Every year three small villages in Ticino remember the men from their valley who took part in Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia. Local photographer Roberto Donetta (1865-1932) took their pictures in the second decade of the 20th century.
The Russian campaign ended in disaster for Napoleon, who had assembled an army of more than half a million men from all over Europe. During the battle at the Berezina river, where the Swiss suffered terrible losses, the men of the Blenio valley are said to have taken an oath to parade annually in uniform in honour of their village saint if they returned. The tradition still survives.
(Images: Fondazione Archivio Donetta)