Lena Schubmann, 3rd year undergraduate student
International Relations, King's College London
While Brazilian participation in World War is largely neglected in dominant historical narratives taught in British universities, local honouring of the Brazilian WW2 efforts in Northern Italy as well as education about the Brazilian mission is performed by children of veterans with great detail and passion. Arriving in our hotel in the village of Sammomme, surrounded by panoramic views on the Apennine andhome to more cats than people, gives a very peaceful impression of the area, making it almost impossible to imagine the war scenarios which had been taking place there only 70 years before.
Hiking the snowy and slippery paths up to Monte Castello, where Brazilian soldiers were stationed to counter the expansion of Nazi troops further south during the winter 44/45, gave us an authentic experience of the environmental conditions the Brazilian soldiers were exposed to. Unsurprisingly, it was the snow and the cold weather which was repeatedly highlighted as the biggest challenge to the Brazilian troops. Luckily, our day finished with abundance of wine with hospitable company rather than in a freezing trench on the hillside of Monte Castello!
The enthusiasm and detail which local experts on the Brazilian expeditionary forces dedicated to recreating different war scenarios Brazilian soldiers were confronted with by using both historical artefacts and personal anecdotes left a deep impression on our group. Particularly striking was hereby the ongoing effort to portray the Brazilian soldiers as different from other soldiers because of their close and friendly engagement with the local population. The welcoming attitudes and openness to talk about personal WW2 experiences our group has encountered by locals in and around Sammomme confirms this positive local sentiments about Brazil and its mission in Italy. Besides the obvious learning outcome of the trip, our group had a unique opportunity to experience to a certain degree the combination of hostile environmental conditions and local hospitality Brazilian soldiers were exposed to during their mission in WW2.