"Fighting Furlans": (l-r) Fortunato [Toni] Degano and Tarcisio [Civon] Rossi
IVANO SAYS: IN MY BOOK 'LA NOSTRA COSTA', I INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING ENDNOTE ON PAGE 148:
"A very poignant film, directed by Enzio Monteleone, entitled "El Alamein-The Line of Fire",depicts, both with courage and pathos, the Italian soldiers' hopeless plight in North Africa. Distributed by Palace Films, it was shown at the 2004, Italian Film Festival, in Marin." *
While the hopeless war in North Africa was raging, another hopeless war was being faught in Greece and the Balkans. The 'Canadian Furlan", Doriano Degano gives us an historical account of the "Fighting Furlans" who participated in that war.
Ivano "Mio Caro Amico"How are you my dear Furlan Friend !! Sempre Avanti that is a motto we should all take to heart. Well as you know I have been in contact with Reno, we have had some long email discussions and a few telephone conversations. And he has been sharing some information with me regarding the Alpino Reggimento Julia. And as you know I have been doing some research on my family tree and have completed some extensive historical research on my uncle Fortunato (Toni) Degano who was in the Alpino Julia Division 8th Reggimento Battiglione Cividale 16th Compania. In the Photo attached, left hand side, is my Uncle Fortunato (Toni) Degano born 2-October-1919 died 28-February-1941 Albania, and beside him (right hand side of photo) is his childhood friend Tarcisio (Civon) Rossi born 11-November-1919 missing in action never found 19-January-1943 Russia. As you know all Furlans had nicknames as you have experienced with your Father "Bronco". For some reason that was the style in Friuli back then primarily because many had very common last names. In Pasian di Prato Udine where my Father's family originates Degano is similar to Smith here in North America. Today however the nickname is no longer a style used. My Uncle Toni Degano was part of an Elite Division Alpini known as the Julia. The Division is no longer part of the Italian army, the Alpini are but the Julia was basically retired after WWII due to so many casualties. As I mentioned in order to qualify to become an Alpino, an individual must be at least 5' 9" tall and weight at least 160lbs., so this qualified many Northern Italians primarily Friulani, and this was the area that the Julia was formed from. My Uncle Toni and his best friend Tarcisio were drafted in the Army and quickly deployed to Kukes Kosovoe Albania where the Italian Army very quietly over took the very weak and fragile Balkan country of Albania. This was a strategic move to ensure Italy was protected due to their declaration of war against Britain. As you know the plan was then escalated when Mussolini heard of his buddy Hitler, quickly dispatching Poland in 1939. Feeling less of a dictator, Mussolini ill advised entered of Greece with absolutely no plans. Here the Italian armies primarily supported by the Alpino Julia were not prepared to fight a Guerrilla Type warfare in the mountains of Greece in late Autumn 1940, where the weather and the terrain hampered any formal military interaction. The Greek army primarily relied on sniper and ambush attacks using the mountains as their back drop. In addition the Greek army was being heavily supported by the British with equipment and supplies. Now the Regiment my Uncle was in, the 8th Alpino battaglione Cividale were without supplies, another friend of my uncle Vittorio Demarco, who is alive today at 90 years old, spent days with me to recount the sacrifices they all endured in Albania, Greek and Russian Fronts. Like I mentioned out of 350 men in my uncle's Battaglione only 50 men survived. They were basically murdered to put it bluntly. They did not have any clothing for winter warfare. It was brutal. Vittorio told me he was there the day my uncle Toni died. He went to witness the slaughter after major bombings. They were continuously hit by mortar attacks, they did not stand a chance. Vittorio told me the only reason he survived the Greek campaign was because he was given orders that 28th day of Feb 1941, to bring all the wounded down to the medical team from the Mountain top known as the Golico. Otherwise he would have been gone as well. Vittorio also told me all the men that did survive February 28th 1941, were all stricken with severe frost-bite to their hands and feet. My uncle's boyhood friend Tarcisio was badly stricken with frost bite on his feet, and was deployed back home to Friuli to hospital to recover. However, soon as the recovery was over from Frost Bite, both Tarcisio and Vittorio were both deployed to the Eastern Front Russia in 1942, but before leaving again to war they both signed a pack to join the resistance THE PARTISANS. Both Vittorio and Tarcisio both knew that they must rid Italy of this dictatorship that was strangling Italy. Many people joined the resistance forming an army of Partisians to secretly remove the Fascists from power, regardless of the methods used. Once in Russia Vittorio managed to survive through shear toughness. And as evident today, Vittorio has this air about him that one would have second thoughts to pick a fight with him. Tarcisio went missing in Russia never found on January 19th 1943. Many Italian soldiers went missing in action, never returning and their families never really putting some sort of closure to their lives. My uncle Toni Degano was laid to rest in Albania but after the war his remains and all the remains of his soldier friends were moved to Italy.They are resting in a military cemetery in Bari, review the web site http://ilcapocomitiva.blogspot.com/2006/10/il-sacrario-militare-di-bari.html where 1,000's of Italian soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice during WWII. My uncle Fortunato was really not "Fortunato" as you know fortunato translated means fortunate. He gave his life for his country. The sad part of his my uncle Toni left behind a girl friend that he had intentions of marrying, but she too shortly after my uncle passed away, also passed away from not having quick medical attention due to a severe appendix attack. Many hospitals in Friuli were without medical care due to most Doctors being deployed for the war effort. This is truly a sad story. I have more but this should do well on the 'Blagga'. Wishing all of you and your Families a very Happy Easter. Spend time with your loved ones!! -- Doriano A. Degano