Marek’s Story: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Marek now found himself completely alone, so he decided to return to his friends, the kind Italian soldiers, and hoped that they would offer him help. To his astonishment, the soldiers were indeed willing to accept him, and were even caring for some other orphans from the war-torn areas where they had traveled.

Testimony: “Joining The Italians”

“I felt like a miracle had just happened.”

—Marek Herman

Leaving Lvov in June 1943 in the care of the Italian soldiers, Marek and the other orphans boarded a train that traveled for several days, through amazing scenery, finally arriving at a military camp in the northeastern part of Italy. Marek lived with the soldiers on this base, learning Italian and adjusting to his new surroundings.

In July of 1943, Mussolini’s fascist government in Italy was overthrown, and the new government began secret negotiations with the Allies. The Italian soldiers were discharged from duty, and each orphan was adopted by one of the men on the base. Marek was adopted by a soldier named Giovanni Ferro. Together, the soldiers set out for their homes with the orphans, but along the way they were apprehended by German soldiers. The Nazis had ordered their troops to seize the country. The German soldiers placed their captives on a train. When some of the soldiers noticed that the train was heading north, towards Germany, they realized that they were now prisoners of war.

Suspecting their fate if they stayed in the hands of the Nazis, Marek decided to try to escape. He noticed that as the train passed through the stations in the villages, children approached the trains to give the soldiers food and water. Marek and his friend planned to jump from the train at the next station and blend in with the local children. Giovanni Ferro gave Marek all his money and wrote a letter to his parents asking that they provide Marek with assistance if he was able to find them in Canischio, Ferro’s hometown.

The Italian soldier, Giovanni Ferro.

The Italian soldier, Giovanni Ferro.

Marek and his friend managed to escape, and they were welcomed warmly by all the Italians they encountered along their way. Using the basic Italian he had learned from the soldiers, Marek described as much as he knew, carefully hiding the fact that he was Jewish. Though everyone seemed friendly, Marek still did not know if it was safe to reveal his true identity.

After traveling together for a while, Marek’s friend settled down with a family in a town called Ghemme. Marek, however, was determined to continue on to Giovanni’s hometown of Canischio. When he finally arrived there and gave Giovanni’s parents the letter their son had written, the couple wept with sorrow. Marek learned that the couple’s other son, Antonio, was also a soldier in the war, and he had disappeared. Now, the parents realized that they might never see either of their sons again.

Marek lived with the Ferro family until the mayor took interest in his story and decided to help Marek move to the city of Turin, to resume his education. In Turin, Marek was adopted by a wealthy couple, the Poggios, and entered a Catholic school.

The boys of the Catholic school in Turin, with their teacher. Marek is standing in the back, to the left of teacher, who is a Catholic priest.

The boys of the Catholic school in Turin, with their teacher. Marek is standing in the back, to the left of teacher, who is a Catholic priest.

Chapter 3



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