February 10th is the Day of Remembrance

February 10 is the Day of Remembrance, established by Law 92/2004 to preserve and recount the memory of the “victims of the foibe, the exodus of the Istrians, the Fiumans and the Italian Dalmatians from their lands.” A recognition to one of the bloodiest and sad events that have struck Italy and that for decades has been silenced, underestimated and sometimes even denied.Istra, the city of Rijeka and Dalmatia have always had a very strong bond with the Italian spirit. Starting from the Roman ruins, then passing through the long belonging to the Republic of Venice, still evident today for the Istrian dialect and for the many effigies of the Lion of San Marco. With the Risorgimento this membership became a nation’s will and then, with the victory in the First World War, Istria, Zadar and later Fiume became part of Italy. But then came the Second World War and with the armistice of September 8, 1943 the loss of control of the territory by the Italian government meant that bands of communist partisans – Italians and, above all, Slavs – struck the symbols of Italianness. Teachers, priests, local administrators, women, often killed through the use of sinkholes, natural cavities in which the victims were thrown, often still alive. Among the thousands of victims also the gold medal for memory Norma Cossetto. Josip Broz “Tito”, the communist who had hegemonicized the Yugoslav resistance after the Italian-German invasion of 1941, intended to hit the Italians to get them out and facilitate the annexation of these regions to Yugoslavia at the end of the conflict. And so between the end of the war and the years immediately following were killed about 10,000 Italians while leaving – for fear and to remain Italian in Italy, their homes and often their own things – about 350,000 Istrians, Fiumans and Dalmatians. 90% of the indigenous Italian community. Few remained, and still today they preserve the Italian identity in Istria. The exiles were instead “welcomed” in one hundred and nine cold and squalid refugee camps located almost everywhere along the Peninsula. And then culpably forgotten. Until the law of 2004 that gave, at least, institutionalism to a personal memory that has yet to become collective memory.

Between history and memoryTrieste, which is considered “moral capital of Exodus” by the 350,000 Istrian exiles, Fiumans and Dalmatians fled from the lands annexed to Yugoslavia following the Treaty of Peace of 10 February 1947, offers a journey of historical tourism that retraces the salient stages of history of the Italian eastern border. The central Piazza Guglielmo Oberdan houses a Museum of the Risorgimento that preserves the relics of local Italianity; there is also the chapel of Oberdan, the cell in which he spent his last hours of life awaiting execution. Following a chronological process, the First World War, seen by many Giuliani and patriots as a fourth war of independence, presents dramatic evidence in the municipality of Duino-Aurisina. Along the paths of not difficult travel are the Hapsburg defensive positions on Mount Ermada. Not far away, but in the province of Gorizia, stands the imposing staircase of the Shrine of Redipuglia, in which rest 100,000 Italian soldiers, 60,000 of whom are unknown: it is the largest military sepulcher in the national territory. The Second World War and its disasters have left behind two national monuments to the Julian capital: the Risiera di San Sabba (after September 8, 1943, a detention camp for German troops from which hundreds of individuals were deported to the concentration camps) and the Foiba of Basovizza. The latter receives around a hundred thousand visitors each year. Technically in Basovizza there is not a foiba of natural origin, but the abyss of an old mine with vertical development. Between May and June 1945 the “titini” had control of the city, deporting or vanishing hundreds of people from Trieste: there were those who went to the concentration camps set up in Slovenia and who was precipitated, sometimes still alive, in this pit. After the Foibe, the climate of terror in the lands provisionally entrusted to Yugoslavia pending the Treaty of Peace determined the Exodus. In Padriciano, not far from Basovizza, one of the 109 refugee gathering centers that welcomed thousands of our Italians on the run has become a real museum, while returning to the most central areas of Trieste, Magazzino 18 of the Old Port is the storage of objects of daily use of the exiles, today evocative place of memory. Finally, the  Civico Museo della Civiltà istriana, fiumana e dalmata run by the Irci which periodically displays exhibitions to illustrate aspects and peculiarities of Italianness in the eastern Adriatic.

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