It’s a girl! {Tuesdays with Tina, part 5}

This entry is part 5 of 22 in the series Tuesdays With Tina


If you are new to this series, catch up first and then come back and read.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4Tuesdays with Tina

For today’s story, I interviewed my aunt, my mother’s older sister. She had to climb three flights of stairs to get to her daughter, Angela’s apartment in order to Skype with me! There’s no elevator. She’s 83. I’m very grateful that she was willing to go through that!

Zia Rosalba
My aunt is the one in red, sitting in the wheelchair. This was taken last summer when we got to visit her while she was in the hospital. From left to right: Antonella (Rosalba’s middle child); my mom, Tina; Rosalba; Tonino (youngest brother); my dad; Vittorio, Rosalba’s husband; Angela (Rosalba’s oldest child); Nunzia, Tonino’s wife; me, taking the selfie.


Me: Zia Rosalba, tell me about the day that my mom was born. You were ten years old, right? So you remember?

Zia Rosalba: I was nine years old and yes, I remember things from when I was two-and-a-half.

Me: Wow! What a great memory! So tell me…the siren went off…

Zia Rosalba: The siren went off and my mother didn’t want to move. Labor had begun and she wanted to stay home. But Father was afraid, so he wanted to go to the underground air-raid shelter. We managed to reach the funicular but then Mamma couldn’t keep going. She went into the cave where the funicular train was (it wasn’t running) and sat on a bench. The pain kept advancing. When the crowd to enter the shelter had thinned she was able to make it to the underground shelter. Everyone kept saying, “The madam, the madam! She has labor pains!” Some guards let her enter the wooden “rooms” for privacy. Her midwife just happened to be in the crowds. After checking on her, she called for “the husband of the woman who is in labor” and directed him to run home to get a few things. He was afraid, he didn’t want to go but they forced him. They gave him a helmet and he ran all the way home, grabbed the needed things and made it back. My brother, Gianni, and I stayed alone while he ran home. When Father returned then your mother was born. They had placed Mother on a military cot and in giving birth she fell off. But she was fine, everything was fine. You can’t imagine the crowds!! Everyone wanted to see the new baby, born in the underground shelter!

Me: I can imagine!!

Zia Rosalba: Everyone had to take turns to visit them. They placed two guards at the doorway and they would let people in two-at-a-time. We stayed down there. I slept with Mamma and Gianni slept with Father. We would hear noises which meant the siren had gone off and the people would all come back down. Everyone wanted to see the baby who was born in the bomb shelter. After four days, it was time to go home, although we didn’t want to because we were safe in the shelter. 

Newspaper article with photograph announcing the birth of a baby girl.
Newspaper article with photograph announcing the birth of a baby girl. It’s the custom in Italy to put a ribbon over the doorway as a way of announcing the birth of a baby, similar to how we put storks in the front yard.

Me: What did you do for food? How did you eat if you were underground for four days?

Zia Rosalba: Father would bring us stuff to eat. We hardly ate anything anyways. Some bread, some black market stuff. Stuff like that. It was hard times! So after four days, they told us it was time to go home. There was a fascist lady, her name was Margherita, and people where saying, “You need to call her ‘Victoria’ (for the victory in the war); you need to call her ‘Margherita’ after the social worker…” They gave us a small layette, a gold pin, and the three-colored ribbon (for Italy) which they put up in the doorway of the shelter. We hadn’t seen it because we had stayed inside. That day, to get home, they called a taxi which brought us home. I was holding your mother while my mother was making the bed, when all of a sudden, the Santa Barbara, a ship in the port, blew up! All the glass from the windows fell on top of us! Shortly after, the warning siren went off and we had to run for the shelter again! This time, on foot, without a taxi!

When your mom was about 8 or 9 months, a bomb fell next to our house. The Americans saw the lights and thought it was a military place so they dropped a bomb. The building next to ours was destroyed. In our building one wing collapsed and we were blocked in by the rubble. Your mom was little and there was a lot of dust so Mother gave her the breast and she was spared inhaling a lot of dust. We climbed down a broken staircase. We crossed over piles of rubble to reach our relative’s house. We stayed there for months because the house was damaged. After that we rented a furnished house for a time and then much later, after they fixed up all the damage and cleared the rubble, we returned home.  


When we were in Italy last summer, we toured Naples Underground. You can read an interesting article about it here. Here’s a short excerpt that relates to mom’s story.

In 1941, almost 250 miles of tunnels and waterways under Naples were cleared of water and refuse, most wells were sealed, and stairways were built and electricity installed. The Neapolitans who waited in the shelters as bombs pounded overhead left markers of their tense days and weeks there: drawings on walls of bombs and planes, the word “aiuto” (help).

We walked down a winding flight of stairs to reach the tunnels.

Stairway going down.
Stairway going down.

Interestingly, mom is claustrophobic so she did not accompany us on our tour.

Timothy underground
This shows how big the tunnels are. Some of the rooms were taller since they were former wells.
Tommy underground
Possible location of mom’s birth. This was an infirmary.

There is still a lot of excavating left to do. After the war, people threw their garbage, especially post-war debris, down the well shoots, filling up the tunnels. I took a short video of piles of rubble. Check it out here:

Series Navigation<< Vico Canale {Tuesdays with Tina, part 4}Working with the Americans {Tuesdays with Tina, part 6} >>

About Sheila @ Making the Most of Every Day

I'm a wife, mom, and a homeschool teacher. I'm always behind on housework and paper pile sorting. I'm fond of this crazy life but not of melted cheese. I want to follow hard after God, making each day really count. I like to run, read, cook (and eat!). Thanks for joining along on my journey!

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