Diary of a Partisan, a novella that is an intense personal remembrance of the author’s years as a resistance fighter in Northern Italy.

The fascists had come to power in Italy and Rosetta’s brothers had joined a brigade of resistance fighters hiding in the hills of the region. She convinced them to let her join them, and because of her facility with the German language became the interpreter when the exchange of prisoners between them and the fascists took place. This landed her in a fascist prison in Parma. She describes with tenderness and humor the other women who are incarcerated there, most for non-war related offenses.  After the war, she was personally honored by the Italian government as one of the few women actively seeing action as a resistance fighter.

We read about her exhaustion during the all-night marches through the hills, on foot or on horseback, her humorous insights into her fellow partisans’ personalities, the difficulties of blowing up a bridge to keep the fascists from transporting arms to the nearby strategic pass and the ultimate joy when her homeland is released from Fascist control .

Diary of a Partisan

She originally wrote the story in Italian —Una Storia Breve, Ricordi di Una Ragazza Partigiana (translation: “A Short Tale, Remembrances of a Girl Partisan”).  It was published in Italy in 2006. It includes an example of her beautiful poetry.  She wanted to translate the novella into English but found that much of the meaning and nuance of the original was lost in the translation so she re-wrote the story in English so that her two daughters (who were not fluent in Italian) could read about her experiences. Included are several fascinating photos of the other partisans with their code names, Rosetta on horseback, and one of her mother and their family home.  The photos are evocative of a very different time and place.

Here in her words is a description of her tale: “This tells the story of rebels in uniforms of all armies and of an army of wives, sisters, mothers, old men, and children.  It is the story of these women who, in spite of fascist and German threats sheltered and fed me; of the guide Gigino, who protected me during the long raids; of the family in Bratto who shared their poor meals with me.  It is the story of our people, our hills, and our land under the German occupation.  The year is 1945.”

Diary of a Partisan

Rosetta’s style is impressionistic and her language flows like poetry.   She describes her gripping fear when in the hands of the Fascists and the simple generosity of the peasants who helped the brigade.  One senses her emotional vulnerability,  which she needs to hide to be seriously considered as a member of the brigade.  Some consider her a useless hindrance, many of the men are at first not happy to have a woman among them.  The conditions are harsh.  They have to travel at night to avoid being seen and this often meant walking in almost a sleeplike trance through the hills.  She describes wanting sleep more than anything else, even food, which was also in short supply.

In the end, the fascists are pushed back, and the brigade is able to enter Borgotaro, the small town where Rosetta grew up and which is now liberated.  “The sun is still a shy trace in the sky, this early morning the 9 of April 1945.  Singing, the column {of partisans] moves across the bridge and enters Borgotaro.”  This is a must-read for anyone interested in the part played by the Italian resistance in the liberation of Italy from the fascists.  It is also a good account of how an ordinary young woman could be transformed into a gun-carrying, grenade throwing soldier.

 

 

About the Author

Diary of a Partisan

Rosetta Solari Knox was born and grew up in a small town called Borgotaro in the region of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy.  When World War II broke out she was a student in Venice, getting her bachelor’s degree in foreign languages and literature.

At the time that the fascists came to power in Italy, two of Rosetta’s brothers joined a brigade of resistance fighters who were hiding in the hills outside Borgotaro which was near a strategic military point, a mountain pass that was used to transport troops and arms through the mountains.

Since Rosetta spoke German she became the interpreter when the exchange of prisoners took place between the German soldiers and the partisans.  As a result, she was imprisoned, twice.  After the way, she was honored by the Italian government as one of the few women actively seeing action as a resistance fighter.

Back in Venice after the war Rosetta finished her degree and met an American G.I., an engineer.  He brought her gifts of bath soap, more precious then than any gift of flowers or chocolate.  She married him and left for the U.S. on a troop carrier.  They settled first in Pennsylvania and had two daughters, Leslie and Christine.

Rosetta taught French and Italian at the Berlitz School and the University of Louisville and volunteered to do the recording for the blind.  All the time as her children were growing up she was writing.   Finally, she decided to record her experiences in the war and her first work was in Italian, Una Storia Breve. This was published in Italy.  Shorter accounts of her resistance role are included in an Italian textbook on contemporary Italian history.  She rewrote the volume in English, Diary of a Partisan, and it was published in the U.S. shortly after her death. She died at age 89 in 2008

 

 

Diary of a PartisanDiary of a Partisan

By Rosetta Knox

Genre: Women’s Point of View

Paperback: 132 pages

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1438902891

 

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