Nina Durnin of Copiague tells how she met her husband, Bill, in Italy during World War II.
My family and I were living across from a college in Bari, Italy, when the British turned it into a military base during World War II. One afternoon in 1943, my mother and her friend went over to the young soldier standing guard and asked him how old he was. They spoke no English. The Scottish soldier, Bill, spoke very little Italian. He was 22.
He asked my mother if she would help him with his laundry. My mother, with two sons away in the war, was glad to help.
Bill soon became a friend of the family. My father especially liked him, having been a soldier himself in World War I. Bill would stop by for coffee, or we'd play checkers. The language barrier wasn't a problem. With Bill, it was fun. Sometimes communicating was like a game of charades! We laughed a lot.
One night, when Bill and I were at the kitchen table he held my hand. That's how the romance started. I thought he was very good-looking. We were not permitted to go on dates alone and would walk to the local movie theater with my older sister, Maria, or my mother a few paces behind us.
Bill invited me to a Christmas dance at the college. I made my own dress, and we danced as all the mothers of the young girls in Bari surrounded the dance floor, watching the soldiers like guards.
In April 1944, Bill's company moved north to Ancona, Italy. He said he would come back to marry me, and asked me to take English classes. I took the classes, but did not believe he would be back.
At that time, the only way Bill and I could communicate was through his sister in Scotland. Bill would mail a letter to Isobel, and she'd send it to me. We wrote for three years. But the mail was irregular, and when a letter did arrive, it had been censored by the government.
Bill got leave in August 1944 and hitchhiked 232 miles south to Bari to visit me. He did not know my father was ill and in a coma. My father loved Bill. Two hours after Bill arrived, my father died.
When the war was over and Bill was out of the Army, he got visas to travel through France, Switzerland and Italy so that he could return to Bari. And on Nov. 9, 1946, we were married there. Four months later we left for Scotland, where we lived for 11 years until coming to America in 1958. We had four children, and now have seven beautiful grandchildren.
Bill and I worked together at his business, Regal Fence Co. in Massapequa, until we retired in 1986. My mother told me I'd have a good life if I married Bill. She couldn't have been more right.