On 3 May 1945, Yugoslav partisans entered Rijeka. The town lay in ruins because of the bombings, combats between partisans and the German occupying troops, and because the Germans had mined the harbour and several industrial facilities upon their retreat. The city had long suffered at various levels. Schools operated very irregularly throughout the war, particularly in the two years after Italy’s capitulation, when children practically did not attend them. Schoolteachers, consisting almost entirely of women, returned to their classrooms at the beginning of June 1945; however, many of them had left by the end of the following year. Italian was still the medium of instruction in the majority of Rijeka’s schools in those two years and the local authorities had to appoint new educators, coming freshly out of teacher-training schools, accelerating their preparation. Relying on archival documents on schooling, the paper at hand will discuss how this transition happened and, utilising a set of interviews conducted with teachers and pupils of that period, it will seek to understand their respective stances and attitudes in such dramatic years, especially how these new teachers found their way in such difficult times. The interviews with these schoolteachers did not focus specifically on their pedagogic work, but on their stories and on those of the children. They addressed the city’s social transformations, the extensive outflow and inflow of people, the rearrangement of the school system, as well as life in schools.


Vanni D’Alessio teaches Modern and Contemporary History and History of Ethnic and National conflicts at the University of Naples, where he also leads a Digital History Laboratory. He wrote a monograph on Croatian and Italian nationalism in Habsburg Istria (Il cuore conteso. Il nazionalismo in una comunità multietnica: L’Istria asburgica), edited a volume on Leo Weiczen Valiani (on West Croatian History Journal, Rijeka 2015), and has published numerous essays on modern social and cultural history of Istria, Rijeka, Trieste, and Mostar. He co-authored the digital historical map “Rijeka-Fiume, a Historical Narrative” (https://rijekafiume.geolive.ca/) and the historical smartphone app “Rijeka Fiume in Flux” (https://rijekafiumeinflux.com/en/home/). He is working on the history of schools in Rijeka and Istria, on the history of sport in Rijeka and in the Kvarner Gulf, as well as on the history of psychiatry in Trieste and between Italy and Croatia.