07 Becoming a partisan: rights, obligations (Anita Malavasi)

07 Becoming a partisan: rights, obligations (Anita Malavasi)


After a while of walking, a partisan patrol came towards us. They were from the Rosselli detachment. Rosselli was one of the local partisans. Then we reached the detachment. There, the commander started talking to us. He wanted to know why we went to the mountains. We explained to him what had happened. And the situation changed again. A different reality hit us. We didn’t only have to learn to fight, as the commander told us: “From this moment you’re not men or women anymore, you’re partisans. You’ll do what the others do, share things with us and sleep in the same rooms, share our meals and all the tasks we must carry out, like patrolling the area. You should learn to handle weapons, know how to care for them, load them, and how to use them. You’ll mount guard and take part in the patrols. Little by little you’ll become combatants. Here you have the same rights and obligations as everyone else. Nobody should put you into trouble and you should behave so that nobody else ends up in trouble because of you”. At night, at first they had given us a room which was full of bedbugs. We had to run out of it as we couldn’t sleep because of the bites. So the first night I slept with them I was between De Pietri, a partisan from Reggio and a young Sardinian carabiniere who had refused to follow the Germans’ orders and went to the partisans. We chatted all night long. They asked me about things in the city and I asked them how we should have behaved, etc. I really became aware of the differences. At home, there was no way you could sleep next to a man! Women were vital to the partisans. They could go where men could not. Men had failed to report for military service. Everywhere they went, even if they were young, they were taken, searched and sent out to concentration camps at the least. As women, we did not have to be in the army or with the fascists. We could move in a way they weren’t allowed to. We took care of things like printed materials, propaganda, weapons. When a GAP or SAP unit had to move in the lowlands, for example if the Rosselli detachment, based in Cavandola, close to Canossa, had to go to Quattro Castella, or carry out an action on the Emilia road, it was a woman partisan who would lead the way for the group. We were called dispatch riders, but we would lead the way to see what was ahead and then go back to report. This was really important.

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