You are on page 1of 1

When my grandfather Rodolfo Poli, a member of the Tiroler Kaiser Jaegger, was released from a Russian prison at the

end of World War I, the prisoners told to get home any way they could. He walked. It took him six months until he reached his tiny village in the Val di Non. Nine months later, my father Tullio Poli was born. My father was the first in our family born under Italian rule. Until 1918, this area of the Tyrol was part of Austria. Tullio was one of eight children born to Anna and Rodolfo Poli in the village of Sfruz, a tiny village best known for agriculture, primarily Village of Sfruz, Val di Non apples and potatoes. Dating from pre-Roman times, Sfruz is famous for the ancient production of le stufe, beautiful and decorative ceramic stoves used for heating. With only a few surnames in the village families with the same surname were identified by their dialect nicknames. Our family was le Coz, the stubborn, which continues today. My father left the village at age 15 to begin training as a master watchmaker by monks at a monastery in Pavia, Italy. It was common at the time for young boys to be sent away early to learn a trade, many to foreign lands, never to return home. My fathers journey to America is an interesting and sometimes humorous one, brought on by World War II, and his marriage to my mother Beatrice Rose OBrien. During World War II, my father was conscripted into Mussolinis army. As a corporal, he was captured in North Africa by General Montgomerys forces at the battle of Tobruk. He was taken to England as a prisoner of war where he remained until the end of the war in Europe. Upon Italys surrender, the Italian prisoners were given menial or desk jobs. During this time Italian prisoners had opportunities to mingle with the English troops. My mother was in the British Royal Navy and her job was packing parachutes. In Britain, unlike in America, everyone was expected to serve and there no exceptions for the rich. During the war, my mother became best friends with an heiress to the Royal Dutch Shell Oil fortune, Lydia Deterding, daughter of Sir Henri Deterding. Lydia arrived for active duty in her own private train car. There was Prisoner ID of Tullio Poli to be a Halloween party. A lot of the Italian prisoners were attending and it was rumored that an heiress would be there. My father decided that the best chance of spotting the heiress was to wait by the door and see who put down the most expensive purse. My mother and Lydia arrived together and Lydia put down a plain black silk purse, while my mother put down a fancy purse, borrowed from her sister Kate. So we jokingly say my father made a play for my mother, thinking she was the heiress! This is how they met, but not the reason they chose each other.

Family Stories: The Polis

After the war, my father went back to Sfruz and he and my mother continued to write. My parents were married in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua and honeymooned in Venice. They lived for the next six months in Sfruz, and then moved back to Halifax, England where I and two brothers were born. Because England had been so hard hit by the war, they decided to immigrate to America for better economic and educational opportunities. My grandmother, Anna Biasi (Poli), had two brothers who left for America years earlier. Giuseppe and Angelo Biasi moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Giuseppes widow Rosa rented out rooms in her home, as was common for many widows at the time. We arrived in the US in January 1954 and we lived with our fathers cousins for our first few years in St. Louis. My father began work in his chosen trade and became, who many considered to be, one of the Rose Beatrice OBrien & Tullio Poli finest watchmakers in the United States. Two more sons were added to our family and we are honored to know our heritage in the Trentino / Val di Non region and remain close to our extended family. Through continued contract and pride in his village and community, with its gentle and traditional ways, my father has passed on a love of his mountains to his five children, for which we are eternally grateful and blessed. We are duty bound to continue the tradition with our children and grandchildren. Written by Janet Poli Seavitte 28