Mother Luisa Arlotti (1904 - 1988)

the canossian sister who hid and treated several partisans during the war of Liberation

Luigia Arlotti was born in Orzes, a small village near Belluno, in 1904. Her family was of aristocratic origin, but Luigia's childhood was not easy: for example, she never met her mother, who died giving birth to her. At the age of 18, the young girl decided to take up religious life and retire to a Venetian convent of Sant'Alvise. There she took her vows with the name Luisa (her mother's name) and officially entered the Order of the Canossian Sisters, where she specialised in nursing roles. Then in 1928 she was transferred from Venice to Schio, where she began to serve as a teacher at the Rossi Kindergarten, an Italian excellence that hosted the children of the workers and employees of the Lanificio Rossi textile factory. In 1934, she was appointed as director of the kindergarten.

The life of Mother Luisa Arlotti came to a crossroads on the morning of June 22, 1944. Two managers of the textile factory knock on her door and asked the sister to hide two partisans, who had been seriously injured in a fight in the hills around the town, on the premises of the kindergarten. The two managers present themselves to Mother Luisa Arlotti, informing her of an agreement already made between the company and the command of the XXX 'Garibaldi' Assault Brigade, which was operating in the area. The sister nun feared that she could compromise the safety of the children still attending the kindergarten, but in the end her dedication to rescue and help for others prevailed over any fear. She therefore decided to help the partisans and accommodate the two, known by the battle names 'Lancia' and 'Crinto', in a room in the kindergarten to which only she had the key. But she decided to do this without telling her sisters.

Just a few days after the partisans were moved into the kindergarten and the situation became even more complicated. The sister learnt that the command of the German occupation forces in Schio had received an anonymous letter denouncing her as an accomplice of the partisans, and identifying the kindergarten as the place where the partisans were kept hidden. The Germans immediately went to interrogate Mother Luisa Arlotti, but thanks to remarkable cold-bloodedness, the sister managed to convince the military that no partisans were hidden in the building. However, it was too risky to offer them hospitality and therefore the partisans were moved to a safer location.

After the two partisans of the XXX 'Garibaldi' Assault Brigade, a French pilot, an Austrian deserter who had joined the Italian resistance, and another partisan, known by the battle name 'Tarzan', were accommodated there. In November, however, the situation again became very risky, also as a result of some reprisals carried out in the city by the Nazi-Fascists. Mother Luisa Arlotti therefore decided to stop providing care and to confess everything to the Mother Superior, who severely reprimanded her for exposing herself to such danger. Mother Luisa Arlotti was then transferred back to Venice, where she remained for a short time.

A few days after arriving at the San Giovanni Battista Institute in Giudecca, a German and a Fascist officer presented themselves to Mother Luisa Arlotti, informing her of an arrest order for offering hospitality to partisans and enemy soldiers. She was then taken back to Schio, this time as a prisoner. The Nazi-Fascists knew everything, and it was the French pilot she had hosted and treated who told them. The sister had therefore been betrayed and, partly because of her refusal to provide the names of her 'accomplices', she was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

When the liberation of Italy finally arrived, a new and painful chapter began for Mother Luisa Arlotti. She was transferred by her superiors from one part of Italy to another relentlessly, as well as losing the important roles she held. The only ones who continued to stand by her were the partisans of Schio, who proposed to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers to award her a certificate as a fighting partisan for her service.

In 1975, on the 30th anniversary of the Liberation, Mother Luisa Arlotti was awarded the title of Knight of the Republic for resistance merits. She died in 1988, in a rest home for nuns.

In 2017, the municipality of Schio and the local ANPI dedicated the name of the small square in front of the Rossi kindergarten to Mother Luisa Arlotti, also unveiling a plaque. The plaque reads: 'Mother and Canossian sister, here not forgotten rescuer of wounded partisans during the war of Liberation. The grateful city of Schio dedicates this square in memory of her grave personal risk, consciously taken to exalt the Christian virtues of compassion, charity and forgiveness, towards those who work for justice'.

The book Madre Luisa Arlotti. Canossian, nurse, partisan, written by Ugo De Grandis and published by Centrostampaschio in 2017 is dedicated to the story of Mother Luisa Arlotti.

Alessandro Colombini, historian

Mother Luisa Arlotti was honoured as “Righteous reported by the civil society” in the 2024 ceremony.

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