Eileen Truant Pedersen has been researching and writing about her family roots and local history for years.
His name will be remembered by many from the popular book “Set in Stone – A History of Trail’s Rock Walls”.
Now Eileen shares an epic story that began 10 years ago when her older sister presented her with a modest-looking ring.
It turns out that this ring has great value and importance, but not in terms of dollar value.
Instead, the metal group gives a glimpse into the past not only of Eileen’s predecessors, but also of her family’s homeland, Italy.
The ring, and countless others like it, was issued by the fascist government of Benito Mussolini to Italian women who chose, or were armed, to forgo their gold wedding rings and other gold jewelry for the war effort.
The women received “replacement” rings with the inscription “Oro Alla Patria” [gold for the country] and the date.
The ring Eileen passed down was originally exchanged for a gold wedding ring belonging to Annuta, an Italian aunt who died in childbirth 100 years ago.
Interestingly, Eileen only recently noticed “Oro Alla Patria” inscribed on the ring. Roman numerals and the year â1935â are also stamped inside the dull gray band.
There’s a lot more to how this particular War Ring ended up in Trail and in Eileen’s possession. In her story, “The Metal Wedding Band“, she shares the gripping story.
The metal wedding ring
By Eileen Truant Pedersen
âThe story begins during the First World War.
Two of my uncles died during World War I in northeastern Italy – one, my mother’s brother, Vincenzo, a Red Cross soldier; and the other, the brother of my father Attilio, a soldier who succumbed to the great flu of 1918.
Conditions during the war were deplorable in many ways, as the battles took place mainly during winters in the rugged mountains of the Dolomites along the Isonzo River.
Little was recorded about these battles, contributing to a collective amnesia of Italy’s involvement, and there was a perception that the Italians were incompetent fighters.
I grew up with this joke: “What did the Germans do with the grenade the Italians threw at them?” They turned it on and sent it back.
For me, it was the legacy of my family’s country until I started to delve into my family history.
After the Italians suffered a resounding defeat by Austro-German forces in September-Oct. 1917 Battle of Caporetto on the northeastern Italian front, my Nono sent my Nona, their five daughters and their youngest son, 9, to Genoa as refugees.
My mother was 10 years old.
At least 250,000 women and boys from the regions of Friuli and Veneto have also left for various regions of Italy. My parents and several previous generations were peasants from the Friuli plains of northern Italy in the village of San Martino al Tagliamento.
The Tagliamento is one of the most important braided rivers in the world. This means that it works mostly underground, except during spring runoff from the Dolomites or during torrential rains.
It is currently proposed to be a World Heritage Site.
The city is close to the banks of this river, hence its name.
In Genoa, my family stayed at L’Albergo Dei Poveri [Hotel for the Poor] for 18 months.
My grandfather stayed at home to care for and protect the farm animals and the land they owned.
The eldest son, my uncle Vincenzo, although he was a member of the Red Cross during the war and was apparently protected, was killed in 1916. He is buried in Gorizia.
I heard the story of how the family learned of his death: his sister Rosina, about 12 at the time, woke up from a dream shouting “Vincenzo is dead!” Vincenzo is dead!
“Oh, don’t be stupid,” the family reassured her, as they had just received a letter from him.
However, it was rumored that men from the village had been killed.
My grandmother took to the streets to find out who. “Over to you, of course,” one of the village women told her at close range. There are several dream stories like this in our family.
My mother’s older sister, Annuta, pregnant with her second child, also accompanied the family to Genoa with her 18 month old son Vincenzo.
The day she gave birth to her second, Ricardo, at L’Albergo Dei Poveri, Vincenzo died of meningitis.
About a year later, the family was able to return home safely.
Annuta gave birth to two more children, two daughters.
Tragically, she passed away on the day her youngest daughter was born, February 6, 1921.
Fast forward to 1935
“With the rise of the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and two months after Italy invaded Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, in early October 1935, Mussolini urged women to donate their gold jewelry to” the war effort â.
Guidelines were issued to collect gold rings from the poorest and exchange them for metal rings. According to Forbes.com, Mussolini thus amassed 35 tons of gold.
Women seen with gold rings risked humiliation and rejection.
Annuta’s husband Leonardo “donated” his late wife’s golden wedding ring when he was visited by party members at his home.
It has been replaced by a metal.
Leonardo brought [the replacement ring of his deceased wife] to my mother.
He told my mom to hide her gold ring and wear the metal one, which she did.
When the party members came to call me, my mother had no gold to give.
My older sister Anita, in charge of her care, passed on the metal band to me, as well as the history, about ten years ago.
She was aware of my quest to research and record her family history and thought I should have her.
I am so grateful for this kind gesture.
What neither of us knew until we continued our research (February 5, 2021) was that these replacement rings all had the inscription “Oro Alla Patria 18 11 1935 X1V” on the interior.
Translation: ‘gold for the motherland.’
Did our heritage have this inscription?
I retrieved the ring and rushed to find a flashlight and a magnifying glass.
Indeed, it was there.
Seeing the inscription made me cry – so many emotions.
Read more: Trail Blazers
Read more: Trail Blazers
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