Friday, February 10, 2017

National Memorial Day of the Exiles and Foibe

February 10 — Day of Remembrance
In memory of the victims of the Foibe, of the Julian-
Dalmatian Exodus and the affairs of the eastern border.

On March 30, 2004 the Republic of Italy issued Law n. 92, instituting the National Memorial Day of the Exiles and Foibe (Day of Remembrance) as a national holiday, to be celebrated annually on February 10. The date of February 10 was chosen because it was on February 10, 1947 that the Paris Peace Treaties were signed, taking Istria, Dalmatia, Fiume and Julian Venetia away from Italy and assigning it to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

According to Article 1 of the law, the purpose of this national solemnity is:
“ preserve and renew the memory of the tragedy of the Italians and all the victims of the Foibe, and the Exodus of the Istrians, Fiumans and Dalmatians after World War II, and the very complex affairs of the eastern border. ... These initiatives are also aimed at enhancing the cultural heritage, history, literature and art of the Italians of Istria, Fiume and the Dalmatian coast ... and also to preserve the traditions of the Istrian-Dalmatian communities residing in national territory and abroad.”

(“...di conservare e rinnovare la memoria della tragedia degli italiani e di tutte le vittime delle foibe, dell'esodo dalle loro terre degli istriani, fiumani e dalmati nel secondo dopoguerra e della più complessa vicenda del confine orientale. ... Tali iniziative sono, inoltre, volte a valorizzare il patrimonio culturale, storico, letterario e artistico degli italiani dell'Istria, di Fiume e delle coste dalmate ... ed altresì a preservare le tradizioni delle comunità istriano-dalmate residenti nel territorio nazionale e all'estero.”)
The Foibe Massacres were a series of murders committed by the Yugoslavs between 1943 and 1945 as part of an ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide against the Italian population of Julian Venetia (Venezia Giulia) and Dalmatia. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Italians were killed and their bodies thrown into deep underground pits, called sinkholes (foibe). The Foibe Massacres are justly called an ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide – and not merely political reprisals or acts of war – because Italians were targeted and systematically murdered as a group, regardless of civilian or military status, and regardless of political ideology or affiliation, with the intention of exterminating ethnic Italians from these regions. The victims included not only men, but also women and children, as well as priests. The crimes committed by the Yugoslavs against innocent Italian civilians also included imprisonment, kidnapping, torture, rape, burning of homes, deportation to concentration camps and other brutal acts of violence – all of which was ignored by the Allied Commissions.

After the Foibe Massacres there was the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus or Istrian Exodus. Between 1943 and 1954 the native Italian population of Julian Venetia and Dalmatia was forced to abandon their land, homes, property, and leave the land in which they were born and which their ancestors had built. Mass diasporas occurred in 1943, 1945, 1947 and 1954. Overall, 350,000 Italians were forcibly expelled from Julian Venetia and Dalmatia. The largest and most dramatic exodus was from Istria: approximately 90% of all Istrian Italians – about half of the total Istrian population – were forced into exile. Most of the exiles (esuli) moved to Italy where they lived in refugee camps for many years; others emigrated to the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and other countries.

On this Day of Remembrance we wish to keep alive the memory of these events, which for many years was denied and ignored by both the Italian and Yugoslav governments in the post-war period. We also seek justice for the Exiles and their descendants, whose suffering deserves not only recognition, but also proper restitution. As such, we wish to see the return of Julian Venetia and Dalmatia to Italy, and the return of all property taken by the Yugoslavs during and after the Second World War. The Istrian, Dalmatian and Julian Italians still living in exile deserve to return to their homeland, which belongs neither to Slovenia nor to Croatia nor to Yugoslavia, but to Italy and to the indigenous Italian population expelled from these lands just a few decades ago.

Young Italian girl from Julian Venetia
Forced into exile, ca. 1945-1947
Yugoslav Occupation of Julian Venetia (Red)
Annexed by Yugoslavia in 1947