Monday, February 10, 2020

February 10th — The Day of Remembrance: Foibe Massacres and the Exodus

(Written by Elisabetta de Dominis, descendant of the De Dominis family of Arbe, taken from the newspaper “La Voce di New York”, February 9, 2020.)

We were in Trieste for the presentation of the book “10 Febbraio. Dalle foibe all’esodo”, containing 50 testimonies collected by Roberto Menia.

Monday February 10th is “The Day of Remembrance” and many Italians still do not know what is supposed to be remembered, because they do not know what the Italians who lived in the regions of Istria and Dalmatia (located along the eastern coast of Italy, which today belong to Slovenia and Croatia) suffered from in the ten years after the war. They still do not know what the words ‘Exodus’ and ‘Foiba’ mean.

I must confess that my guts are turned inside out every time I return to my family's island of origin – Arbe in the Quarnero – and I hear Italian tourists, ignorant of history, calling it by its new name Rab. Yes, I think angrily: Rab. But what the hell is Rab? For centuries it was called Arba, ever since the times of the ancient Romans, who founded it. Lussinpiccolo has become Mali Lošinj, which sounds horrible... Ragusa, the sixth Italian maritime republic, is now called Dubrovnik, which sounds eerily similar to Diabolik... And there are many other cacophonous names: it is sufficient to look at the map.

For example Goli Otok, i.e. Isola Calva, the Adriatic gulag where malnourished deportees were forced by the guards to move stones all day while they were beaten by other deportees under the scorching sun until they killed each other. When this land of stones along the coast appears to me, I always think that the stones are the petrified bones of those unfortunate people. Most of the prisoners in that gulag were Italians Communists who had moved from different regions of the Italy in order to live in a communist paradise in accordance with Yugoslavian Stalinist ideology, which Tito later decided had to be eliminated, but not before making them suffer in unspeakable ways (I just referenced above a small part of the brutalities perpetrated against them).

The huge tragedy of the exodus of 350,000 Italians was the result of fear, fueled by the continuous “disappearances” of Italians at the hands of the Yugoslav Communists. The most “successful” method of making them disappear was to throw them alive into foibe in Istria (i.e. natural sinkholes found in the Carso area) or else mutilate them and drown them in the Dalmatian sea with a stone tied around their neck.

Nowadays “cultural” meetings are held in various Italian regions organized by self-styled “historians” of Slovenian origin, usually born in Trieste or Istria, who claim that the Foibe Massacres are a hoax. And this makes me feel like vomiting. I wonder how our country can allow such a humiliation towards its own citizens to take place. There is still a lot of bad faith on the part of certain municipal administrators, who say: “Well, they were Fascists...” More than 11,000 defenseless citizens, women and children were killed, and you're telling me they were all Fascists!?

Our parents, even here in Italy, continued to hold their tongue: it was advisable not to speak up or else you would be accused of being a Fascist. If today we have the opportunity to speak with our heads held high, without fear of making ourselves heard, we owe it to the honorable Roberto Menia who established the Day of Remembrance in 2004”, said Massimiliano Lacota, President of the Union of Istrians last Thursday, in Trieste, at the presentation of the 50 testimonies collected by Menia in his book “10 Febbraio. Dalle foibe all’esodo”. Sitting next to me, Mrs. Gigliola from Cherso (as it was called by the ancient Greeks, which the Croats decided to change to Cres) commented: “When one has great pain, one does not speak”.

Piero Del Bello, director of the Museum of the Istrians, Fiumans and Dalmatians explained that “you are an exile by obligation, a migrant by choice, albeit under terrible circumstances”, adding that “in my house we did not talk about it at all, for that sense of modesty had turned into shame because everything had been lost: family, home, land. How can you remember and construct a memory if you no longer have the fertile ground which makes your story last for generations? Shame turned into fear, which our people have suffered from ever since. You have to write your own story, otherwise it will be forgotten. Roberto, on the other hand, was lucky that his mom shared it with him.”

The Sicilian writer Pietrangelo Buttafuoco commented that he found it vulgar that in the Senate the word ‘drama’ was attached to the Foibe Massacres, when in reality it was “the pinnacle of tragedy.” And he stressed that bad faith is always accompanied by ignorance, since here “the victim has been turned into the accused”. A poetic and touching speech, but I shed tears when Roberto Menia finally spoke, because he expressed my exact feeling:
Over the years, I feel this inner bond growing ever deeper. It pains me to look at the sea from the shore of Trieste and see in the distance those lands which I have never lived in. For us these places no longer exist, except in our souls. Our journey has no meaning unless it leaves something. Why must this Italy, which is a wonderful mosaic, lose these pieces of its history? The grand history of a Country is made up of many smaller histories. And when they touch your heart, they transmit something to you. We have the right and duty to collect all the testimonies and pass them on to our children. Simone Cristicchi, who wrote “Magazzino 18”, came to Trieste to write about the asylum and discovered that it was full of insane Julian-Dalmatian exiles: they gazed upon the horizon without speaking...

See also:
40 Days of Terror: The Yugoslav Occupation of Trieste
April 25: The Feast of San Marco – Not Liberation
National Memorial Day of the Exiles and Foibe
The Day of Remembrance: The Foibe Massacres and the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus
The Meaning of the Foibe Massacres
Pits of Death Give up Their Grisly Secret
Triestine Girls: Reflections on the Istrian Exodus
The Foibe are Still Open in Our Hearts
A Painful Piece of Italian History, Overlooked
Castua Massacre: Exhumations Completed After 73 Years
The Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres
Titoist Crimes: 50 Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres
The Disappearance and Death of Don Francesco Bonifacio
The Rape and Murder of Norma Cossetto
Overview of Lidia Bastianich's Autobiography
Excerpt From Lidia Bastianich's Autobiography