President Napolitano honors foibe victims in the presence of relatives
Napolitano: «The inhuman ferocity of the foibe was, openly and visibly,
one of the barbarian acts of the last century».
«Scheme to uproot any and all Italian presence
from what was, then ceased to be, Venezia-Giulia»
Rome, February 10th. With the Quirinale Palace as a backdrop, on the occasion of the Day of Remembrance founded by the Parliament in 2004 «to preserve and to renew the memory of the tragedy of Italians and all the foibe victims, of the exodus of the Istrians, Fiumani and Dalmatians from their native regions in the aftermath of World War II and of the complex matter of the Eastern border», the President of the Republic George Napolitano consigned 30 decorations to relatives of foibe victims, in the presence of the highest state authorities, civilians, soldiers, and representatives of the associations of the exiles.
Also present at the ceremony were the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Fausto Bertinotti; Vicepresident of the Senate, Gavino Angius; the Vicepremier, Francesco Rutelli; Alfio Finocchiaro, a judge representing the constitutional Court; the Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni; and Professor Paolo Barbi, former president of the ANVGD (the National Venezia-Giulia and Dalmatia Association) who gave an introductory history lecture. The national leaders of the associations of the exiles were present as well.
Vicepremier Rutelli: «a painful page of silence», «the drama of an entire nation»
Vicepremier Francesco Rutelli, whose speech opened the ceremony, recognized that «though it comes late, we remember the drama of an entire nation, that lived through three tragic periods, from September 8th, 1943, to the spring of 1946 «under the pressures carried out by Tito’s forces to annex those regions to Yugoslavia. Moreover, a painful page of silence was added to the tragedy, a silence that injected the ‘lethal poison of non-recognition’ into the national conscience». Rutelli then called the government institutions to carry out their duty to make known to the younger generations not only the tragic pages of history regarding the eastern border, but also the cultural and historic heritage, which play a vital role in Italy’s historic presence which is still preserved on the other side of the Adriatic. «This – he underlined – “is one of the goals stated in the Day of Remembrance law». In closing, Rutelli wanted to direct his heartfelt homage to the relatives of foibe victims, for the sober dignity with which they have carried so heavy a burden all these years.
Senator Paolo Barbi spoke next, giving a layout of the historical background that gave ride to the Day of Remembrance. At the end of his lecture, the conferment ceremony began, as the Head of State, presented the diplomas and medals to the relatives of the victims. For each victim, a personal description was read, in an atmosphere of heartfelt emotion. Among the 30 relatives honored by Napolitano, we point out Nicolò Luxardo and Maria Luxardo, for their relatives murdered by drowning in Zara; Joseph Sincich for his father, a prominent member of autonomy circles in Fiume, and the son of Vincenzo Serrentino, last Prefect of Zara.
«It was President Ciampi’s will that this first medal-conferring ceremony take place here, last year, as a manifestation of honor towards the victims, as stated in the law of April 2004 – of the foibe, of the exodus and of the general history of the eastern border».
I take up the example of my predecessor, confirming the duty felt by all institutions of the Republic, at every level, of righting the lack of recognition that endured too long. As we listened this morning to the personal histories of the victims, we were all able to relive the tragedy of thousands and thousands of families, whose loved ones were imprisoned, killed, thrown in the foibe. Perhaps the deepest emotional impact is felt upon hearing the words, «no news was heard of him since then», «likely shot, or thrown into a foiba». It was the tragedy of victims disappearing into nothingness, and the unburied dead.
A myriad of tragedies and horrors; and a collective tragedy, the Exodus of the Istrians, Fiumani and Dalmatians: a tragedy of an entire populous. To those of you here present who are children of that harsh history, I give once more, in the name of the whole Nation, a word of affectionate closeness and solidarity.
In the past few years, historians have intensified and expanded their research and reflections on the events surrounding the Day of Remembrance, and there is certainly a need to treasure their work, to diffuse our collective memory that has risked being wiped out, and to communicate it to the youngest generations, in the spirit of the 2004 law. This climate has fostered detailed and detatched analysis has recently been made, pointing to the existence of first waves of blind violence in those regions, as early as autumn of 1943, «summary and tumultuous execution, ultra-nationalistic outbursts, social revenge, and a scheme of eradication"were blended together, in an effort to anihilate the Italian presence from that which was, and ceased to be, Venezia-Giulia. There was therefore a wave of hatred and bloodthirsty fury and a schemeof slavic annexation, that prevailed above all in the 1947 Peace Treaty, and that assumed the sinister connotations of ethnic cleansing».
It is certain that, openly and visibly, with the inhuman ferocity of the foibes – one of the barbarian acts of the last century took place. Because in the 1900’s-as I have had occasion to recall, in this very chamber, another historical and weighty recurrence (the Commemoration of the Holocaust) – Europe was the home of both culture and barbarianism. And this must never be forgotten , if we are to value the noble aspects of our historical tradition, and to consolidate the civilization, peace, liberty, tolerance, and solidarity of the new Europe that we have been building for over fifty years. It is a Europe born of refusal of aggressive and oppressive nationalisms, from those manifested in the fascist war to that which took place in the wave of Yugoslav terror in Venezia-Giulia, a Europe that also excludes every trace of revanchism
My dear friend, Professor Paolo Barbi – exemplary representative of those regions, of those populations and their sufferings – has admirably shared his experience: especially when he spoke of the "dream" and of the European project in which he and others searched, in an illuminated way, for reparation and deliverance from the nightmare of the past and the bitterness of silence.
«we mustn’t keep silent, taking upon ourselves the responsibility of having denied, or tried to ignore, the truth, in the name of past ideologies and political blindness,
and having erased it for diplomatic calculations and international conveniences»
And what he said is right: the unforgivable horrors committed against humanity, constituted by the foibe, must be remembered, but equal remembrance goes to the odyssey of the exodus, and the pain and what it cost the fiumani, istrians and dalmatian to rebuild a life for themselves in an Italy newly free and independent but humiliated and mutilated in its eastern region. And we must remember – I return to the words of the Professor Barbi – the «conspiracy of silence», «the less dramatic but even more bitter and demoralizing phase of forgetting».
Today in Italy we have put an end to theunjustified silence, and we areworking in Europe to recognize Slovenia as a friendly partner and Croatia as a new candidate for EU entry: nevertheless, we need to repeat, forcefully, that, whether in domestic matters or international relations, a vital part of any reconciliation, that we firmly desire, is the truth. And the Day of Remembrance, dear friends, is precisely that: a solemn pledge and obligation to re-establish the truth».
For the ANVGD were present National President, Lucio Toth, together with Serene Ziliotto, the daughter of exiles from Zara and granddaughter of the Mayor of Zara from 1899 to 1922, interned in Austria from 1915 to 1918, and Patricia C. Hansen, daughter of exiles from Fiume and director of "Difesa Adriatica”.