Saturday, February 20, 2016

Heroes of the Redeemed Lands

(Taken from the journal “Italy Today: A Fortnightly Bulletin”, Volume 1, Issue 7, 1918)

Cesare Battisti

Cesare Battisti was born in Trentino in 1875, where his education began. Like all Italians of Trentino, Istria, Dalmatia, who wanted a superior education, he finished his studies in Italy at the University of Turin and Parma. He returned to unredeemed Trentino a broad-minded Socialist, and when he entered the political field was elected member of the Diet at Innsbruck. His ideas on Socialism did not interfere at all with the idea of nationalism, which means that his Socialistic ideas did not have the seal of the German internationalists.

When war broke out he fled to Italy and was a warm propagandist of war against Austria among those Italian Socialistic elements which were following German Socialistic leaders and thought. Cesare Battisti was instrumental in opening the eyes of many Italians to the subtle work of moral disruption that had been very successfully undertaken by the Germans, Socialists or otherwise.

When the Italian Army was launched against the Austrians intrenched on the peaks of the Alpine barrier, he was with it as Lieutenant in the Alpine Corps and fought valiantly. Unhappily, in one of the individual fights so common in mountain warfare, he was lost sight of and, having been wounded, was found later on by hostile patrols. Someone recognized him; he had been a conspicuous figure in local and State politics before his flight to Italy. No sooner did the military authorities know that Cesare Battisti was a prisoner and powerless in their hands, than Austrian brutality asserted itself. He was sent immediately to Trento, although badly wounded, and after a mockery of martial trial was sentenced to death and hanged. He was denied the honor even of a bullet—as a soldier's due. Austria always knew how to be mean: but Austria is dead forever.

Cesare Battisti, instead, will be a living spirit forever, dear to the memory of Italy as a national hero, revered as a martyr to the cause of liberty by all nations.

Nazario Sauro

Nazario Sauro, an Italian from Istria, therefore under the Austrian yoke, was another "irredento" who paid with his life for the ardent love of his mother country, Italy. He was a born sailor, familiar with all the nooks and corners of the eastern coast of the Adriatic. At the outset of the war between Italy and Austria he, too, fled to help his real country and put at its disposal his maritime knowledge. He made sixty-three raids on various Austrian naval bases and was absolutely fearless. A spy denounced him to the authorities. While in disguise he was strolling on the wharf of Grado. Arrested, he denied his identity stoutly. Lacking a substantial witness to identify him, the military judges dragged his old mother into court and submitted her to the third degree during a whole week, until the poor old woman, out of sheer exhaustion and prostration, gave way under the strain and identified in the prisoner her son. During the execution — ne was of course hanged — the poor mother was compelled to stay under the gallows, witnessing the hanging. The moral he left to his sons was "to keep sacred and warm in their hearts the love of the land to which he had fully dedicated himself." A great Italian poet, also an "unredeemed" from Dalmatia, had sung it to them long ago — "a egregie cose il forte animo accendono l'urne dei forti" — that is, "The grave of heroes fires the hearts of the brave."

Francesco Rismondo

The New York Herald not long ago, giving vent to indignation at Austrian brutalities, was wondering why some occult power could be so energetically, though occultly at work shielding that vile monarchy and by a crafty, insidious propaganda could spread the utterly false notion that Austria was waging a decent, honorable war. The dual monarchy founded on a treacherous, soulless bureaucracy is now dead. What it was capable of only the Serbians and Italians that were confronting that power of darkness could tell. Francesco Rismondo from Spalato, Dalmatia, could tell. The soul of this Italian hero was clamoring for vengeance from the great beyond. The armies of the allied democracies that swept the tyrants into nothingness have appeased him.

Spalato in Dalmatia saw him developing into a hardy youth. The first months of war between Italy and Austria saw him fighting like a lion in the Bersaglieri Corps on the bare craigs of the Dolomitic Alps. Badly wounded in a fierce encounter, he refused to give up, but physical weakness having got the better of his undaunted spirit, he was made a prisoner and burned alive in the main square of Gorizia by the Austrian soldiery on Oct. 26, 1915.