The February 10th Day of Remembrance was celebrated in 260 different places, in Italy and worldwide, with ceremonies ranging from the placement of commemorative wreaths to street naming, shows and concerts. A strong witnessing of solidarity, and will to understand our history, as well as the desire to participate in events that open the way for various kinds of reflection: the roles of Italy and neighboring countries in these events, and the roles of historians and opinion makers as well.
Italian president Giorgio Napolitano’s speech was a great satisfaction for us, as it showed that the lessons of history have been widely learned, at least to a certain extent. From the President’s speech, which was partially repeated from last year’s, it is time for us to reflect on what was done this year, in Italy and among our immigrant communities throughout the world.
Oftentimes, problems that have gone unexpressed, and tensions accumulated through the years, find a vent in the debate surrounding February 10th, which becomes a font of emotional cleansing and a base for discussing themes, and not only about our Exodus, that were kept in silence for too long. The events surrounding our Exodus become part of a much larger discussion on the movement of populations within Europe before and during the Second World War. This is why, in this “vast sea”, considerations made are never simplistic: they need intelligent filters and a positive approach if one wishes to convert the sufferings of an entire people into energy capable of building new relationships and pacification. When we state that we want to return to our homeland, when we affirm that our goal is to allow our homeland’s Italian culture to be absorbed by the people who now live there, we are not speaking of setting up an occupation: we are merely doing our part to assure that a rich history becomes part of the treasure of the world. I believe that this is a noble plan which gives dignity to the present, and allows us to hope for a kind of justice that goes above and beyond, while always understanding, the injustices of confiscated properties.
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With the Day of Remembrance, our commitment has become important. The implosive force that characterized our associations’ activities for a long time has now come out into the open, and projects itself toward new, finally credible, scenarios. This is all possible due to the ample participation in this year’s events throughout Italy. In the first few years, the central theme of this Day was prevalent: in one city only, we brought together the highest authorities and most important ceremonies. Then something unexpected, profound, and, in some ways, satisfying, happened: the whole of Italy responded, and chose to be by the Exiles’ side in this moment.
When the Istrian, Dalmatian and Fiume Exile occurred, the 350,000 Italians were scattered among 130 refugee camps situated throughout Italy. An entire population found itself in the position of having to interact with specific local situations, sometimes revealing their origins, sometimes hiding them, not so much out of shame, but because of the uncomfortable situation brought about by the attitude toward them in Italian political circles. In any case, the Exiles allowed themselves to be recognized, entering into local life and making their mark in civil society. We must consider this current outpouring a homage to these people who brought to Italy and the world the principles of an evolved society, committed to work, tied to its Church and to the values of a long history of contact with its surrounding world.
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In Trieste, the moral capital of the Exodus, it was almost a given that Day of Remembrance events would be widespread. It was less expected in cities such as Venice or Bologna, where in the past Exiles had been a source of argument and refusal. Even so, last year, with a special plaque dedicated at the Bologna train station, we managed to begin an important chapter in our relationship with public opinion. This year, in the Emilia-Romagna region, nearly every city participated in remembering in different ways. Schools made requests for educational material, textbooks on the history of the Exile and the Foibe, and documentaries. We feel that we are on the right path. To be sure, there is no lack of contradictions. There are those who, taking advantage of the focus on these issues, want to advance their theories of negation. Our hope is that the public will realize the difference between facts and partial opinions. History is never black and white, and therefore we invite everyone to reflect on the information they hear from those who are against the cause of this dispersed people, and above all we invite people to be informed, to seek out information: in the past few years, vast amounts of information have been written and published, by serious historians who, while not holding a monopoly on the truth, come very close indeed.
In Slovenia and Croatia, newspapers give very negative accounts on the Day of Remembrance, as if this Day were “against” something, and this is simply not true. The Exiles want to speak out about their history, not to make accusations, but rather for a just recognition of the facts and events that struck a people, in a Europe which today is finally open without reserve to these reflections. In the rest of the world, too, there are local committees of Giuliani and Dalmatians who have taken this Day and transformed it into one of great recognition by the communities in which they now live. Personally it gives a sense of great satisfaction.
Now, a law is needed that ratifies, finally, equal and definitive compensation for the Exiles. There needs to be an agreement with Slovenia and Croatia for giving back those properties which are still available. It is sure that recent disagreements may slow our pace, but they also help us to focus on the still unsolved problems that we need to work on; they help us, also, in insisting that “the truths” – because that is what they are – triumph over the conditionings of the past.
President of the Federation
of the Associations of Exiles