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Second World War
The drama of the fallen
Per non dimenticarli, a book by Maria Schiena which has just come out, reconstructs the story of the 140 Italian soldiers fallen or missing in action who came originally from San Marco in Lamis (Foggia).
Large-scale History told by aiming the objective at a small tile in the mosaic
by Sergio D’Amaro
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The cover of Maria Schiena's book

On Channel 54 of RAI T.V. you can perceive the buzz of proposals around the audio-visual documents that have never been published before and that contribute to bringing a new dimension to a ‘tale’ which so far has been presumed established in its load-bearing structures. Historiographical works, that sometimes crop up to make reparations to the memory and that comfort in the search for new hypotheses, come from the fertile grounds of the Italian provinces.

We have recently had in our hands the work by Maria Schiena called, explicitly, Per non dimenticarli (So as not to forget them) (Caputo Grafiche, pp. 242, 2013) and that is accompanied by a long subtitle: I drammatici vissuti dei militari italiani negli anni di guerra 1940-1945 (The dramatic experiences of the Italian Army in the war years 1940-1945). We need to underline the moral and militant impulse that has informed the author, former teacher of Literature in the middle schools, in her research that took years spent in many archives up and down the Bel Paese. Schiena decided it was time to reconstruct events of generations past left without an adequate reconsideration of their human importance, since the memory of them had been buried under a pile of paperwork in a hurried filing system.

Schiena started off inspired by the history of her home town, San Marco in Lamis, and inserted the specific tile of the fallen and missing in action in the Second world war from her town into the complicated mosaic of events during that time. She has managed, in this way, to recompose the experiences of 140 soldiers scattered over various battle fronts, from Africa to Russia, from Albania to Germany. Fallen in battle, in the concentration camps, as prisoners, because of disease or hardship, during the sinking of the ship that was carrying them to their place of internment. A via crucis without chance of escape, especially after the political and military upsets following on from the fall of the dictatorship and the armistice of 8th September, when most of the hundreds of thousands of Italian soldiers, of non-commissioned officers and of officers found themselves drifting without co-ordination or a leader at the helm. And at this point in the book, in chapters 3 and 4, we read the qualifying tale of the resistance that the Italian troops were able to put up against the real enemy to be destroyed, demonstrating their not giving in to a moral defeat as well. The author scrupulously follows the experiences of the single divisions, reconstructs their movements and final destinies and reports the names of the commanders who distinguished themselves. The rebirth of the Italian army stands out even more clearly after the liberation of Rome and the contacts that are established by the CLN.

A new C.D is about to come out, too, with witness reports from the last survivors from San Marco in Lamis, along the lines of the various war zones, along with the testimony of the relatives of the fallen to whom the book is dedicated. Praise must be given to the commitment to this historiographical reconstruction, the wealth of photographic documentation and the validity of the objectives, whose rightness is underlined in both the preface by Stefano Picciaredda and in the after-word by Alessandro Ferioli. A sign that Maria Schiena leaves a message that originates with those anonymous deaths to give a face back to the lesser histories that encounter the great flow of events.

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