Suzanne Santo Shares Her Grandfather's Story of Being a WWII POW


11 months ago



Suzanne Santo

4 appearances

Suzanne Santo is an actress, model, and singer-songwriter. "Yard Sale," her most recent album, is available now.


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You get these opportunities to obtain a piece of wisdom if you can help it. It's always through the darker things or the things that are fucking annoying. Lately, I've been so aware of my lineage, my family tree, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and me, and then my stepdaughter. If we have more kids, where I sit in this line of generational personalities and habits, and where I see the mistakes, and where I want to make corrections. It's really powerful. You really have to look at yourself and the things you don't like, and the things you like or love. It's a really defining moment lately. I just feel my, again, responsibility to what is most important. I'm so proud to be from the family I'm from and the kind of people. There's so many things I'm like, oh God. It feels like a real job to heal generational wounds and bad habits. Whatever I can do, I want to give the best things to my children. Yeah, you're trying to be a good person. But I come from this really long line of hustlers. My great-grandmother was a bookie, my great-grandfather was a bootlegger. My grandfather was a bookie and a prisoner of war for two years in World War II. He was shot down from an airplane. He was a waist gunner, one of the most dangerous jobs you could have. He got captured and he survived an 82-day death march and made it back home to Cleveland. He married my grandmother who was an excellent cook, and all the money he had from being a bookie, they built these restaurants in Cleveland with my grandma's recipes. It's amazing. The food's so good and it's my family legacy. I'm just fascinated by those people and I feel really lucky to be their granddaughter. Yeah, that's a fascinating fucking story. It's pretty wild. How did he survive? Oh, man. How did he survive the crash? He parachuted out. He parachuted out and then he gets captured. Jesus. He never talked about his experience until he was almost 80. Even my dad, nobody knew what my grandfather went through. He got inspired by somebody to finally tell us what he ... to tell his family. He took a year doing voice recordings with his sister, I'm pretty sure it was my Aunt Rita, to tell a story. One day when I was in LA when I was 22, I got this book in the mail and he gave it to our family so we could all know about what his experience in World War II was in being a prisoner of war. I was bawling. It makes me emotional just talking about it. He had finally had this moment where he felt like it was okay to tell everybody. It was very polite and sanitized. By the end of his life, he really wanted to talk about it more and more in greater detail. He carried one of his friends during that 82-day march because I can't remember where they were moving them, but it was like you walk for 82 days. You can't stop to take a shit or pee. He had dysentery, he had lice, he was filthy. Actually, shortly before he died, I went to visit him and he was telling ... he just wanted to talk and tell me these things. I remember him saying to me, and he looked me in the eye and he was like, you do not know filth. You don't know filth. If you stopped, they killed you. You had to keep going. One of his friends, he carried him. I remember this old man, because my parents used to send us to Florida in the summers where my grandparents lived. We'd spend two, three weeks with them. It was awesome, but grandpa was usually watching the Sopranos with his headphones on and doing his own thing. They were so Italian. His old friend was all ... I remember, I think it was ... I don't want to butcher this, but I think it was his friend, Mr. Dragonetti. They were friends until they're very old age. They had this experience together, this horrible experience. Not to ramble on unless you want to hear more about it. I'm just so amazed at that sacrifice and courage and bravery and just fortune to survive and then to have a life after that. I think about somebody posting their fucking video about working too long at Starbucks. I'm like, fuck you. I'm sorry. Fuck your fucking feelings. You're going to be fine.