C’ERO ANCH’IO SU QUEL TRENO – THERE WAS ME ON THAT TRAIN TOO

C’ERO ANCH’IO SU QUEL TRENO – THERE WAS ME ON THAT TRAIN TOO

In thanking Giovanni Rinaldi once again, I am happy to tell you about his new book There was me on that train too  The true story of the children who united Italy published by Solferino.

There was me on that train too is published exactly twelve years after Happiness trains, years during which Giovanni Rinaldi never interrupted his historical research which, with his tireless human commitment, has turned into a real mission to bring together the protagonists of a chain of wonderful solidarity.

In the post-war years, thousands of children were hosted by generous families who pledged to offer them what they had been deprived of for various reasons, welcoming them and treating them as their own children.

Giovanni Rinaldi’s essay starts from the tragic consequences of a strike in San Severo in 1950 following which more than a hundred people were arrested: mothers, fathers, leaving many children in the middle of a street.

A song recorded by Giovanni begins like this

The venditré of March

Succèsse ‘na rruìna …

I know, I have already written it, but for me the dialect, as well as the oral tradition, are an absolute heritage that, if it were not for people like Giovanni, we would lose.

And instead with his persevering efforts, Giovanni continues in the collection of testimonies that extends to children forced to work in Naples, to children who survived the bombing of Cassino, and to many other cases in which conditions of extreme difficulty have made the help to parents providential, since they were unable to support them.

The organization, transfers, communications between families of origin and host families took place at the initiative of the Communist Party but in particular by the UDI: Unione Donne Italiane.

In this regard, with my love for Christmas, I read with particular emotion the part in which Ida tells of her commitment to collect from various shopkeepers, the necessary to make a Tree set up with candies, biscuits and gifts.

The magic, however, breaks to the point where Ida remembers how the secretary, annoyed at this initiative of hers, even scolded her with a slap …

Women.

Women and Mothers who weave their lives in function of the good for the children, managing to put themselves in each other’s shoes, understanding, working, sacrificing.

I particularly want to remember with affection Americo to which I am grateful for the great teaching on maternal love that he has given me.

The letter from Umberto’s mother is also enchanting:

The hearts of us mothers of the tormented Frosinone greet all of you who come to meet us, and we greet this beautiful work organized by our Communist Party.

I hope to receive more news, and if the Lord will provide me before Umberto returns I will come to see you.

Not that words to thank her for what you are doing for my son, but may the Lord give you back all the good you deserve …

She thanks the party and hopes in the Lord and yet I find no contradiction, on the contrary I admire the wonderful coexistence of thoughts that have the heart as a common denominator.

Heart that I found on every page.

Among the chapters of There was me on that train too, dedicated to each of the children he managed to track down, Giovanni Rinaldi tells us how he managed to trace the families who offered generous hospitality, starting from fragments of memories, names often lacking of references, photographs of a very distant time.

A meticulous work but above all a strong sensitivity combined with the noble intent to realize the desire for reunification of these people who life has inevitably led to distance themselves.

I don’t know if you were able to follow the interview on Rai Uno, otherwise you can retrieve it here at approximately 1 hour and 1 minute.

I advise you to see him to realize how Giovanni’s attitude towards the people he met is: while Severino and Diego tell their experience, he observes them with a smile that says more than any word.

And this is the feeling of extreme respect that runs throughout the book. Giovanni himself tells us that “these elderly gentlemen, when they speak, are the children of the time who tell … and it is also a therapy: going back to those moments means bringing out both the traumas and the joys.”

On tiptoe listening first.

And as much as Giovanni acts as a channel that allows memories and stories to flow that are faithfully reported, he also gives us descriptions of the context so precise as to make us feel transported to the same place, enveloped by the suggestion that the scope of enormous loads of emotions encloses.

I conclude by leaving you this beautiful metaphor about Benedict:

opens the door: a beam of light illuminates the darkness. Outside and inside, as on a border, they all remain still, suspended ...

EVA SLEEPS

EVA SLEEPS

Eva sleeps is what her mother replies to the postman in charge of delivering a package while we still don’t know anything about her.

Eva sleeps is a title that made me imagine something else.

Eva sleeps at the end of the book, but when I got to that point, I was moved because sleep represented a restitution.

And I was moved because there are bonds that can have the duration of a fragment but the indissoluble strength of something that nothing and no one can break.

This reading, once again from the series “Monica’s books” that I will never stop thanking, was a slow surprise, just like when something happens in life that you no longer expected.

And it is perhaps the things that did not happen that I appreciated, those that basically correspond to the truth exactly because of their absence.

Curiously I took another train trip this time from the far north of South Tyrol to the red and white lighthouse of Villa San Giovanni .

Looking from the window, images of the landscape and history alternate.

The history of Italy from 1919 to 1992.

The history of Italy seen from a very precise point of observation, high up, from the vertical earth.

But above all the history of that area that the most distracted, like me so far, call South Tyrol.

Francesca Melandri in her book published by Bompiani traces the events of the autonomous province of Bolzano, reconstructing a history that I had never considered in such detail.

Good and evil, souls and ideals, strategy and bad luck, intolerance and compassion are mixed within states, peoples, families, faces.

You should never forget to try to put yourself in the other’s shoes.

Ask yourself questions. All time.

Speaking of questions, there is one in particular that is constantly asked to Eva “Do you feel more Italian or more German?”

Her answer arrives right on the train, it is multifaceted and it could not be otherwise, considering all aspects.

Do you ever think about how much of you is the expression of your roots?

MOTHERS

MOTHERS

Americo wrote the story of his memories in the comments: so beautiful that it can’t just stay there with the risk that someone will lose him.

I report verbatim:

With pleasure I bring back my childhood memories.

In addition to my biological mother, I have had other mothers like Derna and her cousin who welcomed me in Ancona and raised me as their son, surrounded by all the attention.

In particular I want to remember Derna Scandali, the well-known trade unionist, who at era worked hard to organize the arrival and entrust it to the families of us little southerners in the smallest details.

She set in motion an exceptional organizational machine for the time that, despite the post-war poverty, solidarity with us was not lacking.

Derna and her cousin lived close by, she had an independent life and every day we found ourselves at the table all together, day and evening.

She also organized the colonies, she took us to the sea and we children had fun.

Thus the summer days passed.

But I also want to remember my mother.

I did everything to avoid staying in my country because I knew the poverty of the South well.

Seeing me sad and no longer eating for the regret of having left Ancona, she reluctantly let me go in order to know that I was happy and to have joy in my eyes, since she knew I was in good hands, even if she was pleased (rightly) to have me with her and to see me grow.

Today I feel guilty for this, just for not having given her the joy of seeing me grow up, at the same time, however, I think back to that child who in Ancona had everything, for me it was a world that I have always defined “with colors”.

I understood that only a mother’s great love for her child can make this happen.

I often wonder what I would have done in her place: probably the same, I would have let my son go too.

Unfortunately, these great women have all disappeared, but I cannot forget all the positive things they have done. Their memory is always alive in me.

And if today I am what I am, I owe it to them.

I would say that Americo’s words paint exactly the very essence of being a Mother.

Who knows how many times you too will have faced the consideration of how it is not so obvious that mother understood as the one who gives birth, coincides with mother understood as the one who has the ability to dispense love beyond herself.

There are too many stories of children abandoned or abused by their biological mothers. There are too many stories of children forced to grow up without receiving affection.

Americo, on the other hand, tells us about the demonstration of immense love from his true Mother, who accepted his “world of colors.”

And at the same time, simply showing himself for the person he is, testifies that those who welcomed him made it possible for him to continue growing in the best possible way.

The strong sense of family is therefore, if possible, even more enhanced for Americo, who is very fond of the memory of his parents.

For this, I can understand the bitterness in seeing one’s story told in some parts and then transposed into a completely different context, especially with very distant family references.

To recap: I became fond of the character described in the book by Viola Ardone thinking that it was fictional, only to discover instead that he really exists, that he really traveled on the train and which was truly welcomed and hosted by Derna.

And not only: thanks to Giovanni Rinaldi we got in touch and I had the opportunity to know the reality and to understand that one feels cheated knowing that starting from a basis of real facts, and in the absence of specifics or disclaimers, most people would think that everything else is true as well.

This is why I take the liberty of giving voice to the child Americo who has never cut off the tails of mice or picked up rags, and who as a child, as well as when he grows up, teaches us to want a colorful world made up of good people like them.

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