Letters from the Old Country

Many Italian immigrants were in regular contact with their families and others back home. The desire to maintain strong ties with the old country prompted a steady stream of letters that only stopped with WWII. In that conflict, the prolonged struggle of the Allied Forces to capture Italy from the German Army, 1943-1945, left much of the country in ruins. In the course of the war, cities such as Milan, Rome, Naples, Florence, Foggia, Palermo, and Sulmona were bombed. Many small towns and villages suffered total destruction when Hitler’s defensive lines fell on them. Once the war was concluded, the U.S. government responded with the Marshall Plan to help Europe recover. But individual Italian Americans also reacted, again sending letters along with much needed food, clothing, and money to their suffering relatives in Italy. 

Here, we have a two-part letter from 1946, less than a year after Liberation, that arrived in Youngstown, OH from the small town of Colletorto in the province of Campobasso. The letter writers announce the grateful receipt of supplies from their American cousins. 


January 23, 1946

Dear Brother, 

Today I received the package. It’s about five kilos and contains 17 pieces in all of clothes and other articles, both new and used. There’s a pair of used shoe soles, and a new piece weighing a half a kilo. I can’t say how much we appreciate this. My daughters are enthusiastic for everything, and can’t thank you enough for sending these things. They want God to bless you with health. Dear brother, here we will need time before things can be restored. Let’s hope that with time things will get better. Mother received one hundred dollars before Christmas but so far no letters. Here whoever has relatives in America has received boxes, and are receiving them still. We’re fortunate that there is this help, because fabric here is very expensive–five or six hundred liras for every meter. Cousin Filomena wrote to Mother saying she will be sending a package. Aunt Anna Maria also has sent us a package of used stuff, but we have not received it yet. We are doing fairly well. The growing season has been poor for us as well because of the drought, and we carry on as best as we can. I’m sorry for our mother who is suffering her old age with many ailments and mortifications, since our father is worsening with each passing day. She must worry about the considerable cost of wheat–a quintale* of grain is 7,000 liras–and he just thinks about eating and cursing. This is the penance that Christ has granted her…No matter. I’ll stop now. Greetings and kisses to you all.

Your loving sister, Lucia

*approximately 220 pounds

Dear Uncle,

   We don’t have ways to thank you for the package because, as Mother has explained to you, here the situation has not improved much. Dear Uncle, we’re so willing to come to America to see you again and to meet the uncles and the cousins. We are sure things are much better there. America is always in our conversations and you’re very lucky to be there. Dear Uncle, don’t worry about Aunt Mena because she has received many packages from her husband’s relatives. Rather, send a package to us and to Aunt Loreta [Fiorentina’s sister]. Greetings and kisses to the uncles and cousins and to you. 

Your niece, Zelia.

Greetings and kisses to you all, Lena, Dorina and Vincenzino.