An inheritance not to betray

An inheritance not to betray

By Alberto Ferrucci

I have few memories of the second world war, but there is one that I will never forget: that of a young, curly-haired, brown-faced Sicilian, an official in the Italian army who, in the moment of the army´s ruin on September 8, 1943, had decided to go up into the mountains to organize bands of partisans.

I was seven years old, and my father was prisoner in Australia. My mother, siblings and I had been evacuated to Piemonte, in a town called Trinitá. I had been peeking at the young man through the legs of adults while he dignifiedly left the farmers the guarantee that, at the end of the war, his brigade would pay back the flour and veal taken. I saw him again through the persian blinds while being dragged, staggering, through the  main street by German soldiers towards his execution by a firing squad. He hadn´t wanted to betray his companions even when they bashed his chest in with rocks.

That face has always remained within me, giving me the certainty that among our fathers there were men who knew how to give their lives for a future of democracy and freedom. It was a people who had woken up after twenty years of hibernation, during which the majority of Italians had applauded or at least accepted a morbid dictatorship, "Italian-style". This dictatorship gave advantages, loved numerous families, signed agreements, made the trains arrive on time and in three years had completed the first highway, that famous "Camionale" between Geneva and Serravalle. It only truly revealed itself when the only person who decided anything had cunningly brought us all into the war.

From the blood of those heroes, and from the determination of politicians of that time (any opportunists were skimmed away by the fact that being at politican at the time meant risking one´s life), the birth of the Italian constitution was an admirable product of the coming together of many different ideals, unified by the desire to not betray the fighting companions which life had given them.

Today´s youth, and even adults, don´t have these precious memories, and so they can undervalue the wisdom of the balance of powers and all the other fruits of that particular moment of unity among the forces within the country. It was a unity born from sacrific of those who would have liked to return to their fiancés, their wives, children, parents, and build themselves a future.

Out of respect for them, let´s not let this inheritance be distorted by small or big personal interests, becoming accomplices by leaving our common problems in the hands of others. I think that this is the meaning of Benedict XVI´s recent invitation to commit oneself in public life.

1 Read “Lettere dei condannati a morte della resistenza” (Italian)

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