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Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Rewind: Given Away a Sicilian Upbringing

Dear Readers, Writers, and Precious Patrons,

Today on Friday Rewind, we bring you Given Away A Sicilian Upbringing by Marianna Randazzo, a book feature that was included in issue 5 of All Authors Magazine.


In Sicily, 1935 a four-year child walks away from her loving family, her mother, her sister and an infant brother, with a great-aunt for a vacation. She spends the next eight years of her life absent from their lives. It was not an abduction nor was it an adoption. Tina lives in a one-room house in one of the poorest regions of Sicily. She sleeps between a loving aunt and a deranged uncle. She shares her breakfast with goats and chickens while living in the shadow of fascism. The child grows up while WW II ravages the town. Her school is taken over by German soldiers and the things like bread and eggs that were once plentiful, no longer exist. Less than 25 kilometers away her family leads a very different life. 

After eight years, she returns home to find her childhood interrupted again. This time sickness, warfare and destruction are her enemies. In wartime Europe, childhood does not exist. The child witnesses and experiences many disturbing things from her uncouth, unsanitary living conditions to the failed paratroopers dangling from trees during the allied invasion.
Tina is a survivor. She is able to forgive those who took so much away from her. Her spirit trumps over adversity during the war times within and around her. As she grows older, she struggles to keep the harsh realities of World War II and abandonment at a distance through her sense of humor, imagination and determination.
By the age of 15, her fate is sealed, again, without her permission. To gain passage to America she must accept the role as a war bride. A tyrannical, overbearing, bootlegging aunt in America arranges the match. Tina must live under her roof and her rules until her citizenship is secure.
Tina has earned the right to complain, yet at no point does she play the victim. At times, her nonjudgmental stance is disquieting. Despite circumstances that could be categorized as abusive and undeniably negligent. Tina respects her parent's decisions and sacrifices herself for the greater good—even when it is not apparent to her.
Despite a raging war, Tina thinks about her family and her friends more than about the horrors of the battle fought across the continents, even when she is a victim of the German soldiers’ mockery and the American soldier’s unusual ways. She is remarkably clever and insightful. The plot and setting are true to life in the period of the past. It will bring the history of war torn Europe to life, providing us a lens upon our collective past that define our unique lives.
Tina triumphs against all odds with an unconditional love for a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fortitude to carve out a successful life on her own terms. Given Away,A Sicilian Upbringing, demonstrates that even in the midst of the most horrendous conditions of war, without trivializing the historical tragedy, perseverance prevails as Tina declares what is rightfully hers.


Mussolini’s Square

It was he, Mussolini  “Il Duce” who made education mandatory and fed the poorest children.  After school, children would line up for a slice of bread with marmalade and go home with food in their belly.

One day Tina decided to get on the line for the special indulgence. When it was her turn, she was pushed away.

“You have food in your house, don’t be greedy,” she was told.

She did not fit in; she could not even be poor enough.

Tina cried, trying not to be mean in her heart but it was so difficult. She realized it was easy to be angry when you had nothing and when you did have something you did not want to share it.

She thought of her father who she knew was a caring man who shared their rationed food and  gave sugar to the old lady who had eight children to feed. The old lady dissolved the sweet chunks in water and dipped bread into the liquid for her grandbabies. Tina’s mouth watered thinking of that delicious luxury.

On Saturdays, the children were encouraged to wear their school uniforms and march Benito Mussolini Square. Her cousin was welcomed because her father was a prisoner of war in Africa. Tina wanted to be a part of the festivities.

When she arrived, it was too late to join the parade and she was turned away. Her cousin laughed at her for being rejected.

“You can’t march with us,” she taunted Tina. She did not have kindness in her heart the way a cousin should have had.

As the pomp and pageantry of the parade began, the sounds of the instruments were swiftly drowned by the hum of low planes overhead. Instantaneously bombs began dropping. Tina fled into a nearby cellar.

She positioned herself between the wooden wine barrels and stood still for what seemed like hours, equally frightened of the field mice that ran past her feet and the long, brown strips of sticky papers laden with flies and mosquitoes.

Through the town, the air raid bells sounded along with the announcements of the bombing of the square.

Tina’s Zia Vittoria ran to the square knowing that Tina was headed there in the morning.

“Tinuzza, Tinuzza, Little Tina,” the woman howled hysterically through the streets, pushing mothers and children out of her way.

“Tinnuza”, she cried as she knocked down an elderly whiskered woman that stood with a cart lined with floating cheeses and plumped up sausages. The wares of the woman’s livelihood were hastily scattered everywhere by the frantic villagers escaping from the bombings.

With all her force, she grabbed a child she believed was her niece. Then, let her go to the ground when it was not her.

Hiding in the cellar all alone, Tina heard the loud blasts that signaled a direct hit on the street above followed by another and another. She prayed to God and crossed herself with the tiny tin crucifix on a leather strap that hung around her neck.

She prayed for protection and she prayed for someone to find her when it was over.

She worried she would die and be left among the barrels and the vermin.

Dust and plaster fell all around her filling the air with a powdery cloud. She choked from the smell of sulphur and the burning timbers. Dizzy and exhausted she fell into a dreamlike state.

She woke to the sounds of church bells ringing forcefully. It was safe to exit. Walking  through the clouds of ashes she heard the sounds of horror.

Ambulances lifted little, uniformed  bodies into their wagons. She searched to see if her father had arrived.

Instead, she saw on an iron bench, a small woman curled in a fetal position, sobbing quietly. Even with her black shawl completely covered in ash, Tina recognized the shoes of her Zia Vittoria, they were the only pair she owned and she had been wearing them for the ten years that Tina knew her.

She crawled under her aunt’s arm standing in full view of the troubled woman. Collapsing to the ground, Vittoria held the child and sobbed into her lap.

That day, the children of the town of Vittoria were some of the youngest casualties of war.

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