Sunday, October 24, 2021

Woman who survived 1918 flu, succumbed to COVID in World War II

He lived a life of adventure spanning two continents. She falls in love with a World War II fighter pilot, barely escapes Europe ahead of Benito Mussolini’s fascists, ground steel for the American war effort, and advocates for her disabled daughter in a much less enlightened time. She was, his daughter said, someone who didn’t make a habit of giving up.

And then this month, at the age of 105, Primetta Giacopini’s life the way it had started – ended in a pandemic.

His 61-year-old daughter, Doreen Giacopini, said “I think my mother would have been taller” if she hadn’t contracted COVID. “She was a fighter. Her life was tough and her attitude was always … Basically, all Americans who weren’t around for World War II were basically spoiled.”

Primetta Giacopini’s mother, Pasquina Fei, died in Connecticut of the flu in 1918 at the age of 25. That flu pandemic killed nearly 675,000 Americans – the death toll from the 2020-21 coronavirus pandemic this month.

Primetta was 2 years old when her mother died. Her father, a laborer, did not want to raise Primetta or her younger sister, Alice. He sent Alice back to her ancestral homeland, Italy, and handed the Primata to an Italian foster family, which then relocated to Italy in 1929.

“The way Mom talked about it, she didn’t want to raise those kids alone, and men didn’t do that at the time,” Doreen recalled. “That’s ridiculous to me.”

Primetta supported himself by working as a tailor. Raven-haired with black eyes and sharp features, she eventually falls in love with an Italian fighter pilot named Vittorio Andriani.

“I didn’t see him very much because he was always fighting somewhere,” he told the Golden Gate Wing, a military aviation club in Oakland, California, in 2008.

Italy entered World War II in June 1940. Local police warned Primata to leave because Mussolini wanted to drive American citizens out of the country. Primetta refused. Several weeks later, the state police asked her to get out, warning her that she might end up in a concentration camp.

In June 1941, Andriani was missing in action; Primetta later learned that he had crashed and died near Malta. While he was missing, she joined a group of strangers who were leaving Italy on a train to Portugal.

Nation World News Desk
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