Today  7  February  1983

This is the recounting and the diary of my life - Marino Mattei


Before everything, I would like to, for those who are reading my diary, please excuse my bad writing and the many grammatical mistakes in my Italian. Alas, my education has been extremely poor and my parents never sent me to school. I attended elementary school until the third grade but in these three years of school I spent the bulk of the time at home working. For my parents, schooling was not important. For this, I ask that you excuse my errors and my writing.

My name is Marino Mattei. I was born in Gromignana [a small mountain village in rural Tuscany] the day 23, November 1914 but my birthday is on the 25th because it was written in the communal record on that day. It's sad to recall my past but alas, this is the story of my life. I was born in Gromignana, as I said. I do not know whose house I was born in. At this time I was without a father. My mother, when I was born, already had another son, my brother, Stefano.

Stefano was living with the father and mother of my mother, in other words, my grandfather Silvio and my grandmother Maria Casani. He found himself fairly well there. Regrettably, I was not as fortunate. I believe I was born at La Piella in the house of Argene, my [great-]aunt - sister of my grandmother Maria. Argene cared a great deal for me but unfortunately, she was very poor and she did not have enough to eat for herself. My mother had nothing and because of this, my mother and I suffered from hunger every day. At this time I was very little but although I was so little I have never forgotten one morning when my mother awoke early. I was sleeping and she left me in bed. She went to work in the fields for someone who was going to give her food in return for her labor. Argene was not at home. Before my mother arrived back home I awoke and although I was so little I have never forgotten how much I cried. Finally, my cousin Sandri heard me. He came and got me and slowly, slowly he calmed me down. In the meantime, my mother returned and everything got back to normal.

My mother finally found a job at the Metallurgical Plant Italiana and so I could no longer stay in the house of my aunt Argene. She was old and she could not look after me so my mother had me watched by Fortuna and Caterina. I was still very young, around two years old, perhaps even less. My mother walked four hours to get to and to return from work. She worked for eight hours. When she came home at night she was very tired. She lived at the bottom of the village. I, on the other hand, was staying at the top of the village and because of this, I only saw my Mother once a week. As I said, Caterina and Fortuna lived together in the village but they had their lands and animals far from their house. Fortuna had a husband but he was blind and bedridden and they would keep me in a room with this man all day [while they worked in the fields] regardless of what might happen. I can not say how I spent my time there because I do not remember.

I do remember once I fell into the fireplace and I burned my face. My mother told me that I was inconsolable when it happened. My face was like a piece of coal. My eyes were all closed up and they thought that my face and eyes would never return to normal. My father, at that time, was away in the war [WW I]. Finally the war ended. My mother was laid off from her work and I returned to live with her in the house of Argene. For me, however, nothing changed; poor, with nothing and my mother and I suffered from hunger every day. At that time, I was around three-and-a-half or four years old, with almost no clothes to wear, in the winter and in the summer. I got my first pair of shoes when I had my First Communion. When the war was over my father returned home and married my mother.

Because I was little, I was happy and I thought now that my father was home, things were going to change. Unfortunately though, nothing changed. My father never had any desire to work. He was wasteful and he took little interest in his children and his family. Despite seeing that we were dying of hunger, the size of our family continued to increase. In fact, in 1919 my brother Guido was born. We continued to stay at Argene's house until 1921 and then (I don't know the reason why) we moved to Dezza - the last houses at the topmost end of our village. We stayed in Italo's house, a house that was extremely small - a bedroom, a kitchen and a cantina, no windows and a dirt floor. In the winter it was filled with water in the entrance way. At that time, there were five of us. You can imagine how well we were doing in a room this small. My grandfather and my grandmother, on my mother's side, had a lot of land. They were very old and my father agreed to work their land as a contadino [a farm hand]. Regrettably though, as I've said, my father had no desire to work. We were still small children and the situation in our family continued to be miserable and we continued to suffer much hunger. My father was a man without a conscience and he was very cruel.

I remember little of when we stayed in Dezza but there are two incidents that I will never forget. One morning my father wanted to send me to the store to buy salt. It was in the wintertime and I was still a little boy. The store was at a fair distance from our house and I was not precisely sure how to get there. Also, I had very few clothes to wear and no shoes or socks for my feet. The roads were all iced over and I did not want to go but with my father, there was no discussion. My father gave me 5 lira to buy the salt and very scared and freezing to death, I left for the store. It was at Nocenzo sul Crociale but when I arrived I realized that I had lost the 5 lira and they did not give me the salt. With my feet already frozen, I went back by the same road and I looked carefully, looking for the money but I was unable to find it. I did not want to go back home because I was so scared of my father but I had to because I could no longer resist the cold. When I arrived, you can imagine my father. He did not even let me come into the house. I can't remember if he beat me but he sent me back out and told me not to bother coming home if I did not find the money and return with the salt. I could no longer stand the cold. I left with no hope but perhaps God was moved to compassion and in the Sceponi, below the church, I found the 5 lira. I went to get the salt and I returned home. When I got back home I could no longer feel my feet and for many days they continued to be very painful.

Another time, it was the night of the Epifania [Epiphany - Twelfth Night]. In those days, children would receive presents, not from Father Christmas but the Befana [a kindly old witch who brings children toys on the Epiphany] would bring the presents. My parents gave me a small gift. I remember that they gave me a sailor's hat. However, my mother felt that my gift was inferior to that of my brothers, Stefano and Guido, and perhaps she had a guilty conscience because that night when we were sleeping she gave me a lira behind my father's back. My father somehow realized what had happened and he began to fight with my mother and then he began to beat her. The fight lasted almost all night long. My brothers and I were very frightened and I have never been able to forget the incident.

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