Pietro Merlina

Amica at Villa Da Vinci

Foreign Service – Italian Army

Pietro was a foot soldier in the Italian Army. He completed his training in Como, Milano and Antora. He was then deployed to Russia in October 1943, where he fought along the Sol Don River.

“When I was sent to Russia, there was no food, the snow was 4 feet deep, I was dressed only in light clothing as were most of the Italian soldiers. It started getting cold and colder every day. The Italian and Russian soldiers started to run away.

“I was sick, my hands were frozen and one of the Russian soldiers picked me up and put me on a sled. When we got to the encampment, the Russian Captain told the soldier to get rid of me or he was going to shoot me. The Russian soldier brought me to where the other Italian soldiers were and the Captain put me on his shoulder and carried me to a military truck. I eventually I was brought to the Hospital of Ravenda in Italy.

“My hands were frozen and had gangrene. The doctors did not want to cut off my fingers, they said that if they cut it will spread more and I would lose my whole hand. After one week they started to cut one finger a day for 6 days. I was having a difficult time dealing with this when the Lieutenant came to see me and asked if I had been listening to the news. When I told him yes, he said you are lucky you are not one of 20,000 men who had already died in the war.

“After that, the Red Cross was coming in to make me eat because I was too skinny. Slowly I started recovering. There was a young student who would come to the hospital and talked to me and encouraged me. Her name was Anna Berardy. She even offered me money and we exchanged addresses and we wrote to each other and then later on we lost contact.

“After 4 months I was able to go home. I got engaged to my wife and then later on Anna and I found each other. We wanted to be with one another but the only problem was that I was already engaged to be married and I truly loved my wife. I am one of the lucky ones I am still here today.”