Aldo Mantovani

* 1922

  • “Italian army doctors operated on us, they amputated frozen limbs to some people, in some cases up to their knees, or even half of the legs, depending on the kind of frostbite. Many of us died in the snow. Nearly half of the people who had been captured reached the camp. The town was called Kineshma, there was a hospital, some fields, and army barracks. We slept in cattle-sheds, and every morning, the person who slept next to you had died of typhoid. There were lice and everyone was sick. It was the war and winter.”

  • “We were afraid of the winter, but the Russians were not. They didn’t give a damn about it and they launched an offensive. But we didn’t even shoot at them; we didn’t fire a single shot, because everything was frozen. It was not yet that cold, but it was cold enough for our guns to freeze and stop working. The Russians captured us as if we were sheep.”

  • “I was running for some half a kilometre beyond the frontline. The Russians were swarming like ants and running after us. Bullets were whizzing past. Some of us got killed, some were lucky and escaped. What followed was a calvary. It was bad. They gathered us in groups and they formed a convoy in order to get us to the other side. Cars were not able to pass through there, or they didn’t have them. Everyone walked there. We walked for 40 days. Those, whose feet were frozen and who remained sitting on the road, died there.”

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    Horní Bříza, 16.08.2014

    duration: 01:58:52
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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There were moments when hope was vanishing

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Aldo Mantovani
photo: Jakub Anderle

  Aldo Mantovani was born September 14, 1922 in Ceneselli, in the Rovigo province in Italy as one of four children in a poor worker’s family. In 1928 the family moved to Pilastri di Bondeno in the Ferrara district. As Aldo recalls, he did not go to school much. When he was eighteen, he was drafted to the army and after his basic military training he was sent to the eastern front in 1942. Aldo Mantovani served in the 9th infantry division Pasubio, in the 80th infantry regiment. He reached the calm front by the Don River in December 1942 where they expected to wait for the attack until spring. However, the Soviet army attacked already on Christmas. Aldo was taken prisoner and for forty days he had to march to a camp near the town Kineshma. In 1945 he was released and after a dramatic journey he returned home. It was difficult to find a job in post-war Italy, and Aldo had a friend who had been working in the kaolin factory in Horní Bříza already for several years. In 1948 he thus went with him to Czechoslovakia to search for work. Aldo had not been issued a passport, and he therefore had to hide at the border, and during his second unsuccessful border crossing from Austria to Czechoslovakia he was arrested and imprisoned. He was released from the prison in České Budějovice shortly after and he then arrived to Horní Bříza without further complications. When the Italian embassy in Prague issued a temporary passport for him, he began working in the kaolin factory. Later he worked in the ceramics factory in Horní Bříza. In 1966 he moved with his wife Vlasta Pašková and their three children to Italy, and they still continue to live there.