I hope you liked my first two articles published within the eries of articles about the Red Rebels – about Louise Berger and Raya Dunaevskaya. Here is a story of another exceptional woman, Bianca Tosconi-Pittoni. As with the two previous heroines, I came across Bianca while writing my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, due to be published by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. Angelica must have known Bianca since Bianca’s birth. Angelica was a good friend of Bianca’s father, Valentino Pittoni, a German Socialist Deputy in Trieste who represented Italy. The two women remained good friends until Angelica’s last days.
Bianca Tosconi-Pittoni was one of the most beautiful female revolutionaries I have encountered during my research on Angelica Balabanoff. She was stylish, elegant and slender. She was born in 1904 in Trieste. Avant-garde and intelligent, Bianca decided to study medicine, but managed to complete only three years of university. In 1927 upon finishing her 3rd year she was obliged to move to Paris. With Mussolini coming to power, the lives of socialists were put into danger in Italy.In Paris, Bianca wasn’t just a socialist activist. She became the Secretary of Filippo Turati, a leader of the Italian socialists in exile.
Bianca was a real Red Rebel. Not only was she beautiful, but she was daring and courageous as well. In 1938 she was one of the few women to join the International Brigade to fight the Spanish Civil war in Madrid. She was the last to leave the city in March of 1939. Her friends decided to hide her under the stacks of cloths s on the floor of a track where she spent hours lying on her back until the car crossed the border into France.
A few months later, on June 14, Germans occupied France. Another two days later the Gestapo knocked on Bianca’s door. She was labelled a dangerous and subversive socialist activist. To escape the arrest, she settled in the town of Saint-Denis-d’Oléron, on the Ile d’Orléon in southwestern France. Fluent in French, German and Italian, she quickly found a job as an interpreter for the town mayor. Known to Gestapo as Pittoni, during her stay on Ile d’Orléon she chose the name of her husband, Tosoni, thus escaping the Gestapo.
During four years of war, Germans suspected Bianca of being an enemy and locals thought she was a collaborator. Not many knew that she had hidden U.K. pilots who suffered a plane crash while bombing the German military base on Ile d’Oléron in her house.
Bianca came back to Paris at the end of war in 1944. She worked for many years in the Italian Embassy in Paris. She died in 1993.
To learn more about Angelica and the book, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel, consult the page About Angelica.
*Photos from the personal collection of Albert Tosconi-Pittoni