An Eyewitness Account

The Monte Sole area


The Story of Salvina Astrali

When we heard the cannon shots, we decided to leave Villa d’Ignano and to go to Caprara, since my mother thought we would be safe there. We tied the cows at the cart and then left with four other families. We arrived in Caprara the night before the “mop-up” operation.

I survived because I told my mother that night: “We left all the cows back home. I am going to bring them here.” So my friends and I went back home. Along the way we met my father, who said: “Kids, go back because they are ‘mopping up’ Caprara as well. Your mum told me to leave. She said that they leave women and children. They take the men and send them to Germany.”

We went back passing through Tura, where some partisans were hiding, and Ettore (a partisan from the Stella Rossa brigade) asked where we were going. We told him what was happening and he told us to stay over. The next day my two sisters arrived and we couldn’t recognize them: they were flesh and blood. One had her eyes burnt out and couldn’t see anything, and the other had been hit by a cannonball in her back, leaving a fist-sized hole. It was very difficult for them to get to Tura: the one who could not see carried the one who could not walk on her shoulders, and was guided by the sister who could see. Many people gathered around my sisters, but when they heard how nobody survived in Caprara everyone became scared and fled, except for a doctor who gave my sister an injection.

My sisters said that they survived because a cupboard had fallen on them, and they had hidden under it. They could hear everyone screaming. There were many children present, which explains why only so few survived. A machine-gun propped up on a windowsill shot at them, and those who were still alive ran away. They overheard some people outside who spoke Italian. Those who fired were not all Germans; there were Italians, too.

In Caprara I lost my mother, three sisters, seven brothers-in-law and my mother-in-law, th eLubini family. My husband only survived because he was in Germany. His father never agreed to be interviewed, but contained all his grief. One of his eight children was only 20 days old and all that was left behind were the feathers from his pillow; another son was found straddled over a window ledge, as a pig ate his head. I had to take care of my sisters and my father, who were all wounded, so I didn’t go back to Caprara. I was 14 years old, and we knew that everyone was dead.