Our Mothers at War: a collection of essays about heroic women during WWII
We include here a part of a sample chapter from Our Mothers that typifies the kind of story our book relays. We believe this sample anecdote and other memoirs of women we interviewed will answer many of the questions citizens all over the world are asking about the "war to end all wars."
We are actively seeking stories about women's experiences during WWII. We are also interested in women's stories from the Korean War, the Vietnam conflict, and Iraqi wars. If you are interested in sharing your story with us, please contact us through the link below, and we will arrange for an interview. Please also understand these stories will be added to ours and compiled into an e-book, and that your sharing of the story will provide implicit permission to use your story in the e-book.
Please send submission to us via the Contact Us section of the website.
Laura Ariatti Colonelli: Mid-wife of Padulle
Giovanna Colonelli Lammers smiles with pride as she enters the tapestry-lined dining room of her suburban Michigan home. In her hands is a red velvet box, worn from multiple handlings over the years. She leans over and opens the lid to expose a copper medal the size of a Kennedy half dollar. On it is the seal of the city of Bologna, Italy: two deer holding flags around a shield. She tells us it is one of her most cherished possessions, a posthumous honor awarded her mother, Laura Ariatti Colonelli, some 25 years ago, shortly after she died unexpectedly of a stroke. Holding the medal gently between her thumb and forefinger, she develops a far away look as she recites the story of how her mother earned the honor during World War II on the outskirts of her hometown of Bologna in the region of Emilia, where she served as a midwife. As Giovanna begins, it becomes clear that she has heard this story many times from many sources, her mother's version the most modest. It is one of many unique experiences of living through a cataclysmic event. Giovanna begins with some background about the war:
“The year of 1943 had been particularly bad for the Italians. The Italian army disbanded and joined the Allied forces, which my family was happy about, but the bombing continued, and food was scarcer than at any time during the war. My father, Armando, returned home frail and ill after having his teeth pulled to avoid African service, a particularly terrifying assignment in the Great War. I was afraid of Father at first because he looked old, had no teeth, and was sick for a long period of time. Mother, always in the role of nurse, concocted one of her usual home remedies using lemon juice and a potion mixed with sugar and wine. This enabled Father to regain his health.
The countryside was filling with refugees from the cities. Bologna was bombed until the last day of the war because it was a key transportation center. Mother, forced to serve a swelling population with limited supplies and transportation possessed only one rickety bike with very weak tubes. She often had to stop to pump them up at every lamp post. As the area's only certified midwife, she delivered babies everywhere: in bomb shelters, grain silos, and stables. One experience in particular led to the receipt of this award.
Toward the end of the war, a young woman in the middle of a very difficult labor had to be transported by my mother and the patient's husband to a hospital ten miles away. On the way, a bombardment started which forced them off the road into the woods. The patient, suffering a placenta previa, needed a transfusion to keep her alive long enough to reach a hospital. Since my mother's blood type was O negative, she knew it would be compatible with her patient's. She immediately set up a transfusion under the worst of conditions: no water was available to sterilize instruments, and bombs rained down on those trying to make their way to a safe haven. No shelter was obtainable, so with the help of the woman's husband, who applied a tourniquet, Mother sucked the blood out of her own arm in quantities enough to transfuse the patient. As the bombing stopped, my mother knew she had kept this woman alive, but she regarded it as no more than her duty as a nurse. Twenty years later, that woman told her story to Bologna city officials, and my mother was given a prestigious honor: the official seal of the city….