April 25 in Italy is celebrated as the Festa della Liberazione – or rather the anniversary of the day Italy was “liberated” of the nazi-fascist occupation. This event was courageously fought for by persons of every age, creed and economic possibility uniting provinces and regions in the name and honor of their country.
When I first came to Italy, I must admit WWII was only a long list of dates and a series of cliff notes but upon my arrival 20 years ago the events of this traumatic moment in history were still very much present and on certain occasions I felt as if I was breathing history. My arrival in Italy was not to some large city like Milan, Rome or Florence – I was dumped in the countryside. The poetic, romantic and green countryside where by chance the partisans where particularly strong and where the foreign liberators were seen almost as saviors. Ignorant of the part the partisans played along with the United States and Great Britain in this liberation, it took just a few years of learning the language, meeting the people and being my naturally inquisitive self to discover the hardships, the reality, the togetherness and the drive which pulled an entire country through tragedy, massacres, political and religious persecution and horrors. Somehow things just came alive to me when I asked – why is that building riddled with holes and received the answer oh that was machine gun fire from the Nazis … yikes, you realize how not so far off things were.
So even though I am not an Italian citizen and though I am not one to dwell on the disasters of the past, I find that I celebrate this holiday all the same, not because it means a day off of work but because it means honoring people – of all nations – who believed in freedom and achieved it. I see it as a sign of respect for all of those persons who gave of themselves for something that they felt to be right and true.
Thank you! Thank you for your actions then, 67 years ago, and thank you for your actions today, to all those who still strive to uphold freedom.