Teresa Bracco was born on 24 February 1924 in the village of
Santa Giulia (Diocese of Acqui), Italy, to Giacomo Bracco and
Anna Pera, two humble and devoutly Catholic farmers. From an early
age she showed signs of great piety, particularly a love of the
Eucharist and a tender devotion to the Virgin Mary. After a long
day of tiring work, her father would lead the family in reciting
the Rosary. Teresa learned to pray by following her parents' example.
The formation she received at home was strengthened by the catechesis
given by an exceptional parish priest, Fr Natale Olivieri, who
gave her many religious books to read but, most importantly, inspired
her by his holy life.
At school, Teresa's teachers marveled at her exemplary conduct.
As a young girl and throughout her adolescence she was often found
in church with her eyes fixed on the tabernacle, immobile and
almost ecstatic in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. She
spared no sacrifice to nourish her love for Christ in the Eucharist,
rising early in the morning and walking over a kilometre to attend
Mass and receive Holy Communion. She spent the rest of her day
in work and prayer, fingering her rosary when her tasks allowed
One of her most striking virtues, however, was her modesty in
speech and dress. She instinctively fled from trivial conversations.
One witness said: "She was different from the other girls".
At the age of nine, she saw a picture of the then Ven. Dominic
Savio in the Bollettino Salesiano, with the caption: "Death
rather than sin". She exclaimed: "That goes for me!".
She cut out the picture, pasted it on a card and hung it over
her bed It remained her favorite object of devotion for the rest
of her life.
In the autumn of 1943 guerrilla warfare intensified in the Acqui
region. The mountains and woods afforded many hiding places for
partisans and draft resisters. On 24 July 1944 a fierce clash
occurred between partisan forces and German troops on the road
between Cairo Montenotte and Cortemilia. The next day the Germans
returned to collect their dead: they burned farms, looted homes
and terrorized the people.
They extended the round-up to the entire area and on 28 August
reached Santa Giulia, which they thought was as a stronghold of
the partisans, even though the latter had moved elsewhere. They
seized three girls, one of whom was Teresa. A soldier, perhaps
a non-commissioned officer, took her to a deserted place in the
woods. Indomitable, Teresa tried to run from the thicket in the
hope of getting help from a nearby family. But the ruffian grabbed
her and threw her to the ground. She resisted the savage aggression
with all her might, but the enraged soldier throttled her until
she choked. He shot her twice with his revolver and to vent his
rage, crushed part of her skull with his boot. Teresa had fulfilled
her intention: "I would rather be killed than give in".