Saturday, May 6, 2023

Liberation Day: Italy Celebrates Victory Over Fascism, With Expressions of Gratitude to the U.S.

Mayor Nardella (right) prepares to lay wreath to honor
Americans who helped liberate Italy from fascism.
On April 25 I had considered making a day trip to Pisa. But then I learned that it was Liberation Day and that there were special events taking place that day in Florence. In Italy, this is a major holiday as the celebrate their nation's liberation from fascism and America's role in this momentous event.

Mussolini came to power in 1922 and remained dictator till deposed in 1943 during the Allied invasion in World War II. In 1945, when he was executed and hung upside down in Milan, my father-in-law was a soldier stationed less than a mile away. He could have gone to see it, but said he had seen more than enough death and violence during the war.

Here's an overview of what I saw, heard and thought on this most interesting day in Florence.

If you knew where to look you could find a schedule of events online. The first event was about to take place less than three blocks from my AirBnB at a monument by the train station. When I arrived there was a marching band playing John Philip Sousa music. There were also members of what looked like the Florence Royal Guard. Numerous dignitaries were present to watch the Mayor Dario Nardella of Florence lay a wreath at the foot of this monument honoring the Americans who gave their all to liberate Italy.

(L to R) Rodolfo, Jacob, Marco and Albert. 
There were a number of men dressed in the outfits of the Italy's Mountain Troopers, an underground resistance army that fought in the mountains of Northern Italy.

The men here were too young to have fought in the war but clearly had a kinship with those who so served, wearing the hats of the mountain troopers. They recommended that I see the film Bella Ciao.

At the end of the ceremony the band played taps, with an "amen" at the end.

* * * 

Here are photos from the first ceremony near the train station:

* * * 

The statue of David is not Michelangelo's but a replica.
THE NEXT EVENT took place from eleven till noon in the square near the Uffizi. When I arrived there were as many as a thousand people assembled. Again Mayor Nardella gave a long enthusiastic speech to this larger crowd. He ended by saying, "Through this fight for freedom, with help from the United States, totalitarianism was pushed out of Italy.... today we have freedom and life."  (Huge huge applause.)

Next, a woman was introduced who began by saying "I love you" and then telling the "fundamental story" of liberation.

The third and fourth speakers gave short talks, then historian Aldo Cazzullo was introduced. 

"We're part of a tradition that includes Michelangelo, Dante..."  He mentioned Nietzsche coming here from Germany and other people and events of special significance to Italy. At the end of his talk there was another big applause.

A woman was then introduced who is a "scriba"... who shared a poem. This was followed by another woman who spoke of the fight against Mussolini and fascism. "We must confront it with confidence." 

At noon all the church bells rang.

* * * 

An Italian woman who spoke English told me, "I brought my son here so he is aware. We speak about fascism and the new government and what's changing and the dangers. Change comes slowly.

"My father lived here. We live in Milan. I'm here with my son to see grandparents. This (day in history) is a very important memory. Memory is very important so that we do not live it again. War is terrible."

One of the current issues in the news in Italy is a revelation that the current Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has a fascist-leaning past. "We are all worried about it," the young woman said. "Italians were the first to experience directly the consequences of fascism."

* * *  

Learn more about the war in Italy from the point of view 
of a soldier who was there. Visit And There Shall Be Wars


Robin Killoran said...

Nice summary --and photos-- of the day's main events. I'm so glad you were able to participate in them! I'm glad you were able to see how important it still is to the Italian people to remember the true history of the war and to honor the sacrifices that were made.

Robin Killoran said...

Nice summary --and great photos-- of the Liberation Day events! I'm so glad you were able to participate in the main events of the day!
It's especially interesting to hear one woman's commitment to ensuring that her son understand the importance of remembrance of history and the honoring of sacrifice.

Ed Newman said...

Thank you for comments. Yes, I found that very interesting (about the woman bringing her son.) We take so much for granted here in U.S. and what's worse is how little we remember of our own history...
It was a privilege to have been present on that occasion, especially since my father-in-law was part of the liberation.

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