A Heroine Recognized


Giovina Fioravanti, circa 1940s, and a more recently photo on the Isle of Wight

I received an e-mail late last month from Isabelle Burberry on the Isle of Wight on the south coast of England.

She wrote, “I am in possession of the Certificate of Gratitude signed by Field-Marshall H.R. Alexander awarded to my Mother, Fioravanti Giovina. My Mother is extremely proud of said Certificate and would show it off to all and sundry even to this day. However, I was completely unaware of the story behind the Certificate until a search on the internet led me to your site.”

“I’m not really sure exactly what it was that my mother did, but presume it was to provide help. I know that she was with the Red Cross, and I seem to remember that she had been in Albania and was travelling back down from the North to the South of Italy to be reunited with her family.”

Giovina’s family lived about an hour south of Rome.

The certificates, signed by Field Marshal Harold Alexander, commander of Allied forces in Italy, were issued to a select group of Italians who had risked their lives to protect escaped British POWs and evaders (soldiers evading capture in enemy territory) during German occupation of their homeland.

Isabelle went on to explain, “My Mother met my Father, Frank William Mitchell—probably just after the War—in Rome, where he worked at the Foreign Office. After that they lived in Paris, where I was born, and we all came to live in London when I was just over two. Mum lived in Tottenham from that time on. Dad died in 1973.

Giovina, who was struck with illness about a month ago, is now in a care home following hospitalization.

“Mum, although proud of her certificate, didn’t really talk much about ‘what she did in the War,'” Isabelle wrote. “To say that I’m even prouder of her now is an understatement.”


Giovina’s Alexander Certificate

This certificate is awarded to Fioravanti Giovina as a token of gratitude for and appreciation of the help given to the Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which enabled them to escape from, or evade capture by the enemy.

H.R. Alexander
Supreme Allied Commander,
Mediterranean Theatre

Other Italians mentioned on this site who received Alexander Certificates are Gigi Pistoia, who assisted G. Norman Davison in his escape, and Nicola and Liberato Lagalla, teenage brothers who transported Captain J. H. Derek Millar and dozens of other escaped POWs in fishing boats down Italy’s Adriatic coast from San Benedetto del Tronto to Termoli.

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