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Microbiologist Honored For World War II Work Says She’s No Heroine

DANA KENNEDYJune 22, 1987

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ A microbiology professor has received an award for her work with the Resistance and sheltering Jewish orphans after World War II but still insists that she ″didn’t do that much.″

Annamaria Torriani-Gorini said after seeing a newspaper article calling her a heroine, ″Don’t call me that. I started blushing when I saw that.″

Torriani-Gorini, 68, who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, last month received the Raoul Wallenberg Commemorative Award from the state chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for her work against the fascists and her efforts to house more than 800 children who survived Nazi concentration camps.

Torriani-Gorini grew up in Milan, Italy, where she learned to ″hate fascism″ from her mother, a member of the Italian intelligentsia, she said in a recent interview.

After graduating from the University of Milan, she began working at a small research institute with an anti-fascist staff. There, she met Resistance fighter Luigi Gorini and joined him in smuggling arms and information to anti- fascist forces in the Alps.

″We were writing, typing things, then burning them at night,″ said Torriani-Gorini. ″We got people on bicycles to deliver the arms, or the newspapers. All we did was work.″

The two activists married after the war. When Gorini was approached by Jewish officials who needed help housing Jewish children who had survived the Nazi death camps, they found a ″huge and beautiful″ house in Selvino, a small village in the Italian province of Bergamo. The property had been a summer camp for fascists’ children, Torriani-Gorini said.

When the youngsters from concentration camps arrived, ″they didn’t know how to smile,″ she recalled. ″Each child had a small roll of bread. They were even eating the toothpaste.″

Torriani-Gorini and her husband supervised the running of the house for about three years. She has kept in touch with the children, who eventually were taken to Israel.

The couple moved to the United States in 1955. Gorini died 11 years ago.

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