The Long Road to Freedom: Sanvincenti Istria – Edmonton Alberta Canada, with stops of interest in between!
My name is MARIO SERGI. I was born 1933 in Sanvincenti, Istria to Francesca and Antonio (Toni) Sergi. I had a big brother, Sergio Sergi who was seven years older than me.
We lived a a very happy and productive life in Sanvincenti. My parents were good business people. Mamma was a dressmaker and also owned some land she inherited from her deceased father. There was a farm for produce and animals; a small vineyard for vino and grappa; a sale-tabacci and a small bosco. Papà was a grisometrista in a mine at Arsia. He also was the representative for Singer, Pfaff, Necchi sewing machines. He sold and repaired them also. My Nonna Maria Ottochian , mamma’s mother lived with us also. She helped mamma bake, cook and clean, as nonnas do. She passed away in 1942 and she knew when it was her time. She informed us all a week before..and we were shocked at her prediction. I loved her very much. She liked to profess that she didn’t drink..but would often go to the cellar with a bucaletta for some vino she would get from one of the huge casks. One winter there was a skiff of snow. Nonna was going to visit her friends, she said, and the bucaletta dribbled a little trail in the fresh snow all the way there. Mamma and I chuckled as we watched her wobbly walk..and mamma made me promise never to say anything to her or anyone else about it. And I never did because I loved Nonna Maria.
I was in school and knew that there was a war on but it did not bother us..we were far from trouble we thought.
September 16, 1943..we had just finished pranso when we heard loud banging on the door and angry, loud shouting. Papà went to the door and was grabbed, asked to identify himself. He was in the grip of some partisan Croats who were rounding up Italian-named family men and teen boys, and Dalmati. They called us Fascisti! My dad was not fascist! These guerrillas were sent by Tito to round up anyone not
Croatian. This was happening because the Italian army Capitulated and put us all at risk. Our VERZINI neighbours were also hauled away.
Many more all over Istria whom we didn’t know about yet, were also taken. It has taken me 69 years to learn the whole story and it is not an easy one to hold in memory, nor to relate to you. Genocide happened and my family was a part of it! The war had come to Sanvincenti quietly and quickly. The prisoners were taken to Gimino, then to Pisino and the jail of the Carabinieri. After three days they were taken to cava di bauxite (bauxite cave). There was a huge hole in the earth called a foibe. The men and women were shackled to each other, naked and afraid, and then all were shot, several times and each dragged the others down into the pit.
This story has been written with better detail by the well known Triestine Journalist and author , ROSANNA TURCINOVICH GIURICIN.
It is thanks to Ms Giuricin that we now have the better picture of the horrors inflicted on the Venezia Giuliani and Dalmato people in 1943-1947.
Mother and I escaped to Pola where we boarded the refugee ship ‘TOSCANA’, bound for Trieste. There were hundreds of us that trip and many other days before and after. My youth was stolen by the wickedness and wrathful thinking of warmongers. It was many years before I finally got to the land of the Maple Leaf, and freedom, CANADA. Unfortunately, my dear mamma did not make the trip with me. She stays in Italian soil in Trieste, in peace.
The main part of my life picked up from the day I departed Bremenhaufen, Germany on another refugee ship, ‘FAIRSEA’, which brought me to Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia CANADA.
I was now 18 years old and had a mysterious land, people and life ahead of me to learn about. It has turned out well for me.
I am even surviving this COVID-19 pandemic, so far!
I have been blessed with a loving wife and two wonderful children and one grandchild. I’m not finished this trip yet!
~MARIO SERGI, Langley BC