Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 25, 2020

Liberation Day

Today, 25th April, is La Festa da Liberazione, Liberation Day in Italy. It commemorates the end of Nazi Occupation during WWII. It was the day in 1945 when the National Liberation Committee of Upper Italy officially proclaimed by radio the seizure of power and the death sentence of all fascist leaders. Mussolini was shot 3 days later.

The liberation ended 23 years of fascist dictatorship and 5 years of war. It was a war most Italians did not want. Many young men were dragged from their farms and sent off to fight, unwilling and ill equipped. Some were sent to the Russian front in the dead of winter where they froze where they stood. I know people here who remember the war.

The war touched everyone. It seems difficult to believe that a tiny, remote village like Vergemoli could be affected, but fighting was all around this area. I have seen photos of the village being bombed.

My favourite building in Bagni di Lucca was Nazi head quarters in WWII. It is just around the corner from our apartment.

There is a plaque on the side of the building telling of the 13 partisans who were held and tortured in the building. They were murdered and there is a memorial to them in the local cemetery.

On the other side of the mountains here was one of the worst massacres in Italy in the town of Santa Anna di Stazzema. The people in the town were rounded up and murdered. See the story here. The massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema

Today there would normally be celebrations in many town and villages, but not this year. People will remember these awful times quietly at home.

25th April is also a day of commemoration in my home, Australia. Anzac Day is a day commemorate all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. It marks the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI.

There were no big celebrations today. Many people gathered with candles on their balconies or their front yards at dawn, the time of the first charge by the soldiers.

My favourite uncle fought in WWII. He served in Palestine, Crete and New Guinea, yes, the whole war. He lived, but my mother said he was never the same. My mother was the youngest of 8 and her bother Robert was the second oldest. She was a young girl when her favourite brother was sent off to fight leaving his young wife, Rose, behind.

He is at the bottom of this photo, the one with the sketch pad on his lap. He used to write letters to Rose with drawings and cartoons on the envelopes. She would wait for the postman for his latest missive. He was a talented artist and cartoonist. In another time he may have become a professional artist. Instead he was a house painter, a good solid job after the war.

We loved our uncle Bob. We loved it when he drew something funny for us or whirled us around doing “aeroplanes” while we screamed for more. He never talked to anyone about his war experiences. He didn’t want to go to Anzac Day celebrations or have anything to do with the war. Whatever was in his head stayed there.

Today is a reminder of the awful times past generations have had to live through. Lockdown is mild by comparison. For those of us with a home and food this is not too much to ask.


  1. Thanks Deb for this post. My dear friend, Pistro Ulliana was an Alpini, part of the resistance movement in Montaner. He was shot by the Nazis but survived, which many of his friends didn’t. He showed me where he hid from the enemy on his family property. Your post brought back many memories.

    • Lots of partisans hid in caves in this area. It must have been miserable, especially in winter. People went through years of hardship, living on whatever they could forage from the forest.

  2. Thanks Deb for this very interesting post. I have often wondered what that strange building was just around the corner to you and why it has been left in such a dilapidated condition – of course who would want something with such a vile history! Have a good day in your garden. Sue from Brandeglio/Cornwall

    • It is now apartments and we almost bought one of them. The building seriously needs repair but it is heritage listed and the costs would be huge. It used to be the Hotel di Russie and must have been quite grand in its day.

  3. The tragedies of war…

    • Nothing good comes of war.

      • Exactly

  4. In the interests of accuracy, your firs para on Anzac Day should end “It marks the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI.”

    • Sorry, a slip up. I do know it was WWI, Gallipoli. I will fix it now. Thank you.

  5. If this was Facebook i could tap the heart button – instead i will tell you that I love what you say and my heart is sad for all the heartache brought by war but my heart is so thankful for what we have, for what so many young people fought and died for. It’s a day on which to reflect and be thankful.

  6. Hi Debra
    That was such an interesting post. I remember that building in Bagni di Lucca. Hope you’re well.

    • I’m fine, thank you. Today is a day to reflect and remember how lucky we are.

  7. On our last trip almost two years ago we visited many of these spots. When we visited Sant’Anna there was a celebration going on. Seeing the church where the massacre took place was horrific. The walk up to the monument was marked with the stations of the cross paralleled with images of the massacre. There is an American movie that touches on the massacre by Spike Lee called the Miracle of Sant’Anna.
    We also visited bunkers where the nazis were intrenched as well as a tiny museum right near the train station and heard many stories. The bunkers are located right along the side of the road. If you didn’t know it, you would drive right past it even though there is a. Billboard referring to it. We were lucky to know someone who had a key that let us enter the bunkers.
    Finally we also were able to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI with the Alpinisti.
    We came home quite changed from that experience.
    P. S. I never realized that that house was Nazi headquarters.

    • I have been to Santa Anna di Stazzema a few times, but I didn’t know about the bunkers. I will look for them.
      The building used to be the Hotel di Russia before the war. Now it is apartments.

  8. please subscribe for more Vlogs.

    On Sat, Apr 25, 2020 at 2:27 PM Bagni di Lucca and Beyond wrote:

    > Debra Kolkka posted: “Today, 25th April, is La Festa da Liberazione, > Liberation Day in Italy. It commemorates the end of Nazi Occupation during > WWII. It was the day in 1945 when the National Liberation Committee of > Upper Italy officially proclaimed by radio the seizure of powe” >

  9. Thank you Deb . A Beautifully written piece of history. How Italy suffered all those years under fascism and then a terrible war Yes we celebrated Anzac day yesterday It was different, memorable and quite moving! People from apartment blocks around here came into the street at 6am withcandles ,self distancing of course.A piper played the Lament, then the Last Post was played on a French horn after a minutes silence ,and finally Reveille. It was strange to see about 25 people all 2m apart but one of the most moving dawn services I have experienced. Oh and a SwissGerman neighbour arrived with a huge Australian flag . Australians were asked to come into the streets at dawn and the Last Post was played all around the country on many different instruments by people of all ages! Deb I send you a virtual Anzac biscuit 😂🍪made yesterday Many thanks Janet Sent from my iPhone


    • I saw some of the Anzac Day scenes in Australia on BBC world. It is what prompted me to write the post. I went to a dawn service on a wet Melbourne morning at the war memorial once. I find them too sad. Thinking about all those young men who died is just awful. If only we learned from this.
      There are constant reminders around here. The Gothic Line, the most northern of the defensive lines built by the Nazis runs through this area. It is still possible to see bunkers and remnants of the war.
      Our bridge in Ponte a Serraglio was bombed and bits of the old bridge are in the river.
      Stay safe and well.

  10. Thank you for educating me on Anzac Day as well as the Italian Liberation. I also loved hearing about your dear Uncle. I agree that in comparison to war, quarantine under a safe roof with food, water and family is more than ok— it is a blessing. Be well !

    • Everyone loved uncle Bob. He lived to be almost 80 and he was always fun to be around.

  11. Deb your Post on Liberation Day in Italy was sad & poignant. It is hard to comprehend how such atrocities could be carried out by so called “human beings”!! We remember seeing a wall in Gubbio with names of similar executions being carried out by German occupiers. It must seem unreal driving through the Villages that look so lovely now & think of the horrors that occurred. LEST WE FORGET.

    • All of the villages around here have lists of the names of men who died…too many names.

  12. So well put Debra, it brought tears to my eyes here in San Diego. Ronn’s second cousin was one that was sent to the Russian front, never to return. Appreciate your blogs about happenings in tour area as we await release from our quarantines. God Bless, Belinda and Ronn Simonini

    • Wars are awful. I wonder how people ever recover from the terrible things that happen.
      Let’s hope our lives return to some kind of normal soon.

  13. Thank you Debra for sharing this important piece of history, I wasn’t aware about the issue between Australians and New Zealanders. You thought me a history class, thank you for that. Stay safe and healthy.

    • Remembering all those lives lost should make us appreciate how lucky we are.

  14. I am glad that you did not buy the apartment at the old Hotel de Russie. Although it is a beautiful building I always get an eerie feeling whenever I go past it to go to the church. It was a place of suffering….

    • We are too. I did not know the history of the building then. We didn’t buy it because the agent was useless and we could see the building needed a lot of work. The position of the one we did buy is much better and we love it.

  15. That is beautiful written Debra : I feel deeply touched.

    • Thank you. I find Anzac Day very sad.

  16. What a very fitting memory. I have only passed through the village once but remembered something about it and returned to learn more. Thank you and I thank all those who posted for putting down what we must never forget.

    • We all need to remember the evil of war.

  17. thanks for your nice post

    Admission AssistantL

  18. I didn’t know about Liberation Day in Italy. Yes sadly we weren’t able to do much publicly, but still observe at home.

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