Monday, 21 May 1945

Return home: Pietro Cavedaghi

"It's May 21st, 9:00 a.m. While a comrade of mine is eating, I spend about an hour studying the map to see which is the best way home. While I'm looking at the map, a Russian soldier suddenly comes along and stops at the door. He is already a little drunk. I sit at the table with the map in my hand and did not think to put it away. Because some Russians, who don't understand the reason, might think I'm a spy. It's true that the war is over, but you never know. And that's exactly what's happening now.

The Russian takes the map out of my hand and with his right hand he pulls a big gun, which he unlocks in front of me and points it at my head. When my comrade Bertelli sees this, he tries to come to my aid. But the Russian does not understand and points the gun at him. He shall go back again. He presses the gun against my head again.

The Russian asks me what I wanted to do with the map. I answer him that I was looking at the ways back to Italy. He does not understand. And then the bad thing is that I speak German to him and he thinks I'm German.

For about 10 minutes he held a pistol to my head and asked me what I intended to do with the map. I answered, and he didn't understand. I had no hope left. Suddenly he decides to ask me if I'm Italian. I answer yes, and the Russian happily gives me the map back.

He puts the pistol into the case, says goodbye to me and says 'Italiano gut-Bravo. Soon you will go home'. I return to my comrades in the house, still in a state of shock."

(From the diary of Pietro Cavedaghi, a former Italian forced labourer)

Pietro Cavedaghi was 19 years old when he was captured by the Wehrmacht in Pinerolo on 12 September 1943 and deported to the German Reich. In Berlin he has to do forced labour for the Siemens-Schuckertwerke. Immediately before the end of the war, SS units force Cavedaghi and other forced labourers from a camp in Berlin-Schöneweide to march in the direction of Spandau. When the guards suddenly flee, the group sets off in a westward direction. Cavedaghi hopes to reach the Red Army front line as quickly as possible. On April 24, 1945, the group meets the first Soviet soldiers in the village of Satzkorn, near Potsdam. The Red Army soldiers quarter him and his companions in the surrounding German houses. They are assigned to work in a nearby storage facility. This gives Cavedaghi the opportunity to supply himself with sufficient food. In the following days, the Italian experiences the ongoing fighting and the reconquest of the village by German units. Only on May 4th Satzkorn is finally occupied by Soviet troops. Pietro Cavedaghi reaches Italy on September 21, 1945.

(Source: Pietro Cavedaghi, "The pain and the memory. Diary of imprisonment in Germany 1943-1945," Ed. Daniela Cavedaghi, Grafo 2005)