Ondina Peteani is now considered the “first” partisan relay girl but it took years of constant work after her death, to bring her story to light.
Her son Giovanni tells of how she managed to escape from the Ravensbrück concentration camp, during a prisoner march. It was not the first time she had escaped: she had gotten away with it twice before arriving in Germany. Her story would be very adventurous as it is at this point. But Ondina never let nightmare No. 81627 (her code in Auschwitz), get in the way of her plans, her brilliant idea of life. After the war she chose to be a midwife. Together with her partner Gian Luigi Brusadin, a journalist for the “Unità,” she organized the first agency of Editori Riuniti, a lively place where people could meet and talk about politics. Then Ondina created summer camps for children and organized a tent city in Maiano after the Friuli earthquake (1976). And finally as a “gray panther” with her commitment in the CGIL trade union for retired people, she invoked without mincing words that “only a pact between generations can avoid isolation and injustice”. Her son continues bringing her experience to schools highlighting how fundamental the contribution and support of the Women’s Contingent was to the National Liberation Struggle. Their presence and work as partisans wasn’t recognized until many decades later, thanks to their families’ struggle to make female partisans be recognized and remembered. When asked how difficult it must have been for a woman to try to have a role in such a patriarchal society, he answered: “I believe it was a daily conquest, a turnover of emotions long denied, of identity deprivation crushed by the ignorant obscurantism imposed by dictatorship. The revenge was waged at great cost, directly in the field, on the ground, in that demonstration of courage [..] sometimes superior to that of men.”