CLEVELAND - It is 70 years old.
A handwritten journal penned by an Italian soldier.
His account of the horrors he witnessed during World War II.
His name: Alessandro Rasile.
“He wrote it off scraps of paper that he collected from different locations. And he was writing it while he was a prisoner of war.”
Captain John Mingo is the grandson of Rasile. While stationed in Kosovo, Mingo shared the story with another member of his unit, Capt. Dustin Lawson, who was also a writer.
“It’s a timeless story of self-sacrifice that we need to hear in every generation,” Lawson said.
With Lawson’s expertise, the two decided to turn the journal into a book.
Rasile was a prisoner of war twice, under both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. His unit refused to fight alongside the Germans after Italy and Mussolini fell.
On the Greek Island of Cephalonia, “The Germans were killing all the Italians they could catch. And they’d already executed all the officers,” Lawson relayed.
On the run from the Nazi’s, Alessandro wrote that he hid one night in a merchant’s store. The merchant and his family, including an 8-year-old girl, helped keep Alessandro safe and alive.
Fast forward to 1968 in NYC. Alessandro now a U.S. citizen was hit by a car and taken to the hospital. The nurse who helped care for him made the connection. “In walks this 30-year-old nurse. Looks shocked. “You don’t recognize me, but I know who you are,”” said Lawson. It was the merchant’s daughter from Greece, who never forgot about the young soldier her family had saved. “She had remembered him from that night.”
Once published, Lawson and Mingo both traveled to New York, to present copies to Rasile. Now 96 years old he is a piece of living history with advanced Parkinson’s Disease. “That’s one of his crowning achievements now, was becoming an American citizen,” said Mingo.
Seventy years later, Alessandro’s story with so many twists and turns right there in black and white to be shared with the world. “Well, he’s the bravest person I’ve ever met right here, so he’s my hero,” said Mingo.
To order: The Girl From Greece
© 2017 WKYC-TV