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23 February 2010

istria in my heart

"i have loved justice and hated iniquity: therefore, i die in exile" - pope gregory VII

i did it again, i went to slovenia just to buy some bread. it's not merely about bread of course, even if it's delicious and special, not like the crappy one they bake here. it's about the call. and when slovenia calls, i go. slovene coast, these 55 km of beautiful hills adorned with olive trees, remind me of my hometown perano. there's something in historical koper that talks to my heart. people are genuine, simple, like the people who were not yet spoiled and still country of my childhood years. i always feel happier after a visit to slovenia.

and i'm sure it's not just a coincidence that one of the most enchanting cities of the coast is called piran, like perano. destiny brought me here and made me live the biggest drama in my life near istria, the country of the diaspora. it's here that i'm living my spontaneous exile from abruzzo, which was only a natural consequence after the loss of my parents. this terrible condition of mine is common to the million istrians who were forced to leave their country. my reasons are not at all comparable to theirs. my pain is not historical, it's personal. it's not even physical, death was not involved. i didn't even loose my social identity. but i lost my hopes, my family. the process is painful and pain is the exiles common trait.

the only but important difference maybe is that i'm not as proud of my ethnic origin as istrians are. i've never recognized myself in this country, i feel like italy doesn't represent my nature. still, every time i listen to 'va pensiero' by verdi, the words makes me nostalgic. it's not patriotism, it's being aware of the importance of roots. i spent my whole life running away from the place i belong and now that i can't go there anymore, for pride and personal resentment, just now i want to go. the only thing left to do is visiting slovenia, trying to follow the wings of my roots as best as i can do. i don't think it's ever too late to reconcile past and present.

when i think about how inhabitants of istria were forceably dispersed to countries around the world, i go nuts. they had cohabited peacefully during the austrian rule, protected and respected by wise tolerance laws. then we italians arrived and deteriorated their social equilibrium. our crazy fascist fanatism, which produced ridiculous italianising and abuse, only anticipated the nazi occupation terror.

these poor genuine people, faithful to their italian culture, didn't have time to hope because later, after ww2, yugoslavia president-to-be tito occupied istria and started the absurd ethnic cleansing of the italian majority, hoping to obtain official assignation of their land. the communists totally terrorised civilians. many were killed and buried in the famous sinkholes (foibe), others let die in there by starvation. when it was clear that their homeland had been used as payment for italy war's debits, many of italians/istrians fleed to italy and to other regions of the world. the ones who stayed saw their freedom of language, religion, tradition and culture reduced.

(vintage map of italian regions, with istria and dalmatia on the right in yellow -source)

and here the most shameful part begins. they received a far from welcome by their own nation. they were considered fascists by hypocrite people who had only got rid of mussolini with the help of the allies, gathered into barracks, isolated in ghettos with no decency neither dignity. in this outrageous post-war italy, who refused to give food and drinks when their trains passed, it took them years before they could retreive their social identity.

the process of integration was long and painful, and obviosuly a problem for italian historians. even today that the wall of berlin has fallen and that a national memorial day of the exiles and sinkholes was established (first celebrated here in trieste in 2005), even today they try to avoid the subject. since many of the alleged foibe lie outside italian territory, no investigation could be carried out during the years of the cold war, and books could only be of a speculative or anecdotal nature. since the topic was especially interesting for the extreme right, there is an overrepresentation of authors that can be traced to neofascism. conversely, authors from the left wing of politics have maintained that the foibe were either an invention (or at least an exaggeration) of the extreme right for propaganda purposes (credits).

istria is a beautiful and lost homeland. despite all it had to endure, its people feel both italian and istrian. they're twice italian, by birth and by choice, even if italy never returned this love. i wouldn't be that generous. and i hope they keep being jelaous of the va pensiero song. i didn't even know their claim (see how much media obscure facts?), but i made some research and got to know that it represents their deepest feelings and memories about the disapora. it's their anthem, they sang it at the pula roman amphitheater as a farewell to their city. ot mainteined its ideological significance while in italy, after unification, it lost its political value and became an artistic phenomenon.

so let it be their song! let that 'thought cross the mountains and fly over the oceans, reach the land and find the place where all children grow (...) lead them your golden wings every feel will fly away, tTake them by the hand help them find an easy way, lead them back to the light back to the light where they once used to belong, where they carry me children as long as they want!' (lyrics from zucchero's performance of 'va pensiero')

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