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San Pietro Avellana

San Pietro Avellana Stories

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I've started this web page to highlight stories that I've received about SPA.

Benilda Frazzini (my mother)

Memories of My Childhood            12/3/2004
Benilda Frazzini

I was born in 1912 to Emiliano Frazzini and Lucrezia Carlini. My baptism godmother was Gina Carlini.

I lived in a 3 floor house. I lived on the second floor with my nonno, Ippolito Frazzini, his daughter Maria, and my mother Lucrezia Carlini. I never knew my nonna Albina Salvatore. She died before I was born. Maria never married and I believe she was mentally retarded. My father lived in the United States except for short times when he returned to San Pietro for a visit.  In that house, the four of us each had our own bedroom. I remember my room which had a large mirror. In the back of the house, there was a large room with containers for holding wheat and other food. There was a table like container used to hold bread after it was baked. In the kitchen, there was a fireplace and a long table where we ate.

Ippolito's brother, zio Enrico, and his family lived on the first floor. I remember he had two girls but I don't remember his wife's name.

On the ground floor was a 'bar' where men played cards and drink wine. I remember that the balconies of the house were unsafe because they were badly damaged by earthquakes.

Although we slept in this house, I spent most of the daytime across the street in the house of my other grandmother, Doristella diTella and her husband Giuseppe Carlini. Giuseppe was a farmer. My zia Elvira also lived in that house. Elvira, who married Luigi Iasella, was a seamstress.

I was the first grandchild of Giuseppe and Doristella. I sometimes slept with them in their large bed.

My grandfather, Ippolito, was sick most of the time. He never worked out in the fields. He did own fields which he hired men to work. I sometimes helped my mother prepare food for the men and bring it to them at mid-day.

One time when I was very sick, my mother wrapped me in a sheet which she soaked in water. My zio Luigi Iasella went up into the mountains to get snow to cool my fever. (zia Elvira married Luigi Iasella.)

I remember zio Modestino and his daughters Albina, Rina and Venustina. That family lived in a big house. We were not close to this family. I do remember when he married his second wife who was from Ateleta.

My zio, Sabatino Frazzini, was the archprete of the SS Pietro e Paolo Chiesa. I remember his funeral procession when he died in 1921.

The last time my father returned to Italy was the longest time he was there since I was born. He wanted to return to the US but the government would not let him go unless he took me and my mother.

I remember the day my family left San Pietro for the United States. The year was 1926 and I was 14 years old. Zia Elvira was was there to see us off. She made eggs. Nonno Giuseppe Carlini (papa'pepino) kissed me goodbye. I remember that when he died (in the 1930's) I had a dream that he kissed me.

We took a carriage (la carrozza) to the train station in some nearby town but I don't remember which town. We took the train to Napoli and then a boat to New York. I entered the US as a citizen since my father got his US citizenship in 1904.

I was sick on the boat for the whole trip (mal di mare). We were in third class. My zio Pasquale Carlini was in second class and he took me up there to see if I would feel better.

(Pasquale first came to the US about 1911 (entered via Philadelphia), he, his wife, Filomena and his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Pasquale was a stonemason, He died of cancer. He had one son Elio and two daughters, Linda and Louise.).

In the United States, we first went to the home of Luigi Iasella in Pittsburgh. We only stayed there for about one week. Then we moved to Beaver Falls, then to New Galilee and then back to Beaver Falls. In Beaver Falls, we lived on 2nd Ave (this is where my brother was born in 1928), 12th St, 3rd Ave and 11th Street.

We moved because my father, Emiliano, changed jobs. In New Galilee, he worked at a brickyard. In Beaver Falls, he worked in a factory on 11th Street - might have been the  Armstrong Cork Company. For awhile, he worked at a clothing factory on 1st Ave.

I learned English by reading books and studying words.  I never took any English classes. I went to school for only three years after I came to the United States. I went from the 4th to the 7th grades. I remember that I was always the oldest person in the class. In Beaver Falls, the school was on 5th Ave.

My brother, Ippolito Giuseppe (Paul Joseph) Frazzini was born in Beaver Falls in 1928. (He died in 1989.)

By about 1930, I attended Duff's Business College for a short time. I studied typing and math. My parents wanted me to go to school but could not really afford to pay for it.

We used to take in boarders to make ends meet. I remember one time we had a group of stonemasons from Philadelphia. They were in Beaver Falls during a summer to work on the construction of a church. Most boarders were just short term. I only remember one man who was with us for a longer time but I don't remember his name. I don't remember the boarders ever eating with us - they just had beds in the house. Once we moved to the house on 11th Street, it was too small for us to have boarders.

Around 1935, I worked at a the Hamilton Leather Company sewing leather gloves.

We were in Beaver Falls in 1936 when I started working at a company named Mayer China. At that company, we made dishes and cups. I got this job because the son of the owner of our rented house on 11th Street worked at Mayer China.

I worked there for 12 years, until 1948. I married Pasquale DiVecchio in 1947. For my last year at Mayer China, I took the train and sometimes carpooled between West Aliquippa (where we lived) and Beaver Falls. I worked up until July 1948, one month before the birth of my first child. I have three children, Marco, Patricia and Diana. Pasquale and I live in Aliquippa, PA, nearby to Beaver Falls and Pittsburgh.

I also remember zia Rosina, my father's sister. I visited her in Castel di Sangro after she got married. She and her husband, Giuseppe Buzzelli, moved to Cleveland, Ohio in the United States. They had a daughter named Helen. Giuseppe had a daughter, Angelina, with his first wife. I visited them many times in Cleveland. I remember that Amico (Jim) diMuzio usually drove us there.  Both Rosina and Helen died of tuberculous (tubercoloso). I remember going to zia Rosina's funeral with Jim diMuzio (Helen was dead also by the time that Rosina died). Giuseppe had a lot of brothers in Akron.

Benilda Frazzini DiVecchio


Guglielmo Desiderio Colaianni

Here is a story that I received in Jan 2007 from William Colianni (Guglielmo Desiderio Colaianni). Bill was born in SPA in 1930 and spent the World War II years there. He moved to Chicago in 1949 and now lives in Florida.

Memories of WWII in the town of San Pietro Avellana, Italy, continues to bring back unpleasant memories after 65 years or so, which I will try to describe as best served by my memory, recollection, personal and family suffering, living conditions etc. etc. It will be based on my personal view without checking or referring to historical data or other occurrences described somewhere else.

When the German soldiers were retreating from North Africa and reached our area they were using Provincial roads (side roads) for better coverage from the allied planes. The first front of resistance was Cassino, according to their interpretation. (Unfortunately the allied soldiers during the air strikes accidentally bombed in the Cassino valleys killing a few hundred of their own soldiers.)

At the beginning of the war I was about 12 or13 years old and in school at Chieti when Mussolini came for a pep talk. The piazza was crowded and the majority of the people were clapping and yelling Duce Duce Duce!!! By my being a live wire and non-conformist I was yelling Luce Luce Luce!!!! I was noticed and of course suspended from school, causing some hardship to my uncle Flavio Conti, who was a Captain in the regular Italian Army.

I believe that possibly I was in one of the last trains leaving the Sulmona train station to return home when heavy air bombing destroyed it. My uncle Flavio, aunt Annina, and my cousins Gino and Ida arrived by truck before all the bridges were mined and destroyed.

My uncle and my cousin walked to Ateleta in hopes to buy some food. During their trip they were drafted at gunpoint by German soldiers for work, to build trenches and perforate train tunnels to expose cannon barrels for their resistance. My uncle was released shortly thereafter, my cousin was kept until the end of the German’s occupation of our territory and he walked from Chieti to Carovilli

By that time all the men from our village and surrounding villages were drafted, all at gunpoint, to perform various works in different locations, including the construction of very large trenches below the area of our cemetery. (I am curious to know if they are still there). Not all of them returned alive to describe their sufferings.

During that period Frank Valentini (son of the forestall guard) and I were also drafted for a full day in order to assist German soldiers in guiding a herd of sheep and cows to cross (la Costa), a mountain directly behind our houses. When we reached the high levels of the mountain we escaped to the thick brushes by running as fast as we could. We heard shots but they missed us. By dusk we were back in our houses. I also remember that as the Germans ate their military meals, we were invited to watch the bastards eat and drink without a single gesture to invite us to their rotten meal.

During the time of the German occupation in SPA, our house became one of their command posts and many activities were directed from there. One of the most important things I remembered was when I traveled with some of the Germans while they were planting mines (il tratturo) near the railroad station on the side of (Monte di Mezzo). This observation proved to be a savior of lives later on when we had to move from SPA to Carovilli.

During this observation we noticed two Germans walking through the village with two men crying and I remember these two men as they were walking in front of the armed SS soldiers, they were saying “we are innocent”, but the rumors were that they housed either American Para-shutters or Jewish families. As these two men were walking by, they also made us understand that they were from San Martino. (I believe it is located in the Province of Chieti). After they reached (La Fornace) they were forced to dig their own graves and then they were shot to death. Some women from the area covered their graves the following day. Franco and I had followed this ugly scenery simply by being young with curiosity.

After a few weeks of getting used to the German occupation and light movement of German troops, the reality of bad things to come was evident. The position of tanks, heavy armor, changes of the guards, strange movements of trucks, peculiar behavior of soldiers and many more factors became suspicious elements and frightening things to expect in the near future.

After the bridge by my house was mined and blown up, the sad news arrived from the Italian Fascists cooperating with the unreasonable limited German force remaining, to evacuate our village and homes, or be blown up with the houses. The choice was determined by the erroneous judgment made by the desperate remaining animals (Germans S. S. Soldiers) concerned only with their survival. If I remember correctly, 12 or 13 nearby villages were partially blown up also.

The time given to us to evacuate was approximately 48 hours. In that short period the first thought of importance was for subsequent survival. Immediately thereafter my mother, my uncle, my aunt and I proceeded to dig a substantial hole in the back yard. We had some wooden boxes lying around. They were filled with non-perishable foods and placed in the hole. Unfortunately, after I returned to retrieve some of the food, the shock was unbelievable. The hole was opened and all the food removed. It was done from people we new and suspected, and eventually it was confirmed. The old expression is that starvation brings the wolf out of the forest.

After that, a special diet started to take hold in order to survive. The farm (masseria) where we were able to stay for a few days was by the river (Sangro). The building was approximately 25 or 30 feet long by approximately 12 to 15 feet wide. This very old farm storage building temporarily housed approximately 75 people. We were taking turns sleeping on the floor for a few hours at a time. I remember the owner, an elderly lady, frequently announcing that the potatoes were coming to an ending. For a few weeks the diet consisted of the skin of the potato for breakfast the rest of it for lunch and a few times potatoes and beans for dinner.

At the same time the good Lord dropped his pans and it rained constantly, causing enormous amounts of mud, making walking extremely difficult.

Somehow, we received word that Carovilli was spared from the destruction. My uncle Flavio was originally from Carovilli and owned a house there. Flavio and some other relatives (uncleVittorino Carlini, he was an engineer,) questioned me if I remembered where the German mined (or in his words) “planted the metal potatoes and the location.” The answer was yes, by the railroad station in the Tratturo.

During the time in the masseria, the elders had made a decision, it was concluded that an attempt to walk to Carovilli was the most practical way to survive. We were probably the first to attempt the adventure with several people in their seventies and older. There were people with relatives or friends in other villages who prepared for the same journey. Subsequently, I learned that many residents of SPA moved to Cerreto, Pagliarone, Vastogirardi, Carovilli, Pescolanciano, Roccasicura and other nearby villages south of SPA. Others remained around the village and when the roads were repaired and accessible to the military vehicles, they were transported into the Region of Puglia. (Some of these people returned to SPA to begin reconstruction, others that went to nearby villages remained there, few more remained in the Puglia Region).

Early the next morning the long walking journey took place. By the time we reached our house, by the Tratturo, near the Di Iullo masseria (another farm storage building) with people living in it, we had the misfortune to witness the blowing up of our home. The house lifted up several feet and then came crumbling down. Of course all the elderly began to cry and made things much more difficult.

When we reached the train station, my uncle Vittorino asked where the mines were. After I explained the area that I remembered, the decision to walk on the edges of Monte Di Mezzo was made and I was asked to lead the way. After we passed the level of Monte Di Mezzo we got back to the Tratturo and by then we had reached the area of Cerreto, approximately half way to Carovilli.

Finally, at dusk we reached our destination in Carovilli. One level of uncle Flavio’s house was empty and for a few days we slept on the floor. The lady next door made some polenta for us, which was greatly appreciated.

A few people of Carovilli were nice, but the majority resented our arrival and treated us as people from a different planet. The first few weeks were pretty tough. A handful of German soldiers were still in Carovilli. British planes had located the German communication truck and the Germans were killed when machine gun fire and small bombs struck the truck. Some villagers proceeded with their burials.

A few days later the allied troops arrived and the expression of joy returned on the refugee’s faces. The first soldiers were Canadians, followed by Polish and other nationalities. After a few months of front activities, the British 5th Armored Division took over the occupation.

On a few occasions the Canadian soldiers asked my mother permission if I could accompany some patrols through the area of SPA and help them in locating the mined areas. These small groups traveled with small Indian mules and I participated. I was rewarded with food, candies and chocolates.

By now winter arrived and the snow piled up several meters high. The allied soldiers that were on the other side of the mountains had limited food supplies. The Canadian soldiers and a few civilians, including me, organized skiing groups with backpacks to bring food to the stranded soldiers.

The front in SPA area lasted approximately 6 months. A few German soldiers were able to control it for so long because of the mountainous terrain, by having drafted every able man and by intimidating the remaining women, children and old folks at gunpoint. They made the people understand that their attitude was to kill first and ask questions later.

There are other details that could be described. But some of them are not worth remembering.

William D. Colianni       <>

From:    "William D. Colianni" <>
Date:    Tue, 2 Dec 2008 16:51:19 -0500
Subject:    [SanPietroAvellana] Fw: 7 Dicembre consegna Medagli d'Argento

Egregio Signor Sindaco Dott. A. Ludovico,

In occasione della presentazione della Medagia d'Argento per la commemorazione alle sofference e sacrifici dei Sampietresi durante il periodo di guerra dal 1943-45 compreso la totale distruzone di San Pietro Avellana, ho ritenuto opportuno includere qui in allegato un mio breve diario dell'orribile circostanza che la quale memoria e' vissuta con me do circa 65 anni.
Chiedo scusa se impongo il mio pensiero, ma essendo, credo uno dei pochi rimasti, a rivivere spesso le ostilita' di quei tempi indimenticabili.

Si Saluta Distintamente,
William D. Colianni
Guglielmo Desiderio Colaianni (Vivi')

Franco "Frank" Frazzini

In July of 2008, Frank Frazzini sent me this short history of his family.
My name is Franco Frazzini (Frank). Born and raised in San Pietro Avellana. First of all, you have to excuse my poor English, I was 29 when I came in to this country. I am 69 1/2 years old now. My father was Ernesto Frazzini and he died 11/15/2000. My mother Ada Terrenzio died 11/27/1940, she was from Salle (Pescara). My grandfather was Emiddio Frazzini and grandmother Filippina Tonti. Grandpa came to this country in 1911, according to the Ellis Island records, and his brother, Amico, preceded him in 1909. They went to Dawson NM according to the records. Grandpa came back during the depression, his brother never made it back to Italy. my father remarried to Nunziatina Quaranta, so I have 2 brothers and a sister also, Filippo, Marcella and Enzo. I know many of the relatives of Nino Carlini in Italy, some you don't even mention in your very interesting and beautiful family history.

I will keep on reading hopefully to hear from you.

un saluto sampietrese to you and family, Frank Frazzini

More stories in the future as I receive them:

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