In December 1943, Gentian (Genny) Alpina de Luise was a terrorized, starving 9-year-old girl, living the life of a young Italian refugee, trapped in a bombed out village of Castel di Sangro with her mother and sister and housekeeper. They were caught 80 miles east of Rome in the crossfire of entrenched German soldiers on the so-called Winter Line and the advancing Allied Forces. The family had been surviving in an old barn and a makeshift hut in the Abruzzi mountains above the village after it was overrun by Germans in October 1943. The family lived on pine cone seeds and dandelion soup, chilled to the bone as the late fall winds ushered in the wintery storms. Gentian’s mother Vera de Luise, a British woman married to an Italian civil engineer who was stranded in Naples, made one of many decisive, bold decisions born of life under the constant, lethal threat of the Nazis: She led her children back to Castel di Sangro even though it was all but destroyed and under constant artillery and rifle fire from the German soldiers. The family saga took a turn for the better in March of 1944 when the father, Peppino de Luise, secured them safe transport out of the village in the back of a Polish Army truck that picked its way along an exit road laced with mines. How he pulled it off is a question for the ages.
Excerpts from an article in the Olympian:
"Olympia woman recalls terrors of war-torn Italy"
By John Dodge Staff writer December 3, 2014
TWO COUSINS VISIT ITALY
Bella Vita President: Monica Nucciarone
Bella Vita Trustee: Bill Nucciarone
Genny's home in Castel di Sangro, Italy, before it was destroyed in World War II. Their home overlooked this piazza. Their balcony was the fourth one from the right.
Photo Above taken October 1927 - my father, Tullio Nucciarone, is the ten year old boy sitting on the piano bench on the far right-hand side. His parents, my grandparents, immigrated from Italy with their parents. My grandmother immigrated at age nine in 1896. And, my grandfather immigrated at age nineteen in 1904. They became naturalized U.S. Citizens in 1912 before they were married that year. My grandfather, Alberto Nucciarone, was an architect in New Jersey. He designed the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and the entrance to the George Washington bridge, both on the New Jersey side. He was an officer in the Order of Sons of Italy in America Grand Lodge of New York at least in 1918 (see photo of certificate). The young man seated beside my grandmother is my Uncle Amletto. One of his sons, William, and I visited our ancestor's town in Italy in 2014. See our picture below during that trip of a lifetime.
Here is Bill playing Bocce with our other cousin, Ruth. Her mother, Violetta Nucciarone, is the little girl sitting on the floor holding a doll in the 1927 photo.
Sons of Italy Certificate - 1918
One of the last photographs before being separated from her father - 1942
Bella Vita Mistress of Ceremonies: Genny Powell
Pictured during her 2014 interview
for the Olympian newspaper
Genny on the left with her mother Vera and sister Dryas