(Written by Dario Burresi, taken from the magazine “L'Alpino”, March 2012)
Sixty years ago, on February 10, 1947, a treaty was signed in Paris which took away from Italy and assigned to Yugoslavia the city of Fiume, the territory of Zara, the Lagosta and Pelagosa islands, most of Istria, the Gorizian and Triestine Carso and the Upper Isonzo Valley. Trieste, with its Julian and Istrian hinterland, became part of the newly formed Free Territory of Trieste, divided into Zone A, under Anglo-American administration and Zone B, under Yugoslav administration.
The work of denationalization began with the Foibe Massacres in September 1943 in Istria, and then with the repeated terroristic bombings of the Anglo-Americans (but instigated by Tito) which nearly completely destroyed Zara, an entirely Italian city. The exodus of Italians, which began in May 1945, became massive after February 10, 1947: the experience of September 1943 had clearly demonstrated what their lot would be with the arrival of Tito's partisans. There were more than 250,000 exiles during those tragic days; about 300,000 if you include the smaller previous and subsequent departures.
The numbers seem small, but they are huge if placed in relation to the population of those areas. From the city of Pola departed 98% of the population. A similar fate befell Fiume, Zara, Parenzo, Umago and Capodistria, which were emptied of their Italian inhabitants and replaced by Tito with Serbs, Bosnians and Montenegrins, and above all with Croats and Slovenes (this mixture later proved disasterous with the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991).
Italy began to provide some ships for the transport of the refugees, but it was the steamer Tuscany that was used the most, with 12 departures from Pola. The personal belongings which the refugees were able to take with them were very few. A person was able to embark on Tuscany with a chest, some pieces of furniture, portraits of extinct loved ones, but these had to be abandoned at the landing ports, prior to their diaspora in Italy and especially abroad and overseas.
As in February 1947, it was cold also on February 10, 2012 in the forecourt of the foiba of Basovizza (Trieste) where they commemorated the Day of Remembrance of the Exodus and the Foibe Massacres.
The Mayor of Trieste Roberto Cosolini was present with other military and civil authorities, Bishop Msgr. Giampaolo Crepaldi, an armed guard, the banners of the comunes of Trieste and Muggia, a large crowd, the associations of the exiles and the families of victims of the Foibe Massacres, and the Military Associations with their banners. But, most noticeable for its consistency, was our Association, with over 300 Alpini, the Labaro escorted by the national president Corrado Perona and some national directors, with twenty banners and fifty pennants. The cold and strong northern wind made it difficult to stand and the standard bearers struggled to keep the banners in place.
The organizers decided to reduce the duration of the ceremony: there was the deployment, the entrance of President Perona and the Labaro of the Alpini saluted by the military picket and all the bystanders, the entry of the municipal banners, the flag-raising, laying wreaths, and a few short speeches. It was not possible to celebrate Mass because of the inclement weather.
We had to wait for the President of the Senate, Renato Schifani, who arrived a bit late and laid a wreath at the foot of the monument that covers the foiba of Basovizza. By now many exiles who lived this nightmare are gone, many of whom died with sadness in their heart for a Fatherland that, as long as they were alive, did not understand their desire to feel Italian.
We Italians of the Julian Alps have always been in the forefront to remember these tragic events and to honor the victims. To see the participation of many people in this ceremony, we feel a strange emotion, which is bitterness and joy at the same time, for the sacrifice which was at first denied and after so many years finally recognized.