Once upon a time, there was a Jewish family…

…in Rome. It was my Jewish family and it was broken by the Nazi.
But, I am fortunate enough to be able to tell this story because of the courage shown by my great grandpa Leone (Italo, for friends) Valabrega and his wife Anita di Capua. Had they not pushed their sons Ugo and Bruno (my grandpa) to flee their home in Rome for Naples where they crossed the enemy lines and started hiding from the Nazi, I may have never been born.
Had they not stayed, had they gone with their sons, they may have been alive today.
But, their innocence and trust in people made them stay. Never would they have thought the neighbors would have given them-up to the Nazi the way they did. They were deceived and it costs them their lives. They believed they were older and useless for “manual labor,” but they were still gathered in the Ghetto together with 2,000 Roman Jews and put on a train to Poland for six days like animals on a carriage. Too bad, my great grandma was killed (gassed) upon arrival at the Camp because a woman over 50 years of age. Of Leone’s death, there are no news instead, but we imagine a similar faith.

That is why today, January 13, 2011, after over 65 years from their deaths our family met in Via Flaminia 215 their home at the time when my great grandparents were arrested by the SS on October 16, 1943 for their “race,” and later deported to Auschwitz. We wanted to celebrate their memory. We wanted to “lechaim” to their heroic gesture that brought us life. We wanted others never to forget. We wanted their broken lives to become stones in the same ground who took them away from us.
We gathered there, holding two bronze sampietrini that were placed in the ground to remembered the graves they never had and the bodies we never found. So that we may have a place to morn them and other people who walk by, will stop, read, and, hopefully, think about how the brutality of human kind acted against other human beings, which only “flaw” was to be of a different creed.

May the million pedestrian who cross the path in front of my great grandparents’ home from now on reflect upon who those Valabrega people really were and what giving-up their lives in the name of their children meant for the Valabrega I am today!
I owe them life. I owe them everything I have ever known. Now, it is my turn to give back to them.

One thought on “Once upon a time, there was a Jewish family…

  1. Kim Bjugstad says:

    We are currently staying in the same building, apartment #20. We happened to see these markers and googled the names. Thank you for placing the plaques and posting the story. After adverse times, God sometimes let’s us grow. Thank you and bless you for your family’s sacrifice.

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