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Subject: ARCHIVE: July 22, 1982 ~The UNSUNG story of lil "Mamma Lucia” Apicella, who in her war-torn Italy in the sunset weeks of WWII, took it upon herself for Christian burial of the dead strewn around her village, fallen in battle -both German and allied troops. Years later, she died revered in her town, at the rip age of 94. ...

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Date Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 02:30:55pm

Lucia Apicella
(18 November 1887 – 23 July 1982)

Italian philanthropist, nicknamed "Mamma Lucia" (Mother Lucy). Born and raised in Sant'Arcangelo of Cava de 'Tirreni, immediately after World War II strove to bury the corpses of German soldiers. She was a mother, and worked greengrocer.

The Italian Folk Figure was an ordinary, unpretentious woman who lived her entire life at her native Sant'Arcangelo di Cava de' Tirreni where she owned a green grocery. Her idea of undertaking vigorously the burial of neglected corpses across the Second World War battlefields of Cava raised at first the eyebrows of many, but eventually became deeply appreciated for her efforts, with figures such as Popes Pius XII and John XXIII, tenor Beniamino Gigli and president Giovanni Gronchi showing her their esteem. Everything started after the Allied invasion of Italy when the fast advance of the Anglo-Americans towards Naples left many German bodies lying unburied on open ground. Noticing a group of children playing football with the skull of a German soldier, a deeply religious woman as she was, Lucia took on the job herself, feeling it was very duty to see that these fallen soldiers, in spite of being enemies in the eyes of her fellow countryman, receive a dignified interment.

In September 1943 the Allied invasion of Italy, Operation Avalanche, took place. The main invasion force landed around Salerno on the western coast and its primary objectives was to seize the port of Naples to ensure resupply. The pathway from Salerno to Naples was the road, currently named "Strada statale 18 Tirrena Inferiore", which passes into the valley of Cava. Because of the relatively rapid advance of the Anglo-Americans forces toward Naples, hundreds of unburied bodies of the dead were left abandoned on the battlefields around Cava de' Tirreni. Apicella worked to find the remains of the fallen soldiers and put them back together in coffins of zinc. Her goal was to return the bodies to their mothers or, at least, to facilitate finding them.

During this work she risked injury or death from unexploded bombs and projectiles that were still present on the battlefields. She found more than 700 corpses, mostly of German but even someone of Italian and Allied soldiers. Apicella was a religious woman and felt it her Christian duty to bury the remains of the German soldiers.


In the years that followed she collected the remains of over seven hundred soldiers, mostly Germans, but also those of some Italian and Allied troops. Replying "Song' tutt' figl 'e mamma" (They're all sons of a mother) to those who tried to stop her from leading such a task, with some saying that it was a waste of time and money and others referring to the big risks she was undertaking because of some unexploded ordnance she might step on in the fields, thanks to her, many mothers, especially in Germany, were at last able to have the remains of their respective son located, identified and repatriated. Placing them in separate boxes of zinc, the remains were at first all transported to the church of Santa Maria della Pietà at Borgo Scacciaventi, eventually declared unfit for further use following the 1980 earthquake of Irpinia.

Decorated with the grand cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by president Theodor Heuss and with the Commenda al Merito della Repubblica Italiana by president Giovanni Gronchi, she was named honorary citizen of Salerno, where she received a gold medal 'al merito civile alla memoria' from Sandro Pertini, president of Italy, in July 1980 when 92 years of age.

Upon her death at age 94, in 1982, her body was laid out in state for 2 days. ...

...A square in Sant'Arcangelo has been since named after her while a prize for courageous women also carries her name:
'Premio Mamma Lucia alle donne coraggio'. Still highly revered at Cava, many are those would would like to see
her cause for beatification initiated. She was laid to rest in Cimitero di Cava de'Tirreni in Cava de' Tirreni, Italy. …

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