CBS News reporter Michael Roppolo explores the effects of armed conflicts on children in a personal essay after interviewing his grandparents about their childhoods during WWII.
U.N. human rights officials say dozens of children have beensince the start of the war. Over one million more have fled as part of the in Europe since World War II, according to UNICEF.
“The number of children on the move is staggering, an indication of how desperate the situation for children and families in Ukraine has become,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF regional director for Europe and Central Asia. “Children are leaving everything they know behind in search of safety. This is heart-breaking.”
As the war continues to rage on, it raises the question: How will children cope with the trauma of war and displacement — not only in the difficult days ahead, but throughout their lives? I began thinking of my grandparents, childhood survivors of World War II.
Courtesy of the Bauco family
The third eldest of six children, my grandfather, Giorgio Bauco, lived in the small Italian town of Ripi. Planes soon bombed his hometown, and by the end of WWII, there was nothing left in Italy, he often said.
He would often recount coming to America — a journey that involved two ships, a seven-year stay in Brazil, a plane and multiple engine troubles — but never about his childhood during the war.
My grandmother’s wartime childhood rarely came up in conversation. The oldest of five girls, Angela Federici was born in the small Italian town of Sant’Anatolia and immigrated to the United States as a teenager.
Then came the Russian invasion of Ukraine — nearly 80 years after the end of WWII. In what would be an emotional interview, I began asking them questions about their childhood.
When I asked them what stood out, they spoke of the bombings. Their little towns had been near Avezzano and Montecassino — bombed as part of the Allied effort to drive the Germans out of Italy and capture Rome.
“What stood out to me was the running, hearing the plane coming, the bombing, the running,” my grandmother recalled. “Running by myself. I was 6 years old.”
Forced to flee during the bombings, she, her mother and her sister ran to the mountains. There had been a small hut covered with leaves with other residents seeking shelter. She remembers her mother — my great-grandmother — pleading for safety for her daughters. But they could only take one for the night — my grandmother.
“It was rainy. It was cold,” she said as she began crying. “I went inside and then when I get …….