Sunday, May 22, 2011

Amanuensis Monday -- Nonno Enzo's Diary -- November 20-25, 1915

Vincenzo Dibennardo
Here is the next translated entry from my grandfather's diary, written in Sicily when he was 15 years old.  For previous entries click here.

                                                        20-21-22 November, 1915

These days it rained continuously with a mighty wind and a bit of cold.


                                                        25 November, 1915

Today was a day for walking.

My fellow fourth gymnasium schoolmates and I took a stroll. Don Mattias, the school catechist, led the way.

The walk turned out truly splendid. We went to San Francesco di Sales (boarding school) in Catania where we found the director, Don Massimino; the prefect, Don Scelsi; Don Vanoli; and others. The latter person showed us some dormitories occupied by the wounded (WWI); there were those injured in the arm, fingers (unsure if writes "finger"), others in the head, and some with wounded feet. It was a desolation. There was also one man from Genoa with frostbite to the feet who gave a letter to Don Vanoli to mail for him.

Later, we visited the various laboratories, and therefore some, or rather most of us, went with Don Sinatra to the "soid" (unsure of this word), while I, Putrino, and Di Bella remained in the school.

Along with Don Patané, director of the Amico (Friend) (Salesian newspaper), we went to the first floor where there was a pantry with Salesian books. There, my classmates chose some annual issues of the Amico and handed them over to Don Patané to bind them.

When we arrived in his room, we all changed our address, and I had him give me the last issue of the Amico. (Note: In an earlier entry, my grandfather explains he attended San Francesco di Sales before the boarding school in San Gregorio. According to my research, San Francesco di Sales was closed in 1915 because it was used as a hospital for WWI wounded. This may be why he "changes" his address so he can receive the Salesian newspaper.)

When we left him, we walked with another superior near the flower beds, spending another good half hour waiting for Don Mattias; but when we saw that he did not come as promised, we came up with the resolution -- also coerced by the inspector -- to begin a swift walk toward San Gregorio at 5 minutes after 5.

We continued to talk softly while walking. Arriving near Cannalicchio (a district of Catania), with the one called Di Bella who had ten cents, we went to a belsola (a grocery -- unsure) to buy bread, but unfortunately none was to be found. So we continued our journey.

To tell the truth, I turned back a few times to look behind me, feeling a bit scared; but then reassured, I continued on my way. Arriving a little higher, above Cannalicchio, we met a young man who was going to Ficarrazzi -- a small village not too far from San Gregorio. He was heading home after being in Catania to do masonry work, and he now returned to get bread.  My mind was filled with scary thoughts, but I did not express my weakness to my friends; my consistent turning around to see behind me was quite useless.  The darkness was perfect and one could hardly distinguish one thing even ten meters away. The moon was not in the sky, and the stars were hidden behind the clouds.

The young man started to recount some things while we had our ears open for any sounds, consoling ourselves that our other classmates were probably nearby.  But, no, we were deceived, and we could accept this when we entered the dormitory and at first did not see anyone but, going down to the study hall, we found them at their respective places, staring at us with questioning eyes.  I have to warn my dear readers that they must forgive even when a learned man makes a mistake because in this world we are all made of flesh and, therefore, easily make mistakes.  So, I must tell you that we went to the Director and told him the story; but, as always, he put on a smile and said, "Go on sons, and next time be more careful" which left us confused and heavy-hearted.

So this is how our nice walk turned into our adventure.

Original diary pages:

Stay tuned for the next entry...


  1. These posts from your grandfather's diary provide such a wonderful view into life in Italy at that time! I have a couple of questions about this one, though. I'm not sure I understand why your grandfather was afraid there at the end and what story they had to explain to the director. Was it because of being out late, past dark?

  2. One other question I forgot to post -- he says at one point "dear reader," but I thought this was a diary. Did he expect people to read his diary? Was he keeping it for school?

  3. I think he was afraid of the dark, and it is not a short walk where they were going. In those days it would have been less populated and not well lit. As for the director, I believe Nonno expected the director to be disturbed by the fact that Don Mattias -- their chaperone -- never showed as promised and that he even returned to the school with the others before my grandfather did, meaning my grandfather and his two friends were forgotten and had to walk back some 8 or 9 kilometers in the dark, alone and without an adult. That's how I understand it. The director just shrugs it off and tells the boys to be more careful next time when they were the ones left behind.