‘It is quite impossible to attach importance to material possessions now. All that one still clings to is a few vital affections’
Iris Origo, October 1943.
Marchesa Iris Origo and her husband had been settled at their rural estate of La Foce since 1924. When the Second World War broke out Origo, an Englishwoman married to an Italian landowner, had divided loyalties. But as the war dragged on and the hostilities escalated, the small community of Val d’Orcia found themselves helping evacuees, orphans, refugees, prisoners of war and soldiers from both sides, concerned less with who was fighting whom than caring for those who needed their aid.
Origo kept her diary throughout this time, when the risk of betrayal was a fact of life and the penalty for helping the enemy would result in death. Even with German troops occupying her manor house, she wrote at night about her valiant attempts to shelter refugees, burying her diary in the garden each morning.
The result is a book which has become a classic, an affirmation in itself of courage and resistance, and an unsentimental, compelling story of the trials and tragedies of wartime.