Retired US soldier traces Italian children after 76 years

Bologna: Retired US soldier is reunited virtually with three siblings who were found to be still alive after a search involving tens of thousands of Italians: they are Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana Naldi who are now aged 83, 81 and 79.

A 96-year-old retired American soldier has managed to make contact with the three Italian children from a photograph taken during world war two, 76 years after they posed with him in the Bologna area of northern Italy.

The search began when Martin Adler asked his daughter Rachelle to try and track down the three children from the picture, taken in the autumn of 1944, and to see if any of them were still alive. “Help me find those three children I met while freeing Italy from the Nazis.”
Adler’s appeal was picked up by Italian writer and journalist Matteo Incerti who launched the search in Italy through the media and word of mouth.

Within three days Incerti received a message: “There is an 83-year-old man who needs to talk to you. He is the one in the photograph.”
Adler, who fought along the Gothic Line during world war two, discovered the children hiding in a basket in a house in a village a Monterenzio. After identifying himself the soldier gave the children chocolate and a photograph was taken.

Incerti immediately returned the call, and spoke to Bruno Naldi, born in 1938, in a conversation he described a “succession of emotions.”
“Excited, he tells me that he recognised himself in the photo and that he remembers the Americans in his house in a hamlet of Monteverzio on the Bolognese Apennines,” said Incerti.

“He tells me about his sisters Mafalda and Giuliana born in 1938 and 1941. They too are alive! Mafalda immediately recognised herself in that photo shared on the news, online and in newspapers after my post. They all live in Castel S. Pietro where they moved in 1953.”

“Giuliana remembers that large basket where they hid for fun. They remember the chocolate that soldiers from the 339th Regiment of the US 85th Division gave them. They were there in a village at Monterenzio in the autumn of 1944. A photograph of peace in the hell of the Gothic Line.”

After that emotional phone call, another one, this time to Florida. Incerti broke the news to an overjoyed Adler who exclaimed: “My heart is exploding with joy.”
Adler recalled vividly the moment that the three “scared” children came out of hiding. “God was really looking at the four of us,” he said, “because we were ready to fire.”

Incerti then wasted little time in setting out to meet Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana in person, and to arrange a video-call between the four visibly-moved protagonists of the photograph, an unforgettable moment that crossed time and borders.
Adler greeted all three “children” by their names, Incerti said, brushing up on the few words he learned 76 years ago: “Ciao Bambini! Vuoi cioccolata?”

“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.”