World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                         Stella Drezet

My childhood in war time Sicily

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Stella Drezet
Location of story: Puntalazzo - Sicily
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Doreen Partridge of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Stella Drezet.
Stella Drezet

My childhood in war time Sicily

During World War II, I lived with my parents and siblings in a small seaside village called Puntalazzo which is in Catania, Sicily. The Germans not only occupied the village, but also the large castle, which overlooked the village and the sea. The Germans installed a large gun on top of the castle so that they could fire onto enemy ships in the Ionic sea.
I think I was too young to be afraid very much; I remember one day, when I was eating grapes in the vineyard and there was a nearby explosion and shrapnel landed very close to me. My mother came out of the house and shouted at me to run inside for safety.
The Germans were shelling ships and I remember an American plane flying high over us taking aerial photographs so that they would know where to bomb the German gun. Unfortunately, they came but they bombed the wrong village. It was a village called Nunziata.

The Germans were rude and they raided the houses taking anything that they wanted, so the villagers got together and plotted to kill them. My father said that if they did kill any of the Germans, then other Germans would come and kill all of us. I think that he saved everyone in the village by being so wise.

Food was very scarce at this time and wheat flour was very difficult to obtain. My mother baked her own bread but had to use flour made from broad beans. It was horrible! To get food, my mother and father used to take the donkey and walked around the base of the mountain, mount Etna, to the other side; it was very dangerous because they had to cross German lines. They were risking their lives to get food. One Christmas, we had just one loaf of good bread; the rest was made of broad bean flour. My sister suggested that we kept the good loaf of bread to welcome in the New Year; a superstition: “Good bread in the New Year; Good Bread all Year.” I can remember that we cut it into four pieces so there was not much each.
We made coffee from roasted acorns, it was bitter and horrible. I also, remember Carruba Beans, which were like runner beans but brown in colour. One boy at our school was from a rich family who owned the castle; they had been evicted from the castle and were living in an empty holiday home in the village. He came to school one day with a brown stain around his mouth; he had been eating Carruba beans.

In our little hamlet, we had three English soldiers hiding from the Germans. There was also, an Italian captain and two soldiers hiding. They all stayed together in one of the empty holiday homes owned by the rich people from the city or Italy. We fed them and no one told the Germans that they were there. Once the Germans came to search the place and the captain in disguise, told them that his wife was in the other room, so the Germans did not search it.

I remember the parachutists coming down, although they were too far away for me to see them when they had landed. They were coming to relieve Sicily. We found this frightening; we did not know what the soldiers would be like.

When the British – a Scottish regiment- came to our village, it was the 15th August 1944. This is the feast day of our Patron Saint “Maria Assunta In Cielo” and I was a little girl looking in awe at these people. The soldiers had rosaries dangling from their wrists and they respected our day. I stood on a bollard to see more, but I slipped and fell off and hurt my knee. It was bleeding and one of the soldiers took off his belt, spat on it and cleaned the blood from my knee. The soldiers used to give Galleta biscuits to the children.
At the end of the war, the soldiers, who had been hiding in the holiday villa, set off back to England. A lot of people who had lived near them were sad to see them go.