The next real home they knew, after their liberation in 1945, was in England. They found themselves at a loving, welcoming center for displaced and presumably orphaned children, called Lingfield. It was, Tatiana, said, “the land of toys . . . to us, it seemed like a fairy tale.”
In England, the girls began the long process of adjusting to normal life, a life where grown-ups were not murderers and food did not have to be guarded. Meanwhile, Mira — unbeknownst to her daughters — had not died at Auschwitz. She had been transferred to another camp, survived, returned to Italy and was reunited with the girls’ father, who had been a prisoner of war in Africa. Gisella, too, had survived.
Together, the two mothers set about looking for Tatiana, Andra and Sergio. With help from the Red Cross and others, Mira located her daughters — who had not forgotten their names — in England. Neither had they forgotten their parents. The girls remembered them from the photo they kissed good night so many times before the war.
And so it was that in December 1946, Andra and Tatiana came home. The girls were the only children from Lingfield to be reunited with their families.
The Bucci family settled in Trieste, where Andra and Tatiana enjoyed what they describe as an entirely normal, happy life. Mira never asked them about what had happened at Auschwitz or told them much about what happened to her.
“Each person respected the other’s silence,” Andra said.
After the war, just as before, Mira gave her daughters in devotion what she lacked in money. She managed to make the typical Triestine crepes even when she didn’t have enough eggs or milk. And somehow, she found the spare change to take her girls to the opera.
Tatiana, who now lives in Belgium with her husband, has two sons. Andra, now widowed, has two daughters who live in California. Mira died in 1987 at 79, and Gisella died a few years later. She never accepted Sergio’s fate, and until the end of her life, she believed that her son might one day come home.
For Gisella, as the title of the book about the family says, it was better not to know.
‘I don’t want to leave’
“It doesn’t get easier,” Andra said of remembering and retelling. “It gets harder because the older I get, the clearer my memory becomes.” And yet, she said, it is better to remember than to not.
Besides, Tatiana said, “our efforts are repaid.”
“Students told me that now they come back to Italy different than they were when we parted from Florence a couple of days ago,” said Camilla Brunelli, the director of the Museum of Deportation outside Florence and an organizer of the trip. “We are very lucky because we have two incredible survivors with us.”