Saved by the Ficara

Thirty-two year old Maria Caterina was a single girl helping to look after her younger sister along with her dad. Her four bothers were someplace out in the war theater of World War 2.

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No news has been received from them for quite a while now. Rumours circulated the village that two was taken captive, but nobody understood for certain.She took the usual walk down into the gully in which her family vegetable garden lay the steps dug out from the side of the mountain.She climbed the ancient’ficara’, which intended fig tree in their regional dialect. The base of this tree was so large that two people hugging it on other sides wouldn’t be able to join hands. She made her way up a thick branch, 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 freshly picked figs. They were so sweet. She extended to grab one special fat juicy fruit when she thought she heard men’s voices. They were crying. She stopped to listen. Suddenly, something exploded near the base of the tree. Dust went up everywhere and she noticed tiny objects whistling passed her ear, chopping down fruit and leaves as they flew by. She closed her eyes, and all hell broke loose.A group of soldiers came to her view, and they were running back towards the village. They were wearing jeans. She knew that since they were occupying the village for months now. They seemed different and both groups were shooting each other. One German got shot in the leg along with two of the countrymen grabbed him leaving the guy’s rifle behind. She cursed as she realised that she had been in the center of some battle… stuck, high on the ficara.She closed her eyes and held on into the thick branch for her dear life. 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 only a few minutes but to Maria Caterina it sensed an eternity.This story was relayed to me by Maria Caterina, my aunt. It was intriguing to hear her recount this event, more than once. She died in 2006 just two months shy of her ninety-sixth birthday. This was her account of the Allied forces liberating her village of Santa Caterina dello Ionio situated in the highlands of Calabria, province of Catanzaro. That fig tree was destroyed in the fires that went through this region, I think around 1987