Pasquale Cicitta was born in New York City on January 9th, 1910. His parents, Sebastiano and Santa Cicitta, were born and married in Sortino, Italy. Pasquale’s father arrived in the United States in 1907, and his mother joined Sebastiano two years later. Sebastino and Santa were a part of the mass migration from Italy to the United States, which was at an all-time high between the 1900s and 1910s. Sebastino came to the United States as a laborer, and the Cicittas had some security in knowing they had family in the United States.
Pasquale lived in Melrose, a neighborhood in the Bronx. Melrose was primarily a German community in the 19th century and steadily became a safe haven for Italian and Irish immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Pasquale maintained his Italian heritage and grew up with two brothers. Cicitta worked as a metal worker and machinist and was a part of the metal workers union. Pasquale visited Italy once before fighting in the Spanish Civil War and arrived back from the trip in 1926. Mussolini became Italy’s fascist dictator in 1925, and therefore, Pasquale witnessed the fascist and totalitarian Italy on his trip. His drive to fight in the Spanish Civil War probably stemmed from seeing a fascist dictator in his parents’ homeland and wanting to fight against the terror that spread across the country. Additionally, Pasquale voted for the communist ticket in the 1936 New York City general election. In a survey completed by Pasquale on October 31st, 1938, for the War Commissariat of the International Brigades, he wrote that he supported the People’s Front’s policies because it was a “policy of unification of political parties and trade unions. A unification of all those who love peace and liberty.” Pasquale went to Spain to fight fascism, advocate for trade unions, fight for his communist ideals, and spread peace and liberty.
Pasquale Cicitta left for Spain in March 1937 to fight with the Garibaldi Battalion (which became the Garibaldi Brigade in April 1937) in the XII International Brigade after receiving his passport on February 26th, 1937. The battalion mainly consisted of Italian communists, a group of people he interacted with in Melrose and Italy and shared similar beliefs with. The war would become very personal, as the Garibaldi Battalion directly fought Italian fascist forces.
He first served at Huesca, where Republicans launched a failed offensive attack against the Nationalists for about seven days. A few weeks later, he went to Brunete. Republicans went into the Battle of Brunete to divert Nationalist attention after the capture of Biblao and capture the Extremadura road to stop Nationalists from supplying their army in Madrid. The battle ended with the Republicans holding some municipalities from the Nationalists, failing to block the Extremadura road, and having massive casualties. Cicitta then went to Fuentes de Ebro so that Republican forces would have a path to Zaragoza, but it was a failed offensive. Afterwards, he served in Extremadura for about eight months and then went to fight in the Battle of Caspe. The Republicans attempted to stop the Nationalists from advancing through Caspe but failed to do so.
In April 1938, after the Battle of Caspe, Pasquale was punished for negligence and did not receive ten days’ worth of pay. After two months, Cicitta went on to the Battle of Ebro, the longest battle during the Spanish Civil War. The battle was an attempt to connect Catalonia back with Republican land. However, the nationalists were better suited for this battle of attrition, resulting in their victory. The Battle of Ebro had tens of thousands of casualties and could be seen as the military defeat of the Republic. Through the battles Pasquale served in, he went from sergeant (sargento) to lieutenant (teniente). During his time in Spain, he took an eight-day leave to Barcelona, the center of the Republican efforts.
Pasquale returned to the United States after the Ebro Offensive. The sheer number of casualties and loss in morale, especially as a lieutenant, affected Pasquale and influenced his decision to leave. The more significant reason for his departure was the disbanding of international brigades. The Garibaldi Brigade was dissolved in September 1938, and international brigades were demanded to withdraw from Spain in October 1938 due to the Munich Conference. He returned on the Ausonia, a ship that carried American volunteers from France to the US, and arrived in New York on December 20th, 1938. Through his journey, he learned that “through unity a war can be resisted … unity, good morale … thinking”, as stated in his response to the survey for the War Commissariat of the International Brigades. He also learned Spanish to add onto his English and Italian knowledge.
After returning from Spain, Pasquale married Margaret Orsini on October 23rd, 1940. One year later, they had a son named Anthony. Pasquale likely met Margaret through his brother, as Margaret’s sister, Eva, married Pasquale’s brother, Sebastiano, in 1937. Pasquale died on Janurary 24, 1971.
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