Italy - Val - Sagone
Recollection of Specific Events
By: Marek Herman (alias Ilkow, Marco and Pessione)
I am going back to November 1944, to the town of Geaveno in Val Sangone. The Germans, the Vlasow units and the Italian fascists had completely surrounded us and hemmed us in. we were all in a death trap. We hid the transmitter under the floor of the cow shed and Mario, Panek and I tried to cross the Sangone River, jumping from rock to rock. We were shot at from the other side of the river and had to turn back. Now I knew that we had to revert to the emergency plan – both boys had to be hidden in Martino's brick factory.
The factory was on the other side of the town. We had to hope that the Germans had not yet reached it. They were advancing slowly, using dogs to check any place the partisans could hide in. Breathlessly we reached the factory, and the head of the family put the two operators under a pile of bricks that had been prepared in advance, in a hiding place in the yard.
I had false papers identifying me as a local boy, so I ran "home" to Gigi Segre's (our commander's) mother. I was not at ease, however. The rumors of the dogs made me uncomfortable. I asked Antonieata Segre for a bottle of ammonia. She had a big bottle at home, which she gave me. I ran back to the factory and spread the liquid around the hiding place, in the brick pile. Later on, I discovered that the ammonia saved the lives of the two operators and the family that sheltered them.
It began to get dark. There were 2.5 kilometers between me and safety. When I reached the town square, I saw a flash of light. I jumped over a fence into somebody's garden. A frightened owner looked toward the square along with me. A tank approached and turned left, the opposite direction to where I needed to go. A second tank was on its way. Just before it turned into the square, the owner of the house opened the gate for me and I ran until I reached home safely. The Germans set themselves up in our street. I was less afraid of them because they were foreigners in the country. The entered the house to borrow a skillet.
The days later, on November 26, there was a disaster. About 15 American airplanes dropped supplies and ammunition for the partisans in complete daylight. They all fell into German hands. We had been waiting for this drop for a ling time. To this day, we don't know what caused the pilots to make the drop when they did. We did not have any agreed upon signs. There was only a lot of smoke from the houses burned by the Germans in many areas of the surrounding mountains. Rumor had it that 50 partisans had also been killed on this occasion, trying to recover the dropped ammunition and weapons.
After a few days the curfew was lifted and I was able to reach Torino and report what had happened go Gigi, and especially that the transmitter operators were safely in hiding. Gigi sent me on my next mission, which was to look for an English captain of the "Strawberry" station in the Val-de-la-Tour area so that he could inform the American command of our inability to communicate.
After this, I had to go to Val-di-Suze, to prepare an alternative place to which the transmitter could be removed so that we could resume our work. This became possibly only a month later, on December 29. An earlier attempt had failed due to a German patrol, on our route. We reached the Avigliana lakes with our radio at night, using alternate routes. We hid the bicycles we had used and continued on foot. We crossed the Suza Valley up to our knees in snow. After many hours of walking, we finally reached Kumbe and resumed operating the transmitter.