As an Italian piece of the articulated mosaic of forced population displacements in Europe after WWII, the exodus from Istria and Dalmatia received a relevant space in historiography that brought a remarkable overcoming of the previous interpretative and methodological approaches.

The most recent two decades have seen the publication of highly interesting studies that focused on the Istrian diaspora in the wider frame of the Italian and European history, thus freeing it from the bulk of the simplification and categorization schemes that were far too often used to shape its contours.

A context in which some aspects of the exodus, from the dynamics of departure to those of arrival in Italy, have found increasing space.

In these aspects, a very interesting element is represented by the working paths of the exiles on Italian territory, including those of a particular category of workers, mostly women, namely the employees of the tobacco factories of Pula, Rovinj and Rijeka, whose exodus was mainly directed towards the Italian factories.

This transition was certainly favoured and made possible by the fact that this was a workforce employed by the State Monopolies, which – through a specific legislative measure issued by the Italian government – was guaranteed reintegration into Italian factories for those who had exercised their option right by the time the Peace Treaty came into force (15 September 1947).

As mentioned above, the workforce was largely made up of women, who thus increased staff levels in the factories of Turin, Venice, Rovereto, Modena, Cava de’ Tirreni, Florence, and Lucca, among many other cases.

A measure that allowed Istrian workers to count on continuity of employment and that, if analyzed from a broader perspective, also allows us to reflect on the legislative interventions put in place by the Italian governmental institutions, often neglected by a narrative mainly focused on the difficulties of the country to welcome newcomers with measures unable to overcome the dimension of the first assistance.

Using the documents of the Manifattura Tabacchi di Pola (Pola Tobacco Factory), some of which are kept at the State Archives in Turin, as a privileged point of observation, the paper aims to outline the history of the factory (and, at the same time, that of the factories in Rovinj and Rijeka), and then to follow the career trajectories of women workers in Italy.

The analysis will focus on the economic, productive and social impact on the factories after their arrival, and on the reception and assistance offered to the employees and their families.

Through the documentation, the contribution also seeks to reconstruct a frame of reference of the exodus, identifying the paths of workers and the factories in whose staff they were included, analyzing, where possible, the quantitative terms and the dynamics linked to their inclusion in the places of arrival. Particular attention will be paid, inter alia, to women workers in the factories of Turin, Lucca and Florence through an analysis of archival documentation (State Archives of Turin, Archives Office for the Borderlands) and the local press.


Enrico Miletto is currently Rtd-A in Contemporary History at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Modern Cultures of the University of Turin.

His main field of research deals with the study of the Italian eastern border, together with the refugeeism in post-war Italy. He has recently published:

Aid and Relief”. L’assistenza Unrra in Italia (1944-1947), in «Nuova Rivista Storica», a. CV, II (2021), pp. 503-527

Novecento di confine. L’Istria, le foibe, l’esodo (FrancoAngeli, 2020)

Gli italiani di Tito. La Zona B del Territorio Libero di Trieste e l’emigrazione comunista in Jugoslavia (1947-1954), (Rubbettino, 2019).

La speranza e l’illusione. Controesodo monfalconese e comunisti italiani nella Jugoslavia di Tito, “Contemporanea. Rivista di storia dell’800 e del ‘900”, a. XII, n.1 (2019), pp. 51-78