponed for days, months and years, so their dream never came true. Pietro has never seen the town since that far off day in 1945.
DELIA SOCCI SKIDMORE