Day of Remembrance 2006
President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi decorated
decorated twenty relatives of foibe victims
Rome. On February 8th, 2006, in a formal ceremony at the “Quirinale” Presidential Palace, Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi decorated twenty relatives of foibe victims, as part of the Day of Remembrance.
The highest Parliamentary officials, as well as civil and military authorities, were present. The president of the Federation of the Associations of the Exiled Istrians, Fiumani and Dalmatians, Guido Brazzoduro, and the ANVGD national vice-presidents, Fulvio Aquilante and Silvio Cattalini, as well as the national Secretary, Oliviero Zoia, also attended.
The predecessor of the current Head of State, Giorgio Napolitano, spoke (a copy of his speech follows) and then conferred diplomas and commemorative medals, as well as bestowing a posthumous Gold Medal for Civil Merit to Norma Cossetto, victim and symbol of the violence practiced by Tito’s partisans. The medal was presented to Norma’s sister, Licia.
The President’s speech follows.
I am here today with you to honor the newly-made law which, with nearly total unilateral support in Parliament, has established Remembrance Day. I quote its purpose: 'to preserve and to renew the memorial of the tragedy of Italians and all the victims of the foibe, of the exodus of the Istrians, Fiumani and Dalmatians in the period following the Second World War, and the sensitive, complex matter of Italy’s eastern border.
It is only right that now, after years of silence on this issue, we solemnly affirm the celebration of this Day. This year’s celebration has been enriched with an event of great meaning: for the first time, relatives of foibe victims have been presented with a medal, dedicated to the victims’ sacrifice and atrocious sufferings in the foibe at the end of the Second World War.
Our recognition of their suffering is an act of justice toward each of these victims: it brings them tangibly into the present, and allows us to honor them fully, both as individuals and as Italian citizens.
We are gathered here today in respect and meditation, as we evoke their suffering, as well as the pain of those who were forced to leave their homes in Istria, the Quarnaro Gulf, and Dalmatia. Our gathering is not purely symbolic: it is a testimony to the awakening of our whole nation’s conscience.
Italy cannot and will not forget: not because we let resentment decide our actions, but because we do not want the mistakes of the past to be repeated in the future. The responsibility that we feel towards the younger generations impels us to pass down to them the full knowledge of events which have shaped a vital part of out country’s history.
Remembrance allows us to look back at the past with a wholeness of feelings, to recognize ourselves in our unique identity, and to let the past’s well-founded values take root within us, in order to build a new and better future.
Hatred and ethnic cleansing were the abominable corollary of the tragedy of the 19th century, in which Europe was crushed by all-encompassing civil strife and war between exasperated nationalisms. The Second World War, brought about by dictatorial regimes that upheld perverse racist ideologies, destroyed the lives of millions of people on our continent, brought entire nations to their knees, and indeed risked burying European civilization.
This civilization – to which we Italians, throughout the centuries, have given an extraordinary intellectual and spiritual contribution – is made of humanity, respect for “the other”, belief in reason and rights, and solidarity. The totalitarian regimes’ betrayal of these beliefs was incapable of destroying these principles: they rose up again, stronger than ever, from the devastation of war, and cemented the will of all Europeans to pursue, united, the goals of peace and progress.
Italy was reconciled in the name of Democracy and rebuilt after the disasters of World War II along with the contribution, both of intelligence and work, of the Istrian, Fiumani and Dalmatian refugees, and it has reached a fundamental decision. It has recognized its own destiny as one and the same with a Europe that leaves hatred and rancor behind, a Europe that has decided to build it future on collaboration among its nations, based on trust, freedom, and comprehension.
In this Europe of brotherhood and peace, minorities are no longer victims of divisions and exclusions, but rather are a source and symbol of respect and reciprocal enrichment, of dialogue and constructive collaboration. Enlivened by this spirit, Italy has reinforced its pledge to promote the process of rebirth and reaffirmation of the Italian minority’s rights in Slovenia and Croatia, according to the principles to which every European Comminity member must adhere.
Our Europeanism does not deny, but rather reinforces, our love for our nation, founded in the ideals of the Italian Risorgimento. These ideals have conveyed to us, together with a renewed conscience of national unity, a profound sense of fraternity with all independent and free nations.
Over fifty years have passed since the beginning of the project for European political unity: the knowledge of the reasons which determine it, and the memory of the fatal risks taken by the European peoples, are necessary factors in maintaining a watchful defense over the basis for a civil society: respect for human dignity. As we reflect on the road travelled since then, we can be proud, after the wretched cruelties of the last century, of the extraordinary progress we have accomplished.
The memory of those cruelties, and the inexpressible burden of pain which they forced the nations of Europe to shoulder, reinforce our recognition of those values of civilization upon which the European identity is substantiated. Europe’s present and future are based on the sentiment of common belonging of all Europeans, and on the consolidation of a unique space in which the principles and freedoms of the European Union can be fully shared by all. The will of people who were once so fiercely hostile to the idea of unified living, assures a future of common progress, in the name of democracy and liberty.
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi