Trieste, the stake of Narodni dom and the sinkholes: the historical day of remembrance

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A land crushed by old violence and grudges never healed. A disputed and therefore always mobile outpost. In short, an insecure suburb, as historian Giampaolo Valdevit called it. To say what was the capital of our far north east in the last century it would be enough to think of the seven flags that people saw hoisting in their public buildings between 1914 and 1954: the Austro-Hungarian and Savoy, that of the Hitler Reich and the Yugoslavian, British and American until the reunification with Italy and the return of our tricolor in Unit square.

We need to rethink the tragic accounting of the victims of this long sequence of occupations and reoccupations – and we are interested in those straddling Mussolini’s protofascism to which Tito’s communist nationalism reacts – to understand the strong symbolic value of the meeting on Monday 13 July in Trieste between the presidents of Italy and Slovenia, Sergio Mattarella and Borut Pahor. The two heads of state, who have already seen each other on numerous occasions, forging a friendship in the sign of European unity, for the first time they will honor together (here is the absolute news) the Italian dead of the sinkholes and the martyrs of the Italian repression against the Slavic minority.

The debut stage of the reconciliation path will be in Basovizza, a few kilometers from the city, on the Karst plateau. Mattarella and Pahor (the first statesman of the dissolved former Yugoslavia to make a similar gesture) will place a crown together in front of the bronze plate that covers the access to a mining well more than two hundred meters deep, one of the infinite caves more or less similar in the area, inside which between 1943 and ’45 the Yugoslav partisans threw two thousand soldiers and civilians of our compatriots. Infoibati, according to the raw neologism coined after the war. They will then stop at a short distance, at the former shooting range, in front of the memorial stone reminiscent of four young Slavic anti-fascists convicted by the regime’s Special Court and shot here in 1930. It is not enough. Another key moment will be the signing of the protocol for the transfer of ownership of the Narodni Dom, emblematic place of the Slovenian identity of Trieste and of the economic rise of its bourgeoisie at the dawn of the last century, to a foundation made up of associations representing precisely that minority. It was, verbatim, the people’s house, seat of a homonymous cultural society established in the early twentieth century and housed in an art nouveau palace where the Hotel Balkan was also located, a café, a theater room, a bank and some offices.

It was destroyed on 13 July 1920 by a fire started by the very first squad and fascist avant-garde at work in the country. It was an irremediable wound. Also because it represents the dramatic incipit of a chain of other bonfires and pogroms (accompanied by the ban on using the Slovenian language and the closure of schools and cultural and sporting activities of the Slovenian community) put in the works by Mussolini’s strategists to erase that identity and to impose the supremacy of ours. The price of blood and humiliation paid by both parties after that, and the exodus of 350 thousand Italians from Istria and Dalmatia when the fascism was defeated and the Titoist communism imposed itself on the other side of the Adriatic , has triggered tenacious and far from sterilized resentments. That kept the Trieste people hostage to selective memories. Each prisoner of his own and waiting for at least moral compensation.

This is demonstrated by discontent and controversy on the eve, also rekindled by the resurgent sovereign wind (today we exaggerate the nationalisms exasperated them) that emerges in Italy as in Slovenia. Of course, neither Mattarella nor Pahor delude themselves that reconciliation is an easy and short process here. Our president, in particular, moves on the path taken by his predecessor Giorgio Napolitano since 2010, when he managed to convene a trilateral summit in Trieste with his Slovenian and Croatian colleagues, Danilo Turk and Ivo Josipovic, born on the idea of ​​a concert wanted by Riccardo Muti, to stop cultivating the past and looking ahead.

July 11, 2020 (change July 11, 2020 | 10:31 pm)

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