© Manca Juvan

A road Padua-Vicenza lead us to Chiesanuova. We were searching for a military facility, indicated as a former fascist concentration camp area for Yugoslav civilians, mostly Slovenes. Driving we passed by apartment buildings, houses, bars, shops and stores, a church … when suddenly, a wide area opened up and an orange brick building caught our attention.

We were supposedly standing at the entrance of the caserma Romagnoli, a shut down Italian military area. It is surrounded by high walls and rusty barbed wire. Gates are locked with chains.

In an absence of a sign, we were guessing if we found a location that during Word War II was a fascist concentration camp, established at the end of July 1942.
The first internees - they were 1.429 - were Slovene men from the Province of Ljubljana - an occupied and annexed territory. The camp was in operation for twelve months. Later it received internees from Croatian islands of Zlarin and Rab, and from an Italian island Ustica. During the twelve months of its operation 70 men died.
Facts we share are gathered from history books. There is no memorial preserving the historic memory at the site.
Walking the street we greeted people taking care of their garden. Their spacious home is facing the wall of the caserma. I didn't hesitate to ask if they know, what was behind the walls during the war. A lively conversation developed followed by an invitation to enter the house. Our host, remembering his roots and the history of the house, brought a book. He opened it on the page with a large areal picture of Padua, taken during the war. He pointed with a finger his family house and the military area in Chiesanuova. "This area was heavily bombed during the World War II. Do you see the explosion craters? Our house wasn't hit. We were lucky."

I repeated the question if, as a family living in the neighborhood of the military area for more than hundred years, he knows if the facility functioned as a concentration camp? Instead of answering he suggested to contact Ugo Usardi, an old man who is knowledgeable about that period of local history.

Living Chiesanuova we felt bitter. There is no designated place to remember, grieve and pay our respects. There is no memorial with names of men who died in the internment in Chiesanuova.

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