As we see a light at the end of the tunnel of this horrible Pandemic, and in the spirit of the Holiday Season, I want to share a true story about my 96 year old father and his 2020 Holiday Miracle.
This story begins on October 14, 1944 in Monterenzio, an Italian mountain village just south of Bologna. While serving in the infantry of the U.S. Army, Martin Adler was ordered to search house to house for Nazis who were still in the area. Upon entering a particular house, my dad came upon a big straw basket which appeared to move and make noises. Thinking it could be a Nazi, my dad raised his Thompson submachine gun and aimed it at the basket. Just then, a young woman ran in the room yelling "no, no, bambina!!" Suddenly, 3 young and frightened children emerged from the basket
After catching his breath, my father immortalized the moment by having his photograph taken with the three children, but not before their mother had them put on their best clothes. “It was the most beautiful moment of my memories in that hell of war,” my father recalls.
The story came to light when my sister Rachelle, recently posted the above photo on an American Veterans Facebook page dedicated to the 85th Infantry Division - Custer, in hope of finding these children.
The photo was seen by Matteo Incerti, an author and journalist from the Emilia-Romagna region, who has written about the second world war. Incerti shared the photo on his own Facebook page and contacted a local newspaper, which published the photo, and the search for the 3 bambinos was carried in many Italian newspapers, TV stations, and the national press.
Incerti, with the help of both of my sisters, arranged for a video chat between my dad and the three siblings, Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana Naldi, now aged 83, 81, and 79 respectively.
76 years later, on Monday December 14th, 2020, from his independent living community in Boca Raton, my father was reunited via a video chat with Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana.
At 96 years old, my dad greeted all three "children" by their names, and by recalling a few words he learned 76 years ago: "Ciao Bambini! Vuoi Cioccolata? The siblings said they remember hiding in the basket, and they still remember the American coming to their home offering them sweets and chocolate. The video chat was recorded and played across Italian TV." Just like then, it is a fairy tale. A fable of life born in the darkness of war. In these dark moments of our time, perhaps we all need to find a little human warmth and love," Incerti posted on social media, thanking the "tens of thousands of people who have been involved in this beautiful treasure hunt."
Afterwards my dad told me that the video reunion was "one of the nicest things that has ever happened to him."
The Italians are calling this a Christmas Miracle. They are also calling the 3 siblings, "Martin's Children".
Then, just this morning, on I Fatti Vostri, Italy's version of Good Morning America, my dad was introduced to Italian viewers during which he was made an Honorary Italian Citizen by the town of Monterenzio.
75 years ago, my dad came home from the war with a Bronze Medal and PTSD. He rarely talked about the horrors of war, but the memory of the Italian bambinos, their reunion a few days ago, and now being honored by a town he helped liberate as a young man, has lifted his spirits immensely. In the year of the Pandemic, I hope you find this a most heart warming story to close out a most difficult 2020.
Steven M. Adler