© Manca Juvan

The collaborating at Remembering Fascist Camps came as second to my academic research project within Scientific Research Center Of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. This blog and the upcoming exhibition in September 2013 at the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia were a natural development of a "dream trio" joined forces.
Today it is clear to me that I perceive both projects as a call of duty with regard to my ancestors. 
I grew up with nono Pepi’s (1915-1993) funny and bitter anecdotes about his interwar period on the island of Sardinia. In 1943 he was "mobilized" along with other young men to be isolated from the war events and used as unpaid labor force in such distant places. While Franci (1927-1991), grandpa on my father’s side, kept telling me the touching story of how his father was shot dead as a hostage "by Italians". His broken, blood covered corpse was left to his wife and three children to be buried. Consequently, the oldest of them freaked out for good. Soon afterwards, only 15-year-old Franci grabbed his father’s rifle and went to the woods to fight the occupiers …
The idea for the academic research project had been raised from the poor recognition of Italian war crimes in the international context.
Italian occupiers are mostly considered as indulgent and benevolent, and their concentration camps as mild and favorably inclined. 
Initially, as a research team, we thought finding internees seven decades after the tragic events, who would still be sufficiently lucid and open to share their dreadful stories, would be uneasy. Out of over 40.000 deported and interned Slovenians only several dozen former internees are believed to be alive nowadays. 

Luckily we found a handful of intellectuals, eloquent witnesses, who provided precious, detailed and well structured testimonies. 
Some people refused to cooperate.  Their major argument revealed as persistent internment memories: bursts of fear, subjection, confinement, homesickness, shame, dehumanization, recollections of loss, illness, starvation and death. Occasionally, the internment revives in nightmares. Silence, however, is also very telling.
Later, to reach as much witnesses as possible, we published a call for collaboration in various newspapers. Many survivors – to our great surprise – responded positively. These narrators are mostly outspoken persons who never publicly revealed their experiences. They represent the major group of internees, coming predominantly from rural areas, areas of extreme ethnic cleansing and internment policies led by Mussolini's Italy. 
They were excited to be given the voice. 
Their experience turned out to be of immense importance. Many testimonies revealed also items from private archives, like photographs, letters, drawings, pictures and other objects used in the camps. Unexpectedly, such objects give an added documentary value to the research.

Finally, it is appropriate to acknowledge that the majority of testimonies expressed gratitude for the research we conduct. We take the occasion to thank all and each of them for bravery and willingness to participate through their experiences to the collective memory of Europe. 

Leave a Reply

© The content on this blog may not be reproduced without permission of the authors. Powered by Blogger.