Eileen Truant Pedersen shows the wartime metal band inscribed “Oro Alla Patria,” that was passed down in the family. Photo: Jim Bailey

Eileen Truant Pedersen shows the wartime metal band inscribed “Oro Alla Patria,” that was passed down in the family. Photo: Jim Bailey

Trail Blazers: The story of the metal wedding band 86 years on

Eileen Truant Pedersen has been writing about her family, and local history, for years.

Eileen Truant Pedersen has been researching and writing about her family roots, and local history, for years.

Many may recall her name from the highly regarded book called “Set in Stone – A History of Trail’s Rock Walls.”

Now, Eileen is sharing an epic tale that first began 10 years ago when she was handed a modest-looking ring by her older sister, Anita Bressanutti.

Turns out this ring carries with it great worth and prominence, but not in terms of dollar-value.

Instead, the metal band gives a glimpse to the past of not only Eileen’s predecessors, but also of her family’s homeland, Italy.

The ring, and countless others like it, was issued by Benito Mussolini’s fascist government to Italian women who chose, or were strong-armed, to give up their gold wedding rings and other gold jewelry for the war effort.

Women were given “replacement” rings with the inscription “Oro Alla Patria” [gold for the country] and the date.

The ring, and countless others like it, was issued by Benito Mussolini’s fascist government to Italian women who chose, or were strong-armed, to give up their gold wedding rings and other gold jewelry for the war effort. Photo: Jim Bailey

The ring, and countless others like it, was issued by Benito Mussolini’s fascist government to Italian women who chose, or were strong-armed, to give up their gold wedding rings and other gold jewelry for the war effort. Photo: Jim Bailey

Eileen’s handed-down ring was originally exchanged for a gold wedding band belonging to Annuta, an Italian aunt who died in child birth 100 years ago.

Interestingly, Eileen only recently noticed “Oro Alla Patria,” inscribed in the ring. Also stamped inside the dull grey band are Roman numerals, and the year, “1935.”

There is much more to how this particular wartime ring wound up in Trail and in Eileen’s possession. In her story, “The Metal Wedding Band,” she shares the riveting tale.

The Metal Wedding Band

By Eileen Truant Pedersen

“The story begins during the First World War.

Two of my uncles died during WWI in Northeast Italy – one, my mom’s brother Vincenzo, a Red Cross soldier; and the other, my dad’s brother Attilio, a soldier who succumbed to The Great Influenza of 1918.

Conditions during the war were deplorable in so many ways as the battles mostly took place during the winters in the precipitous Dolomite mountains along the Isonzo River.

Little has been recorded of these battles, contributing to a collective amnesia of Italy’s involvement, and, there has been a perception that Italians were incompetent fighters.

I grew up with this joke: ‘What did the Germans do with the grenade the Italians threw at them? They lit it and threw it back.’

For me, that was my family’s country’s legacy until I began to delve into my family’s her/history.

After the Italians suffered a resounding defeat by the Austro-German forces at the Sept.-Oct. 1917 Battle of Caporetto on the NE Italian front, my Nono sent my Nona, their five daughters, and youngest son, 9, to Genoa as refugees.

My mother was 10.

At least 250,000 women and young boys from the Friul and Veneto areas also left for various parts of Italy. My parents and several previous generations were peasant farmers on the plains of the Friul of Northern Italy in the village of San Martino al Tagliamento.

The Tagliamento is one of the most important braided rivers in the world. Meaning, it runs mostly under ground, except during spring runoff from the Dolomites, or during rainstorms.

It is currently nominated to be a World Heritage Site.

The town is close to the banks of this river, hence the name.

In Genoa, my family stayed at the L’Albergo Dei Poveri [Hotel for the Poor] for 18 months.

My grandfather stayed home to tend to and protect the farm animals and the land they owned.

The eldest son, my uncle Vincenzo, though he was with the Red Cross during the war and was apparently protected, was killed in 1916. He is buried in Gorizia.

I heard the story of how the family found out about his death: his sister Rosina, about 12 at the time, woke up from a dream screaming ‘Vincenzo is dead! Vincenzo is dead!’

‘Oh don’t be silly,’ the family reassured her, as they’d just received a letter from him.

However, word was out that men from the village had been killed.

My grandmother went out into the street to find out who. ‘Yours for sure’ one of the village women told her point blank. There are several stories of dreams such as this one in our family.

My mother’s oldest sister Annuta, pregnant with her second child, also accompanied the family to Genoa with her 18- month-old son Vincenzo.

The day she birthed her second, Ricardo, at L’Albergo Dei Poveri, Vincenzo died of meningitis.

Approximately a year after, it was safe for the family to return home.

Annuta gave birth to two more children, both girls.

Tragically, she died the day her youngest daughter was born, Feb. 6, 1921.”

Fast forward to 1935

“With the rise of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, and two months after Italy invaded Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, at the beginning of October, 1935, Mussolini urged women to donate their gold jewelry to ‘the war effort.’

(In fact, other European countries had their own system of confiscating gold belonging to the people.)

Directives were issued to collect gold wedding rings from even the poorest and exchange them for metal bands. According to Forbes.com Mussolini amassed 35 tonnes of gold this way.

Women seen with gold rings risked being shamed and shunned.

Annuta’s husband, Leonardo, ‘donated’ his deceased wife’s gold wedding ring when he was paid a visit by party members at his home.

It was replaced with a metal one.

Leonardo brought [the replacement ring of his deceased wife] to my mother.

He told my mother to hide her gold ring and to wear the metal one, which she did.

When party members came calling, my mother had no gold to contribute.

My eldest sister Anita, entrusted with its care, passed the metal band on to me, along with the story, about 10 years ago.

She knew of my quest to research and record family her/history and thought I should have it.

I am so grateful for that kind gesture.

What neither of us knew until researching further (Feb. 5, 2021), was that these replacement rings all bore the inscription ‘Oro Alla Patria 18 11 1935 X1V’ on the inside.

Translation: ‘gold for the fatherland.’

Did our heirloom have this inscription?

I retrieved the ring and scrambled to find a flashlight and magnifying glass.

Sure enough, there it was.

Seeing the inscription brought me to tears — so many emotions.

Read more: Trail Blazers

Read more: Trail Blazers


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

First World WarLocal History

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Student-nurse Kendra Waterstreet administers the Pfizer vaccine to Litia Fleming at the Waneta Plaza vaccination clinic in the old Zellers buiding. Photo: Jim Bailey
Trail vaccination clinic readies for adults age 40+

B.C.’s state of emergency is extended through the end of day on May 25

Kerry Reed
West Kootenay Fishing Report: Spring fishing, the bite is on!!

Anglers having great results on Kootenay Lake and Columbia River

New Border Bruins owner Dr. Mark Szynkaruk reps team colours with his young sons and wife Tracey. Photo courtesy of the Grand Forks Border Bruins
KIJHL’s Border Bruins sold to Grand Forks doctor

The league announced the sale Friday, May 14

For something a little different this week, Trail Blazers is featuring an historical image from the Kootenay Boundary. This rough and tumble photo shows the Forshaw Ranch near Phoenix, B.C, circa 1914. Photo Credit: Boundary Heritage Facebook Page (via Grand Forks Gazette)
Trail Blazers: Home, home on the range

Trail Blazers is a weekly historical feature

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Tim Miller is selling his 76-foot steel bridge from his property in Burton, B.C. The bridge originates from the railway in Revelstoke. (Contributed)
For sale: a 100-ton 19th century bridge by Arrow Lakes

Bridge is in Burton, B.C. and advertised for $40,000

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Most Read