by ANTONIO GOZZI
In these sad days of confinement from Coronavirus and on the eve of April 25, which we will not be able to celebrate as usual, I think back to our elder who lived through the war and the Liberation and I wonder what attitude they would have towards the pandemic. They would probably smile and shake their heads unconvinced by the abused ‘war metaphor’ for what we are facing against the invisible enemy. And this certainly is not to diminish the extraordinary work, up to the sacrifice of life, carried out by many doctors, nurses, volunteers on the front lines in hospitals against Covid, but because having lived a real war, which lasted not a few months but five years, they would easily measure the differences with the current affair.
The lives are all equally important and the Italians, at least until the dramatic situation of the RSA exploded, have rightly claimed of having defended the life of the octogenarians with the same strength and dedication with which they defended that of the young. But when the final loss bulletin will be drawn, it will be clear that the vast majority of casualties will belong to the elder population. The total number of deaths from Covid-19 is likely to exceed that of Italian civilians who died in the Second World War (just over 28,000). In a real war, like the one unleashed by Nazi-fascist madness, who pays the highest price is above all young people, sent to die without a reason, died to save the world from madness. The young Italian soldiers who died between 1940 and 1945 on the various war fronts were almost 200 thousand.
Grandparents would ask their grandchildren: “How many friends have you lost in what you call war?”, And the answer would probably be none.
They, the grandparents, however, had lost brothers, cousins, classmates, boyfriends.
Our survived elders, in addition to their most unfortunate peers, lost the best years of their youth, spent under arms at the front, or in captivity, or finally fighting the battle for Liberation not only against the German occupation troops but also against their Italian peers finished, many times without knowing it, on the wrong side.
Yet, despite a defeated and in many parts destroyed country, they had come out of that huge tragedy with a smile on their lips, dancing the ‘boogie’ with the American soldiers, hopeful for the future. And in fact in a few years with their strength and tenacity and with their work they rebuilt Italy and made it an important and modern country.
Women and men of few words and much action, raised with less cultural instruments, but nevertheless capable of raising the country and leading it on the roads of extraordinary development: the Italian miracle was called, thanks to a formidable sense of duty and a very strong work culture.
They were our fathers and our mothers, the grandparents of our children, the only protagonists in Italy of an efficient social elevator that changed the face of the country by widening the range of well-being, defeating illiteracy, transforming farmers into workers, worker’s son intop professionals or teachers or entrepreneurs, creating a new middle class.
Their strength and tenacity, which must inspire our behavior in post-Covid reconstruction, and which should be celebrated on a special day like April 25th, reminds me of the biblical reading of the Jews fleeing Egypt and slavery. To remember the Exodus and to pass down the history of liberation from generation to generation with its enormous sufferings and adversities, but also with its enormous hope, the Jews have the precept of reciting a prayer in their Easter called the Haggadah. That prayer teaches patience and resilience, and teaches us to trust that the situation will improve. A passage of the prayer asks ‘Why is this night different from all nights?’ and it replies ‘Because it is the one that leads us to Liberation’.
Like the long night of suffering in Egypt, and the long night of suffering of Nazi fascism with the horror of the death camps, we will also overcome this night of closures and pandemics. As the Haggadah teaches us, we do not know how, but we know that we have already gone through it and moved forward.
Happy April 25 to everyone!!!