On my recent ski escape, I was in Ovindoli, in Italy’s Apennine mountains of the Abruzzo region.
Like most little mountain towns, Ovindoli has a memorial to the soldiers who died both in WWI and WWII. For those who know the region well, most of these towns have much longer lists for the First World War than the second.
Heart-breakingly, the list of names also reveal that the war led to the demise of many of the young men from individual families.
Not surprisingly, mountain dwellers in Abruzzo were sent as Alpine soldiers to fight on the front with Austria. As students of WWI know well, the casualty rate at that front was devastating, and many young men never returned to their mountain hometowns.
Further affecting the population decline in those towns were the devastating earthquake of neighboring Pescina in 1915 and the massive immigration of young people – and especially young men – following WWI.
The combined effects of WWI soldier casualties, deaths from the earthquake, and mass migration left many of these towns populated by mainly older people, young widows, and young unmarried women and children. Not surprisingly, this had a profound effect on economic growth of this region for decades following that war.
Above, you can see the new plaque added to the soldier memorial in Ovindoli – marking the Centennial of end of the “Great War” and recognizing the fallen soldiers who never returned. You’ll also note that the end of the war for Italy preceded Armistice Day – since Italy fought along the Austrian front, with the fighting ceasing on 4 November.
Next time you’re in Ovindoli, or any of these small Italian mountain towns, take some time to visit the WWI memorials you’ll find there.