Saved by the Ficara

Thirty-two year-old Maria Caterina was one girl helping to care for her younger sister along with her father. Her four bothers were somewhere out in the war theatre of World War 2. No news has been received from them for quite some time now.

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Rumours circulated the village that two was taken captive, but nobody understood for sure.She took the usual walk down into the gully in which her family vegetable garden lay the steps dug out by the side of the mountain.She climbed the ancient’ficara’, which meant fig tree in their regional dialect. The bottom of the tree was so large that two people hugging it on other sides wouldn’t be able to join handson. She made her way up a thick branch, then slowly inching her way towards components heavily laden with ripe figs.She had been wearing a’fardale’, dialect to get an apron, and kept stuffing the pockets with newly picked figs. They had been so sweet. She extended to catch one particular fat succulent fruit when she believed she heard men’s voices. They were crying. She ceased to listen. Suddenly, something burst close to the bottom of the tree. Dust went up anywhere and she heard miniature objects whistling passed her ear, chopping down fruit and leaves as they flew by. She closed her eyes, and all hell broke loose.A bunch of soldiers came into her view, and they had been running back to the village. They were wearing jeans. She understood that because they had been occupying the village for weeks now. Not far behind them were other troops. They seemed different and both groups were shooting at each other. One German got shot in the leg along with two of his countrymen grabbed him leaving the man’s rifle behind. She cursed as she realised she was in the middle of some conflict… stuck, high on the ficara. There was so much shouting, yelling and firearms popping all over the place. No-one had spotted her perched there, high up on the tree, but explosions continued. She felt the figs roll from her pockets and drop to the ground underneath her. She had been too busy . It lasted just a few minutes but to Maria Caterina it felt an eternity.This story was relayed to me personally by Maria Caterina, my aunt. It was fascinating to hear her recount this event, more than once. She died in 2006 just two weeks shy of her ninety-sixth birthday. This was her account of the Allied forces liberating her village of Santa Caterina dello Ionio located in the highlands of Calabria, state of Catanzaro. This fig tree was totally destroyed in the fires that travelled through this area, I think about 1987

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