World War II, The Atinati rescued in Assisi

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Today we take advantage of this date, 10 June (in 1940 Italy declares war), to tell a story (from what we know few know) of a group of people from Atina rescued at the end of the Second World War in Assisi.

Our territory was hit hard, Atina and the other villages of the Comino Valley were on the Gustav Line and were the sad theater of bitter battles between the Nazis and the Allies.

Towards the end of January 1944, the Germans ordered the general evacuation of some municipalities that were in correspondence with the war line, including Atina, Villa Latina, Belmonte Castello and Picinisco: it was January 23rd.

People who were still in the village were forced to leave it. The families were divided, loaded onto trucks and taken to reception centers or taken to the north, the “luckiest” ones scattered on the surrounding mountains.

A group of Atinati displaced to Settefrati: someone hosted by locals, others refugees in the surrounding caves or in makeshift camps in the woods.

On 16 March 1944 the order to evacuate Settefrati arrived and the group (40/50 pp according to our sources) of Atinati moved to Alvito.

The evacuation order of the town of Settefrati in March 1944

They remained in Alvito for a few weeks, until, after a roundup, they were captured by the Nazis and loaded onto trucks for Rome.

They were deported to the Breda weapons factory in Rome, which at the time, at the behest of Mussolini, had been transformed into a camp for displaced people and an internment camp.

Those were difficult times, people used to live by on their wits. G. Caira, a girl at the time, told us that one of his brothers used to do stuff for German soldiers who controlled the camp in order to try to have more bread to eat.

On May 28 1944 the 21st New Zealand Battalion liberated Atina.

Atina, 1 June 1944

J. W. Thomas (Southbridge) makes friends with an Italian civilian with the aid of free cigarettes in the town of Atina, Italy, during World War II. Photograph taken by George Frederick Kaye.

After the long, exhausting series of battles on the Gustav line and on the front of Anzio, the allied armies advanced towards the North: Rome was liberated by the American V Army on June 4, 1944.

A few days earlier, the Nazis, breathing down their neck, loaded the last prisoners (including our fellow villagers) of the Breda Factory onto the train cars departing from Tiburtina station to Germany.

In Umbria, on the morning of 7 June 1944, the Allies bombed the railway especially Assisi train station… in those moments, the train with people of Atina was there, near the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The German soldiers, taken aback, gave it upright abandoning the train and all the military equipment.

Only a few hours later, when the situation calmed down, the locals forced the cars and rescued the people who were locked up there.

Our fellow citizens stayed in Assisi for few months, hosted by Franciscan friars, nuns or locals.

They came back to Atina after the summer of 1944.

We know for sure that on this train were:

Anna Del Prete
Maria Grazia Pagano
Giuseppina Caira
Filippo Caira
Ennio Caira
Bruno Caira
Marcello Caira
Franco Caira
Rosina Orlandi
Vittorio Caira

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