April 25th is a holiday in Italy. We celebrate the liberation of the country from Fascism and Nazism. The day is also dedicated to Italy’s fallen soldiers.
My husband is Canadian and he has more than once asked me what we are celebrating on this Festa di Liberazione day. In the end, he used to say, wasn’t Italy the country creating all the fuss along with Germany, so liberation from what? From yourselves?
Not all Italians supported Mussolini and his racial laws. There were also the Partigiani, the partisans, who fought both Fascists and the Nazis during World War II. Some of them are still alive today, and they were certainly still in good shape when I was a kid. The day some of the people from the village who had fought in the Italian Resistance movement came to my elementary school to tell us about those years is still one of the most impressive memories I have from schooldays. It was living history.
My grandfather had been a soldier and then a partisan. He remembered both experiences with horror, because, he used to say, “blood is blood“, no matter who you are fighting against or why. And besides, he always brought up the drama of having to fight other young men who looked just as scared and unwilling to do that stuff as he was. Young people sent to die for something they didn’t believe in for the most part.
He taught me to respect those who took great risks and sacrificed their lives to fight for the rights of all Italians so that we could all be part of a free and democratic nation. He was a very honest person though, and never once denied that sometimes things would get ugly even when he was with the partisans. The war is the war, and it’s never a completely “noble” thing to be part of, he used to say. No matter how right the ideals you are defending are.
It is true then that April 25 is a day that honors the memory of the many partisans and foreign soldiers who fought to free Italy from the dictatorship, but it is also a day on which we should remember the many soldiers who, in these situations, are victims of their governments. Young people sent to fight for a cause they neither believe in nor support.
It is also a day that deserves to be celebrated because it is a reminder of the importance of democracy, and civil rights. But most importantly it should serve the purpose of making people think about the importance of tolerance, respect and standing up for what’s right.
Something that these days is not so obvious in Italy, unfortunately.
Interesting websites about Italian Resistance (Resistenza):