AGI – Graziano Mesina sensed that this time it would not have gone smoothly that that sentence, yet another, at 30 years of age for a criminal association aimed at drug trafficking, would be confirmed in the Court of Cassation. So the ex-life imprisonment had prepared to leave his sister Peppedda’s house, which overlooks the main road of Orgosolo (Nuoro) his country, before the arrival of the carabinieri.
At 78, although tired and resigned, the former Primula Rossa del Supramonte he has only one certainty: after more than 40 years in prison, he does not want to go behind bars. He is described as a single man, much changed compared to that spark and fury that fueled his bandit myth, disputed by the media, among the protagonists of about forty thesis in criminology for which he had been interviewed, and irresistible appeal for dozens of women, even if not in recent times.
Journey to the country of Grazianeddu
In the streets of Orgosolo, on a cool mistral day after a week of hellish heat, the first weekend of July you will mainly meet tourists, including foreigners, enchanted by the approximately 350 murals to which the country owes its fame.
The over 4,000 inhabitants are now accustomed to visitors, they know how to amaze them with hospitality of the past and they fear that because of Covid-19 only a small part of the 150 thousand tourists will arrive who, on average, stop in the country every year, also to enjoy the wild nature of the surroundings.
We meet some young people in the many bars with outdoor tables and in the elderly sitting chatting in the square, a few steps from the house in Corso Repubblica where ‘Grazianeddu’ has spent the last year after the terms of release have expired.
‘Tzia’ Peppedda hasn’t lived with him for some time: sick, she was taken to Nuoro by a daughter who takes care of her. Also to the other sisters, Antonia and Rosa, who live assisted by a daughter, in the center of the village, not far from the house of Peppedda and Graziano, old age and ailments have brought the need to retire and protect themselves, even from the bulky shadow of his brother and his troubles with justice.
The reporter’s notebook is filled with stories, with fragments of the multifaceted personality of ‘Grazianeddu’, stories that are all strictly anonymous, if you really want to understand what Mesina really represents for her community.
Firm and kind, she doesn’t let anything go the parish priest, Don Salvatore Goddi, originally from Orune (Nuoro), returned from three years to Orgosolo, where he had spent his first five years as a young priest, after his ordination.
It has a jewel parish, in which the most numerous among the increasingly scarce vocations of the area shine. Instead, Orgosolo is an exception, with a deacon and young people enrolling in the faculty of theology or in seminary.
Instead, speak the mayor, Dionigi Deledda, who would prefer to dwell on the unquestionable beauty and potential of his country, rather than finding himself attacked by journalists for days on the history of the most known resident of Orgosolo or questioned on the double vandal raid that in one week has put video surveillance cameras out of use in front of the main town square, a few steps from Mesina’s house.
But it does not escape: “Humanly it is a story that is sorry, but justice must take its course”, explains the first citizen, patient and available to everyone, summarizing the two souls of the country. There are those who love ‘Grazianeddu’ for the generosity that many have enjoyed and there are those who reproach him for having been a bad teacher and for having brought only trouble.
They all agree, however, on the charisma of the character, on the charm he has always exercised on others, even if it had faded after the grace received in 2004 by the President of the Republic had been played when, not even 10 years later, he was found that he had returned to commit a crime. “He had his chance, he threw it away,” regret his fellow villagers, who in the last year met him every afternoon while crossing Corso Repubblica, the main road of the town, to reach the barracks and sign.
Mesina did not do it on the day of the sentence, did not report to the police and did not find himself in the house he shared with a nephew. When the military went to him to notify him of the deed confirming the 30-year sentence, ‘Grazianeddu’ had fled elsewhere.
Law enforcement officers are looking for him everywhere, especially in the village and its surroundings, where someone may have hosted him. The ex-life imprisonment does not drive, he was accompanied by friends and acquaintances who then often rewarded with money or lunch in a restaurant before finding himself again entangled.
In his heyday, after the pardon, he was often invited and ate for free on the premises, thanks to his notoriety due to the multiple interviews, the books that talked about him, the many acquaintances, even among people who count and among the politicians of the Sardinia.
But now, in the last year, ‘Grazianeddu’ was no longer the same: it emerges from all the stories. He still liked to be the center of attention, but now he had started to stop and talk to the elderly in the square, which he did not do before being arrested again in 2013.
Returning from prison, after the pardon, he also surrounded himself with young people, he was the guide for hikers in the Supramonte he knew so well and then, as the investigations have discovered, also shady deals that led to the sentence at 30 years.
From June 2019 ‘Grazianeddu’ could only move in the village, had the obligation to stay, stopped to talk cordially on the street, with everyone, because in Orgosolo, even when there is resentment it is never that you do not say goodbye or don’t buy yourself a coffee.
To the mayor some time ago he had reported a broken pole. “Dionysius, look here,” he had warned him, for the first citizen to provide. Those who know him well doubt that he can take his own life, as someone had speculated: he is convinced, however, that ‘Grazianeddu’ is hidden somewhere, not far from Orgosolo (if not even in the village), and that he wants to treat before to hand himself over, so as not to have to go back to the cell, to serve his sentence with an alternative to prison. There is no confirmation of this negotiation.
Police and carabinieri, who patrol the area with patrols and checkpoints at the entrances of the town, they have closed in an absolute reserve, focus on the searches of the former life sentence. His myth has faded, many in Orgosolo have forgotten the reasons why he was sentenced and there are those who come to think that it is the case, on the threshold of 80 years, to leave him alone, because more than half of his life he spent it in prison. The community now wants to leave behind the era of banditry, the role of Mesina and propose itself as a welcoming and lively country. The town is no longer that of “Bandits in Orgosolo”.