A monument not to forget. Milan honors the martyrs of the sinkholes

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 A monument not to forget. Milan honors the martyrs of the sinkholes


“It took a long, too long time to build this monument. For Milan this is an important day: what you see behind me is the homage that the city finally pays to the victims of the violence that hit thousands of Italians from Venezia Giulia, Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia. All of Milan is here today with us ”.





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It is with evident pride that on the morning of Saturday 10 October the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, inaugurated the largest monument in Italy dedicated to the victims of the Foibe and the exodus of Italians from the Adriatic regions.

Seven tons of porphyry. The tragedy of Foibe and the Julian Dalmatian exodus weighs like a boulder on the conscience of post-war Europe, and at that time, in the heart of Milan, we needed a boulder to remember with a monument the sacrifice suffered over 70 years ago by the Italians of the eastern Adriatic.

And to welcome that long-awaited monument on Saturday morning, ithe first in Italy of this size, it will not be the usual open space in the suburbs but the central square of the Republic, precisely what was called piazzale Fiume until the Second World War by a twist of fate.

It took twenty years, but in the end the exiles from Pula, Rijeka, Zadar and the myriad of Venetian towns that still dot the coasts of Slovenia and Croatia made it: “The idea came to me twenty years ago, ”he is satisfied Romano Cramer, born in Labin in 1946, when Istria was still Italy, and already exiled at the age of 3, fleeing like hundreds of thousands of Italians in the face of the fury of Marshal Tito. “The first project was rejected by the Albertini junta, so I founded a Committee for the Monument calling for reinforcement the various associations of exiles: finally the Pisapia junta approved it, then Mayor Sala completed it with great respect for our history” . Two center-left junctions, in short, “and this makes the gesture even more important, in view of a truly shared memory”.

In fact, if some extremist fringe still denies the massacres of the Communist Yugoslav regime, now the persecutions perpetrated in peacetime by Tito against Istrians, Rijekers and Dalmatians have emerged from the long oblivion of censorship. “For 70 years I have been waiting for this day”, comments the writer and artist Piero Tarticchio, who designed the monument -. Today I think of all those who are no longer there and who would have liked to experience this historic moment. I invite those who will pass this way to stop and say a prayer for all the victims who still lie at the bottom of the abyss ”.

Among these, also Tarticchio’s father, a peaceful shopkeeper in Gallesano, dragged away from home one night in front of his child’s eyes and thrown into a pit as an Italian. “In my dreams, the barbed wire fences that my mother and I crossed at night in June 1945 under a storm still return. We were running away to avoid being informed by Tito’s partisans as had happened to my father and six other family members ”.

“In perennial memory of the martyrs of Foibe, of the disappeared without return and of the 350,000 exiles from Venezia Giulia, Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia”, it is engraved on the porphyry, which represents a body with open arms on the cross, lying in funnel of a foiba. Below, the names of the martyr cities, Gorizia, Trieste, Fiume, Istria, Dalmatia.

The work is donated to the city by the Bracco Foundation, well known for its constant commitment to culture: “But the reason why we responded with enthusiasm is another – says the president Diana Bracco, at the top of a group that is now a world leader. in the diagnostic imaging sector with over 3,600 people employed and a turnover of 1.5 billion euros -, we are very attached to Istria because there are the roots of our family ”, since the days of the Austrian Empire. “My father Fulvio was born there in 1909 and my grandfather Elio, municipal secretary of Neresine, on the island of Lošinj, lived there. Born in 1884 to a family of Istrian patriots, grandfather Elio was a man with very strong values, starting with his civil commitment, and he paid for his irredentism with three years of detention in the concentration camp of Graz in Austria. Our whole family felt Italian and irredentism permeated our life. Today it seems impossible to believe in such a strong determination and attachment to Italy that they are paid for with years of hard prison ”.

It was in prison, however, that Elio Bracco learned Russian and German, a language that led him to create a strong friendship with Guglielmo Merck, of the pharmaceutical company of the same name in Darmstadt. “Moving to Milan, with his friend Guglielmo he founded the Italian Product Company E. Merck in 1927, which later became Bracco. Istria is an incredible land – concludes the entrepreneur – that forged our character, from there came the tenacity not to give up that has characterized our stories. This is also why we have always felt a strong need for ‘restitution’: that is, to give back to the communities in which we operate, starting with Milan, the city that welcomed us, a part of what we have created as a business ”.

Next to Sala this morning also i mayors of Gorizia and Trieste, two of the cities hit by the bloody fury of Tito’s troops, after the World War was over.

Cramer himself recalled the events that took place: “After September 8, 1943, the first wave of information was unleashed, it was the first slaughter, an ethnic cleansing that resumed in the following years with unprecedented violence at the hands of the Yugoslav communist partisans. Thousands of Italians, and not, were thrown into the Foibe often still alive, or drowned in the waters of the Quarnaro and in those in front of Dalmatia. Tito’s Yugoslavia has eliminated one million citizens including Italians, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and other minorities ”.

As the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano already did in 2007 and later, with even greater force, President Sergio Mattarella, also the mayor of Milan reiterated how “the tragedy of the sinkholes and the exodus represents a wound on which a curtain of silence has been spread for too many years. An Italian wound, which today we can and must finally talk about ”. There have been decades in which it was not possible: entire generations of Italian refugees died without even seeing the historical truth of the persecutions they suffered recognized. But “today it is possible”, Sala reiterated, “and Milan today offers a moving tribute to those who are no longer among us”.

Now in the heart of Milan there is a small ideal enclave where hundreds of thousands of exiles and their descendants will be able to remember and pray, especially those who cannot do it on the graves of parents and brothers still dispersed in the karst Foibe. The author of the monument, Tarticchio, explains it well: “From today, this small portion of the city will become our land, it will become Istria, it will become Rijeka, it will become Dalmatia”. During the ceremony a plaque was delivered by the Committee to the industrialist Diana Bracco, in memory of her father Fulvio. Finally the episcopal vicar Monsignor Luca Bressan blessed the monument quoting Isaiah: “The effect of justice will be peace. My people will live in a land of peace, in safe homes, in peaceful places ”. Then, “to honor the blood of these innocent victims” the Our Father, “the prayer which, as Pope Francis says in the last encyclical, makes us all brothers”.

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