Academic journal article Hecate

The Last Weeks of the War, Italy 1945

Academic journal article Hecate

The Last Weeks of the War, Italy 1945

Article excerpt

1. Icici

The Germans tell her to get

into the jeep.

Holding on to its cold, dusty sides,

Sofia looks back at the steel-grey

Adriatic and her brother,

as it lurches onto the road.

Against his chest, he holds

the lunch she's brought him

wrapped in a worn, cotton napkin.

Standing next to him, his girlfriend,

who has accompanied her there.

Sofia tightens her grip.

The Germans are taking

her to Fiume.

2. Fiume

The gaol door slams shut

as she looks at the toilet

in the corner and the old stone wall

facing her and the others,

all women. She is the youngest

in this group of forty. She fingers

the crucifix round her neck.

The cell smells

of human sweat and waste

but swallows swoop

into the courtyard

when the prisoners walk round

inside its walls once a day.

At midday after they soak

their bread with the remnants

of their watery soup,

the others stare at the serving

of pasta she gets in addition

because of her age.

For more food she lines up

with the adults to unpick rough,

burlap sacks in a musty room.

She'd hoped for meat, she gets

bread and jam.

3. Portorose

The guard takes her by the arm,

out of the cell, and onto a truck

to sit among German soldiers

with tortoise-like helmets and rifles.

Non parlano italiano and

she doesn't speak German.

They arrive at a hotel that

smells of lilacs and roses.

Flanked by two soldiers she pauses

in the lobby when she sees

the French windows and the honey

coloured, parquet floor.

Sofia shares a velvet-draped room

with three other girls, and sees

the jade Adriatic from a small,

narrow balcony. No one talks.

Anyone could be a spy.

She dreams of her mother's garden

in Valsantamarina. …

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