by  Gianfranco Menghini

Over the borders


It thus begins a close and dramatic story that will cross the whole of World War II until it reaches liberation, whose subtitle is OVER THE BORDERS. The two friends will know during their escape from the clutches of the communists and the fascists themselves, Menico, a lieutenant of the Italian Expeditionary Corps, demotivated by a useless and cruel war, which he “deserted,” so that all three plans to escape to the France. Gabriele, however, prefers to stop halfway. André an Menico continue a perilous journey, studded with adventurous events, escaping death several times. Thanks to a mountain guide, they manage to overcome the passage of the Pico de la Maladeta in the Pyrenees and flow into France but, before doing so, they are again assaulted and robbed of almost all their money and, worse still, their guide is killed. With the end of the Civil War in Spain, the Italians returned to their homeland where they were acclaimed by the fascist regime and Captain Menico promoted to major and sent to Rome alongside Gabriele, who, having left his girls friend, joined the Italian combatant unit. With the flight of the King and Badoglio and the change of front of Italy, the army comes to disintegrate itself, consequently the major Menico with Lieutenant Gabriele, begin a new escape towards the north, the rich Menico towards Switzerland and Gabriele to enlist in the Republic of Salò. Meanwhile André, who remained in France, enlisted in the Maquis, in whose ranks he became a brave and capable leader, author of clever coups against the occupying Germans. He will also bring incredible guerrilla actions against the invading German and, during Gabriele’s search for lakes, will suffer a heavy defeat.André is also looking for Gabriele and will find him only after unspeakable adventures and coups.With an unexpected ending that will conclude this novel of action and true European history.

Read an excerpt from the book

1 – Bel Ami

When he approached that shapeless thing, almost crushed on the ground and recognized it, he faltered for a few seconds, recovering just in time not to fall beside it, such was the torment that he felt as if he had been struck by a lightning. That inanimate thing, of which only the head was left intact, was the lone friend would leave him. He did not swear at the trucker who had overwhelmed his companion, since perhaps the driver had not even noticed with that great mastodon driven to more than sixty kilometers per hour, since that country road was free for more than a kilometer. Just at that point, in a slope covered by the first grass, André had slipped with his friend to his side, to rest after a long walk that had seen them both walk in the morning for at least a dozen kilometers. Once o the haversack to take away the remnant of a little cot of an almost clotted salami and a crust of hard bread kept in store since the night before when they had suppressed the pangs of hunger, the friend had no doubt, given the strong intelligence of which was undoubtedly gifted, guessed an instinctive reticence to give him a part or perhaps in spite of calculated that those miserable morsels of food would not be enough notwithstanding for one, so that, withdrew the tongue already drooling and taking advantage of the carelessness of his companion, had moved aside to go back on the road and as soon as sawn the truck proceeding at high speed, had thrown itself under it, dying suddenly. It was the last gift it could make to André, after so much generosity received. One less weight and the future possibility, seeing that they were at the end of survival, that the friend would be accepted like as he was left alone, by his fellow men to lend his work to receive in exchange some food and a shelter for the night. “Good-bye, my dear Bel-Ami …” the boy cried in a voice broken by sobs, “as I will do without you … you were to give me courage so far … and now … now … I’m finished …”It was his cry, more than the noise of the truck that had passed ten minutes before, to have attracted the attention of the farmer, already on his way to reach the extreme point of his campaign on the road. When he saw the boy complain sitting on the ground while holding the head of the killed friend, approached him and without asking him anything, motioned on him to get off the slope, waving the spade to mean that with that he should solve the most immediate problem. André saw him just between the vail of tears, but immediately realized how much the offer would take him away from the embarrassment before of having to be questioned by the driver of the car was approaching. That way he did slide down the slope holding Bel-Ami for its collar, his affectionate little bastard whom his mother had been baptized so because, in addition to be a beautiful dog, had a shiny black coat with a white collar, to remind her that romance character with his first evening dresses in the Forrestier house.The farmer, a sturdy man burnt by the sun, by a rough figure, but by civilized manners, continued to ask nothing and began digging, at a distance of at least three meters from the junction of the slope with the flat ground, a deep hole for bury the dog, then shelter the water. After all, he could not have asked for more of the young boy who did not stop crying. He had to be very fond of his dog to complain in such a desperate manner. And it was good for André, who, although of Italian mother, was French by birth. He still did not speak a proper Italian, so even the farmer, if he answered  his questions, he should notice that he was French, and then it would have rained on worse troubles, since in those agricultural areas near the border with France, it was not difficult to find itself in the presence of a young man escaped from home, who had crossed the tunnel on a freight train, during his considerable slowdown before entering the tunnel and, at a minimum, he should inform the nearest police station. Moved to pity, after having buried the carcass of the dog, he whistled loudly towards the house that was only at hundred meters away and gestured with an arm to the woman who had appeared on the threshold, evidently his wife, making her understand to care for youngster and to him: “Go ‘from my wife to eat’ … go!” André, although he still did not speak it well, understood Italian perfectly, provided it was not in strict dialect, he did not have to repeat it twice, not because he was hungry, and he was, but above all, for the simple reason that he should be easier, from that house, to resume his solitary escape, to where, even he knew nothing more. The woman was waiting for him in the doorway and as the boy approached, perceiving her son’s definable age in the features of his tearful face, she became more and more tenders, so much so that as the youngster was near her, she caressed him telling him some sweet words, of those that mothers usually whisper their children when they cry. Then she invited him to come in and, once André sat down at the rustic kitchen table. She served him a bowl of steaming milk and two slices of a loaf of bread, good only to be soaked, cut with difficulty by that bread which in the country was cooked previously every fortnight.However, it was too much pain he still felt for the death of his beloved Bel-Ami that, even if he had not yet touched food, André did not feel himself to eat, so he rested sat with the elbows on the table holding his head as he continued to cry silently. And although the peasant woman invited him with the kind of ways to feed himself, and the boy would make her a sign that he could not. The time for…