The 25th of April is a very important day in Italy. It is known as Liberation Day, and up here in the Taro Valley, tucked into the Appenni Mountains, you are just as likely to hear it heralded as the Celebration of the Resistance. Our little town was a resistance stronghold. In fact, Alberto Zanrè was an important enough partigiano to have a street named after him. While I have not found the familial link yet with our branch of the Zanrè family, I remain firmly convinced that every Zanrè in this valley is related, and it’s my mission to find the link. Here’s a photo of my Zanrè boys standing under the street sign that bears the name of this important local hero.
Another local hero is Mario Piscina, and one of the last living members of the resistance in Borgo Val di Taro. Although we had visited our town a number of times before deciding to move here, we initially met Mario on our first day here as “townsfolk”. We were standing on Via Nazionale (the main street in the old town), looking up at a 4th floor apartment we were considering renting. Mario stopped in his tracks, watched us looking up at the top floor apartment and told us matter-of-factly that he was living in that apartment in 1944 when German soldiers banged on the door at 2:00 a.m. Mario was only 18 when the Resistance grew loud here in Borgo Val di Taro. He is considered the “last” of the partigiani from this town, and Mario feels a strong connection with his past, and keeps the stories alive. We run into him almost daily as we make our way through the town. We always stop for a brief chat, and I’m always happy to see him. He’ll be 91 in August, and I was overjoyed to see him included in the celebrations today. Centenarians abound in this valley, and I for one hope Mario continues to be a 25 April fixture for years to come!
There have been events honoring this day all weekend, culminating with a mass this morning at the cemetery, and a processional through town (which we joined) to the main park across the street from our apartment building.
There stands a large monument to the city’s fallen partigiani. The strong message in this town is that men and women gave their hearts, their souls and their lives for freedom, and it’s not to be forgotten.
Today we heard from our mayor, Diego Rossi, and our senator, Giorgio Pagliari. Diego spoke of the importance of the history of this community, and how it is our responsibility to ensure that the youth and children of this town remember the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who resisted. The acts of these “resisters” accelerated the liberation of Italy, marking the formation of a democracy, founded on a constitution that represents freedom and inclusion. Democracy is not simply a political issue; it is also a moral issue. One that requires diligence and vigilance to protect. One that cannot be left to chance, or the sense that it has already been settled.
Senator Pagliari called our “L’Ultimo Partigiano” to stand at the front of the crowd, and continued the challenge to not view the constitution as a piece of paper that is “history”, but something that Italians should be proud of. As a newcomer to this community, the message of inclusion, understanding and acceptance was lot lost on me. It was a good day to be a Borgotarese!