On April 9, 1998, Frederick Salvini was born to Domenico Salvini and Diomira (Litterini) Salvini in the town of Vela Banale in Northeastern Italy. Salvini was one of the over four million Italians who immigrated to America between 1880 and 1924. Although the exact date and reason of his immigration are unknown, we can assume he came in this period in order to flee poverty and overpopulation as in the 1870s the birth rates in Italy rose and the death rates dropped. Before reaching his final destination of New York City, Salvini moved to Switzerland, Germany, and France.
As an Italian immigrant in New York City, Salvini most likely lived in tenements surrounded by other Italian Americans. Most of these new immigrants were illiterate laborers who didn’t know english. The men typically worked blue-collar jobs as construction workers and the women worked in the garment industry. They were exploited for their labor because of their little knowledge of English and New York and their desperation to make a living. Italian Americans responded to this by beginning efforts to unionize and Salvini was heavily involved in this.
Salvini was a worker and was part of the West Side Communist section of the International Workers Order (IWO). The International Workers Order was founded to bring benefits to immigrants at a low cost, like health insurance, life insurance, and burial insurance. Along with insurance benefits, the IWO brought along social benefits by breaking off into ethnic groups (mainly Jewish) and organizing activities, supporting Newspapers in different languages, and more. Although the IWO wasn’t officially a Communist group, many of their actions and ideals were aligned with the party.
The West Side Communist part of the IWO that Salvini was in included Mennella, Mellina, Paolo Sarti, Domenico Medelin and Salvatore Menis. These men are largely unknown, but they all have one thing in common with Salvini, they all became a part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from New York City. Salvini and these other New Yorkers who sacrificed themselves to go fight in Spain held a similar ideology of socialism or at least were extremely anti fascist.
Salvini, a new immigrant to the United States, returned to Europe to fight because he believed so strongly in the cause. Additionally, the Spanish Civil War was the main outlet to fight Facism because it had already succeeded in Italy and Germany.
On January 20th, 1937 Salvini sailed to Spain to join the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. He then reunited with his Italian roots and joined the Garibaldi Brigade which was mostly Italian volunteers. He was in the third Battalion of the Brigade and quickly rose in the ranks from a soldier (soldado), to a sergeant (sargento), to a lieutenant (teniente). He fought in all the battles that the Garibaldi Brigade engaged in.
Although he was an extremely active soldier, we know most about Salvini’s participation in the Battle of the Ebro. This was an offensive battle initiated by the Republican forces in an effort to stop Franco’s troops from reaching Valencia. Ebro ended up being a huge victory for Franco and an extremely important battle in the war, even though much about it is still largely unknown. The battle consisted of three months of intense trench warfare combined with other strategic uses of technology such as tanks, trucks, bridges, and boats.
On October 13, 1938, towards the end of the Battle of the Ebro, Salvini was taken prisoner by Franco’s nationalists and turned over to Italian Fascists in Spain. He was then deported back to Italy as a prisoner of war. His fate remains unknown, some sources tell us he was interrogated and executed, but others inform us he made it back to America alive. Either way, Salvini’s sacrifice and efforts were crucial in building international support during the Spanish Civil War.
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