(Written by Benedetta Grasso, taken from the magazine “I-Italy”, April 15, 2010)
What is generally called “The Istrian exodus” is a quite recent mass migration from Istria and Dalmatia of hundreds of thousands of Italians that had to flee to various countries in the world but particularly to the United States and Australia.
Between 1943 and 1960, in fact, almost 400.000 people escaped from that area due to ethnic hatred and the International politics triggered by World War II.
While other Italian immigrants came to the United States simply to escape poverty, the people living in these territories – constantly torn between Italy and other states throughout the centuries, being situated exactly at the North-Eastern border and having ethnically mixed citizens, Italian, Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian and more – were involved in some of the most controversial and shameful moments of history. Italians had a very stereotypical image of the Slavs, considering them “barbaric” while the Slavs, under the regime of Tito, saw Italians as fascists. The most tragic events were the Foibe massacres in 1945 after the liberation of Istria, in which more than 5000 Italians were brutally killed and thrown into mass graves.
The reality of the times was far more complex and, even though the hatred was real, the communities were in some cases also very connected. Trieste in particular was a very thriving intellectual city which allowed for a pleasant daily life and “nourished” many writers, artists and political activists.
Although the exodus was anything but a happy experience, there is a very interesting documentary “Triestine Girls” which follows some very lively women who managed to create a new life for themselves in America.
That tragic time is recounted by them almost with irony and a certain nostalgia, obviously not for the war, but for their youth and the familiar memories. As teenagers, Americans appeared to them as “movie stars” with their cigarettes, their chocolate, their blue jeans: handsome soldiers who swept them off their feet and took them to the US to get married and live a safe life together.
This documentary will be screened at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute on April 29 2010 at 6PM.
To remember these events I-Italy would also like to re-propose an article written by Eleonora Mazzucchi for I-Italy (June 24, 2008) which clearly explains the historical background and contextualizes it.
Read article here: A Painful Piece of Italian History, Overlooked