Bruna was the oldest of two children born to Italian-speaking Jewish parents who had settled in the cosmopolitan city of Trieste. Her father, born in Vienna, served in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. He became a naturalized Italian during the 1920s after marrying Bruna's mother. Growing up in fascist Italy, Bruna attended public schools in Trieste and felt proud to be an Italian.
1933-39: In September 1938 I was surprised to see anti-Jewish graffiti. Then anti-Jewish race laws were announced. I was expelled from my public secondary school and my father was fired from his job. Circumstances forced me into a new, private Jewish school organized by fired Jewish professors, with small classes and excellent teachers. Ironically, my exams and diploma were fully accredited by the Italian state.
1940-44: We were glad when Mussolini fell from power in July 1943, but his fall led to the German occupation of Italy. We fled south but were caught in a roundup. Awaiting deportation to Germany, I attended a Christmas Mass in our prison. The Bishop of Rimini told me not to despair and to believe in miracles. Three days later the prison was hit during an air raid. We escaped to a convent south of Rimini and discovered that the bishop had instructed the convent to give shelter to refugees with no questions or payment asked.
Bruna was liberated at the convent by British troops on September 23, 1944, the day after her twenty-first birthday.