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Post-war journey to America

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The resistance
Renato Dulbecco Scientist
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And thus another period of my life began, because naturally I wanted to continue to work in Turin and so I worked in Turin, I travelled from Sommariva Perno to Turin, but the transport conditions were non-existent, so I sometimes had to go by bicycle- I can imagine. How many kilometres did you have to travel by bicycle, many? I don't know, quite a few. I went by bicycle on many occasions, other times I tried to get there in other ways- there was a train to Carmagnola that went to Turin, but to get to Carmagnola I had to take the bus, which left at 5 in the morning from Sommariva Perno, so you can imagine. And then the train was all loaded with livestock, there was no- but in fact- and so I was able to do a little work there in Turin. And there in Turin, speaking with colleagues who knew my position- But you were, in this sense- it was official that you had left- you were able to stay in Turin or were you in hiding? No, I wasn't in hiding- Oh, I see, that is important So I was in this little village. Basically, it was difficult. I went alone because I wanted to work- no, I wasn't in hiding. And then even worse because when I was in Turin, my friend was there, a colleague at the Department of Pathological Anatomy who was called Mottura, Giacomo Mottura, we were very good friends and then he knew my particular position and we spoke about what I could do, the future and he gave me things to read about political parties, etc. it was necessary to be active and so I became a member of a small party that was called the Christian Workers' Movement, which was obviously left- wing. In essence it was a splinter group of the Communist Party. And with this I therefore got involved in anti- German activity, anti-fascist activity in Turin and I became a member of the Turin Liberation Committee. So was this risky too? Yes, yes, you bet! I remember, for example, two or three times this happened to me: I was at the hospital, naturally in a white coat and, speaking with some friends, some colleagues and there was a man there at the Department of Pathological Anatomy who was organising, keeping everything in order, and he came and said to me-Ah, Dr. Dulbecco, there are two men who would like to talk to you. Then he signalled with his eyes. And I said-Okay, okay and went to where there was a large group of physicians and mingled with them and stayed there all day until they left. So, we were saying, very simply you were doing well, because- I know, I know, certainly. I also remember that- this committee that was there, at a certain point we were thinking how it would end up here, because there were partisans all around and the Germans saw that in the end they would not have made it. So they were thinking if only they will shoot, there will be a battle in the city and then we decided to organise a system of first-aid which was based on volunteers, who were organised by other colleagues. I don't know how they found it. Then they were telling me where they were gathered and every so often I would explain some first-aid techniques. In fact, they were all women and it was very moving, because again this was very risky, because if by chance they had found out, they would have been able to take us all. Everything turned out well, luckily- And then naturally the good thing was that the Germans left, without firing a single shot and the only thing that we noticed during the night, because we were there at the hospital, in case it was necessary was the comings and going of armoured vehicles, etc. the noise, not shooting, was only the noise of ironware, you see, this showed that they were leaving. Then in the end, on 25 April, I remember going out, there was new air, the Germans were no longer there, there were no more fascists, the partisans had entered, it was a wonderful feeling. Excuse me, remembering this, where were you on the previous 25th of July? It's not before the 25th- On the 25th of July? When did Mussolini fall for the first time? No this- I was in that area on the 25th of April! Right, that happened later, I still was there, there was nothing- What I remember was very beautiful. Sommariva Perno was a partisan centre, and I was their physician, you see, and dentist as well- what was very beautiful was to see these young people who were not bad, they didn't hate anyone, they only wanted to fight to eliminate- but, on the other hand, they were very serene, very pleasant, when I went among them, it was always very beautiful. And the same in Turin, there was a spirit of action, of contributing.

Lì è stato cominciato un altro periodo della mia vita, perché naturalmente volevo continuare a lavorare a Torino e a Torino ci lavoravo, andavo da Sommariva Perno a Torino, ma le condizioni di trasporto erano inesistenti, per cui qualche volta andavo in bicicletta- Me l'immaginavo. Quanti chilometri ti facevi in bicicletta, tanti? Non so parecchi, eh. Tante volte andavo in bicicletta, altre volte cercavo di andare coi mezzi- che c'era un treno che da Carmagnola andava a Torino, ma per andare a Carmagnola dovevo prendere l'autobus, che partiva alle 5 del mattino da Sommariva Perno, perciò puoi immaginare. E poi il treno era tutto carico di bestiame, non c'era- ma insomma- e così potevo fare un po' di lavoro lì a Torino. E lì a Torino, parlando coi colleghi che sapevano della mia posizione- Ma tu eri venuto, in questo senso- era ufficiale il tuo aver lasciato- potevi stare a Torino o dovevi stare nascosto? No, no ero nascosto- Ah, ecco, quello è importante per questo sono in questo piccolo villaggio. Insomma sarebbe stato difficile. Andavo solo perché volevo lavorare- no, no ero nascosto. E poi ancora peggio perché quando ero a Torino, c'era lì il mio amico, collega all'istituto di anatomia patologica che si chiamava Mottura, Giacomo Mottura, eravamo molto amici e allora appunto lui sapeva della mia posizione e parlavamo di quello che potevo fare, del futuro e lui mi dava roba da leggere su partiti, ecc. bisognava fare qualche cosa di attivo e poi così sono diventato membro di un piccolo partitino che veniva chiamato Movimento dei Lavoratori Cristiani, che era evidentemente di sinistra. In fondo, era una diramazione del partito comunista. E con questo perciò sono entrato nell'attività antitedesca, antifascista a Torino e a Torino sono diventato membro del Comitato di Liberazione della città di Torino. Quindi, era rischioso anche? Sì, sì, altro che! Mi ricordo, per esempio, due tre volte mi è capitato questo: ero lì all'ospedale, naturalmente in camice bianco e, parlando con qualche amico, con qualche collega, e viene li' il- c'era un uomo che all'istituto di anatomia patologica che organizzava, teneva in ordine tutto, e lui viene e mi dice -Ah, Dott. Dulbecco, guardi ci sono due signori che le vogliono parlare. Poi schizzava gli occhi. E io dico -Bene, bene e andavo dove c'era un gran gruppo di camici bianchi, mi mettevo lì in mezzo e poi stavo lì tutta la giornata finché poi quelli se ne andavano. Però diciamo, molto semplicemente ti è andata bene, perché- E lo so, lo so, certo. Mi ricordo anche che- questo comitato che c'era lì, a un certo punto pensavamo come andrà a finire qui, perché c'erano partigiani tutt'attorno e i tedeschi si vedeva che alla fine non ce l'avrebbero fatta. Allora pensavano magari spareranno, ci sarà battaglia nella città e allora abbiamo deciso di organizzare un sistema di Pronto Soccorso. E io ero- insomma era basato su volontari, che venivano organizzati da altri colleghi, non so come li trovassero, e poi mi dicevano dov'erano radunati e ogni tanto andavo a fare una specie di lezione sopra il pronto soccorso in casa, diciamo. Sinceramente, erano tutte donne ed era molto commovente, perché questo era di nuovo molto rischioso, perché se potevano sapere, se per caso avessero potuto sapere, avrebbero potuto prenderci tutti quanti. Tutto è andato bene, però, per fortuna così- E poi naturalmente la buona cosa è stata che i tedeschi se ne sono andati, senza sparare un colpo e l'unica cosa che abbiamo notato durante la notte, perché eravamo lì all'ospedale, in caso ci fosse bisogno, quello che abbiamo notato durante la notte è stato questo va e vieni di mezzi blindati, ecc, il rumore, non sparate, era solo il rumore delle ferramenta, capisci, questo dimostrava che se ne andavano. Poi alla fine, il 25 di aprile, mi ricordo uscii fuori, c'era l'aria nuova, i tedeschi non c'erano più, i fascisti non c'erano nemmeno, i partigiani erano entrati, insomma era magnifico. Scusa, ricordando questo, il 25 luglio prima, tu dov'eri il 25 luglio? Il 25 luglio? Quando è caduto la prima volta Mussolini? No, questo- io ero lì nella zona, il 25 aprile! Già, quello è successo dopo, ero sempre lì, non c'era nessuna cosa- Quello che mi ricordo era molto bello è questo,che Sommariva Perno era un centro di partigiani, e io ero il loro medico, capisci, e dentista anche- quello che era molto bello era vedere questi giovani che non erano cattivi, non erano che odiavano nessuno, volevano solo combattere per eliminare- ma, d'altra parte, erano molto sereni, molto piacevoli, perciò quando andavo tra di loro, era sempre molto bello. E lo stesso a Torino c'era lo spirito di fare, di contribuire.

The Italian biologist Renato Dulbecco (1914-2012) had early success isolating a mutant of the polio virus which was used to create a life-saving vaccine. Later in his career, he initiated the Human Genome Project and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for furthering our understanding of cancer caused by viruses.

Listeners: Paola De Paoli Marchetti

Paola De Paoli Marchetti is a science journalist who graduated with an honours degree in foreign languages and literature from the University Ca’Foscari, Venice. She has been a science journalist since the 1960s and has been on the staff of the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore since 1970. She was elected president of UGIS (Italian Association of Science Journalists) in 1984. She has been a Member of the Board of EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, Strasbourg), and was its president in 1987-1988 and 1998-2000. In May 2000 she was unanimously elected president emeritus. She was a member of the National Council of Italian Journalists (1992-1998). From 2002 to 2004 she was member of the working group for scientific communication of the National Committee for Biotechnology. She has also been a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Research and Technology and editor-in-chief of the publication MRST, policy of science and technology. She has co-authored many publications in the field of scientific information, including Le biotecnologie in Italia, Le piste della ricerca and Luna vent’anni dopo.

Duration: 7 minutes

Date story recorded: May 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008