Armistice Always Please: The Cost of War in Abruzzo

“Southern Abruzzo bore the heavy weight of 2nd World War, exacerbated by the impact of the Gustav Line.  The Gustav Line was a line of defence built by the Germans in late 1943 in Italy. It went from Gaeta, which is south of Rome, through Cassino, the Apennine Mountains, and all the way to the Sangro estuary on the eastern coast of Abruzzo. 

Some of the bloodiest battles fought in Italy happened in towns along this line, the cost was high on the young men  from across the world, Canada, India, the UK, the USA, Australia and New Zealand and Poland are buried at the war cemetries that frame this line.  They are permanent reminders of the heavy cost of peace and freedom when dictators are enabled in suffering lands full of fear, injustice and poverty.

For local civilians who equally endured heavy and horrible losses despite the supposed rules of war, the aftermath and scars of war ran deep.  Many families were torn apart under the shadow of fascism, those who had supported and enabled Mussolini and those who hadn’t. Houses, produce from the land and animals that had been commandered by the Nazis across all 4 provinces of Abruzzo throughout the war from hungry people left destitute people afterwards.  The country signed up for deals like the ‘Men for Coal’  with Belgium, exporting 77,000 desperate Italian men, many from Abruzzo to the mines of southern Belgium for the worst of jobs, that were housed in miserable camps, enduring appalling work conditions in return for 2-3 million tonnes of coal  to Italy a year at preferential rates.

Villages and towns experienced not only the loss of lives but also the harrowing aftermath of depopulation with war-torn communities facing the poignant choice to migrate, leaving behind ancestral homes and their beloved community for hope across oceans. The impact still lingers on today in towns rebuilt, many with empty houses and now silent streets.  The rebuilt towns are a testament to the resilience of those who weathered the  worst of storms, but show the enduring legacy of depopulation and how warmongers enable the very thing they claim to despise most, migration.  Their words on the subject enable separation between communities and prejudice, continue the idea that some people are born better than others particularly in the jobs they can and will do.  Today, about 2.2% of the Italian population lives in Abruzzo, its GDP accounts for 1.9% of total income within Italy, the cost of war, reconstruction and obtaining an equal voice remains high.





Armistice is from Latin, arma, meaning “arms” and -stitium, meaning “a stopping”, let all nations remember, lest we forget!

Thanks for Pete Austin for photographs of Castel del Sangro ad Roccaraso

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.

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