War in My Town by E. Graziani is the second Second Story Press book I read recently that gave me a completely different perspective on the Second World War.

I read a lot of books that focus on Holocaust survivors and their stories. I recently read When We Were Shadows by Janet Wees, which detailed an account of a Dutch family who survived thanks to the the bravery of the Dutch resistance and ordinary, but courageous people who took in their Jewish neighbours and strangers.

In Graziani’s story, based on the true story of her mom, Bruna, the youngest of seven children, we learn what the war was like for a small village and its people in northern Tuscany.

When war is declared, men are forced to fight for Italy’s fascist leader Mussolini and the Nazis the man aligned himself with. When the Italian people turn against their leader, war seems literally comes to the Eglio, located on the Gothic Line, which extended 300 kilometres and “cut across the Italian mainland from east to west.” Using the Italian Alps, the Nazis created strongholds and forced villagers, such as those who lived in Eglio, to build walls, machine gun nests and minefields.

The Nazis took over Bruna’s village, forcing the villagers out of their houses, stealing their food and forcing them to work – cooking for them, cleaning their clothes and building bunkers to resist the Allies.

The Allies, trying to end the Nazi’ reign, shelled the village, killing villagers and destroying their homes.

“Isolated from the rest of the world, the citizens of Eglio knew nothing of what was occurring around them. What they experienced was the bombing and gunfire by Allied strafing aircraft flying low. The villagers continued to be the moving targets of the automatic weapons mounted on the underside of these planes.”

At one point, Bruna talks about how she is equally angry at the Nazis, who terrorize and force them to work for them, and the Allies for the constant bombing of her village. And while she comes to understand the necessity of the campaign, for a child who lives in constant fear – and constant hunger as the war continues – you can see her point.

The book was a mix of story with information about the war complete with a map and photographs.

In her author’s note, Graziani talks about how her mom was in tears during interviews:

“She became tearful many times. I could sense that recalling these events still evoked anxiety in her after all these years. I don’t believe that one ever recovers from such traumatic events. One merely learns to live with the physical and emotional scars.”

Graziani also shares her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease inspired her to share this story.

“These stories of a long-ago war are a testimony to human resilience and the will to survive in the face of extraordinary times – the triumph of the human spirit over terrible adversity that most of us can only imagine. This story is a tribute to everyone in the village of Eglio, those who died and those who survived the Gothic Line occupation.”

A copy of this book was provided by Second Story Press for honest review.
The opinions are my own.