An Italian family escapes from bombings during WWII by bicycle

Tea Cejtin remembers her teenage years in WWII Italy

August 23, 2013

by Katie Mingle

(Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)
Helen and Tea Cejtin

Tea Cejtin was a just a teenager growing up in the city of Turin when Mussolini joined forces with Hitler, and pulled her home country of Italy into World War II.

At first, the bombings were minor.

But then the Americans joined the war effort. Cejtin visited the Chicago StoryCorps booth with her daughter, Helen, to tell what happened next.

Tea:  So came 1942 and the U.S.A. decided to come into (the) war. It was the great difference for us.  They were coming to bomb our cities, not one plane or two airplanes, but formations of airplanes.

StoryCorps’s mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. This excerpt was edited by WBEZ.

Helen: What were people doing in the shelter?

Tea: Oh, everybody was scared. Some people cried, some people screamed, and other people were saying the litany: ‘Ora pro nobis, ora pro nobis’ (pray for us, pray for us), all the saints they could think of. And some people trembled.

Helen: What were you doing?

Tea: Yeah, it seems to me that I was trembling, mainly. Then, at the end of this huge bombing … it would be around 2, 3 a.m., and the city was light like daytime because there were so many fires.

At this point, Maria’s family decided Turin (Torino in Italian) had become too dangerous, and they had to leave.

Tea: We thought that we should go to a little town nearby, about 25 kilometers from Torino, but how do we go? We took bicycles. But my mother didn’t know how to go on a bicycle. My father was able to find a tandem.

To find out what happened next, click on the audio above.

Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival.