I started preparing this article on January 27th… then obviously it took some time to rebuild everything. I know that this is a wine blog, but on the occasion of the Day of Remembrance I wanted to make a toast to my grandparents and my great-grandparents, with my grandfather Mario's favorite wine… who raised me with my parents.
In the photo above, a passage from the memories of my grandfather Mario, written in his own hand many many years ago ❤
I wanted to write an article on Autochthonous is born dell 'Go Wine Association and the Cooking Show organized by MasterChef e Ford Italy with the two eliminated from the last episode Marco M. and Marco V., then I remembered that today is the January 27 and, like every year, we celebrate the Holocaust Memorial Day. On this date, the troops of the Red Army of Stalin's Social Communist Russia, in a not distant 1945, liberated the Aushwitz concentration camp in Poland where my great-grandfather Clemente was also deported as a political prisoner. So I decided to change all the tones of the article and write some memories of my grandparents at the time of the war, and to make a toast to them, the brightest stars in my sky, not to forget. Historical memory is a treasure that must always be kept with great care because it can safeguard us from making the same mistakes as in the past. For this I thank grandfather Mario, grandfather Wagner and grandfather Clemente for telling me their stories… and not growing up hoping that, like a modern Cinderella, I too will have a Prince who will save me. Instead of fooling children with faraway fairy tales, wouldn't it be better to tell them the life stories of their grandparents to make them better adults?
I am originally from the redest land of Italy, the Romagna, and on our houses, on the Statale 9 Via Emilia, on the other side of the Senio river, the famous Gothic Line where in the spring of 1945 over 60.000 Resistance partisans played a decisive role in the breakthrough of the Anglo-American troops on the German border. About 75.000 Axis soldiers (German and Italian), 65.000 Allied soldiers (British and American) and about 60.000 civilians died. The Gothic Line has profoundly marked my land, which still bears the marks of the trenches and fortifications. And it has marked its inhabitants even more deeply: each grandfather has more than one story to tell.
After Manifesto of the Race drawn up by Mussolini himself in 1938 and signed by 10 scientists of the time, Jews and Southerners began to be persecuted first (defined as belonging to the lower Mediterranean race ... when I hear an inhabitant of southern Italy ofchiararsi fascista I wonder if he ever really studied fascism!), then also political opponents, Muslims, prisoners of war, homosexuals, the mentally ill and the handicapped. In that year Italy also lost two of the greatest minds of all time: Albert Einstein (Jewish, atheist, humanist, pacifist, communist) and Enrico Fermi (anti-fascist, Jewish wife, Freemason of the Grand Orient of Italy) who they were forced to flee to the United States. But it is only since 1943 that Mussolini decided to support the project of total annihilation of all those people deemed unworthy to live in order to pursue that pure race goal he shared with Adolf Hitler.
Wagner Bassi and the refuge on the Gothic Line
My paternal grandfather Wagner Bassi was born in Cotignola (RA) in 1925 and when fascism fell in July 1943 he was conscript in Avellino. After the armistice of 8 September 1943, in order not to be captured by German soldiers, he and one of his fellow villagers fled. My grandfather and his partner took refuge with a peasant family in the Langhe countryside of Santa Maria in Fabriago, who dug a shelter underground in a wheat field. During the night, the women of the family brought them food through a carefully camouflaged trap door. They remained hidden underground for a few months, before returning to Cotignola at the beginning of winter. Here too they continued to hide in order not to be found by German soldiers, both inside the houses and in underground shelters. The Cotignola front on the Gothic Line was operational until April 10, 1945, when only a heap of rubble remained of the entire town. Despite all that he had suffered, in 1946 he was called to do military service first in Avellino, then in Rieti. When he returned home his job was, like that of so many others, to clear away the rubble caused by the bombing. Given the great difficulties of the period, my grandfather emigrated to Argentina on April 5, 1949 with a two-year contract in his pocket.
In those years Argentina was a rapidly growing country and there was a lot of work. In 1955 my grandmother Lelia joined him and the following year in Ezeiza, in the province of Buenos Aires, my father Daniel Alberto was born, then his brother, my uncle Sergio. After 11 years, as the situation in Italy had improved, my grandfather returned to his homeland. My grandmother has talked to me many times about the years spent in Tristán Suárez with so much nostalgia and a wonderful light in her eyes.
Clemente Orsoni and the escape from Auschwitz
My great-grandfather Clemente, known as “Minto”, was born in 1904 in Granarolo Faentino, in Romagna and married my great-grandmother Teresa, known as “Bina”, at the age of 24. In the same year my dear grandmother Lelia was born.
Pacifist and communist, he dreamed of a world of well-being for every man, without inequality or social class. During the regime every citizen was obliged regardless of his will to adhere to party structures where he would be "integrated and framed from cradle to grave". My great-grandfather always refused to take the party card because in stark contrast to his values of peace and equality, and this cost him his job as an anti-fascist. Bina helped Minto to support his family by being a seamstress, until in 1935 the difficulties became such as to force him to leave for Eritrea first and Libya later, colonies in which Fascism was expanding its regime, and there he worked by digging trenches for send Bina home some money to support my grandmother Lelia and her sister Anna. In October 1942 Minto returned home, but for a short time: the Fascists went to fetch him and took him to Ravenna. Here they told him that they were sending him to Germany to work because for a subversive like him it was the only way to bring some money home. My great-grandfather, on the other hand, was taken to the Auschwitz extermination camp and interned as a political prisoner, where he saw and suffered things that a HEALTHY human mind is hardly able to conceive. Minto, like all political prisoners and opponents of the regime, could not speak to anyone because he would be shot on sight.
After some time of working in extreme conditions, without food and without hygiene, a German SS commander asked the prisoners if there were any bricklayers and plumbers to renovate his house in the country and my great-grandfather applied because he had already done those jobs in boy with his dad. At that time he made himself loved by the mother of the Nazi commander who, in disagreement with her son's actions, helped him escape and directed him to a group of Poles. From that moment Clemente took part in their subversive actions, until one day he was captured along with some of them. A woman witness, before being shot too, declared that Minto had nothing to do with it and was there by chance. After all, he could easily have been mistaken for German with his splendid blue eyes (he is the only one in my whole family, both paternal and maternal, to have blue eyes like me!). From that moment on, my great-grandfather sought his way home, moving with extreme caution from one place to another. At home they had no news shortly after their departure, when they received a censored postcard with only a brief greeting and they certainly did not think he was in the Auschwitz extermination camp. He arrived with white hair, reduced to skin and bones, with broken teeth, swollen ears and a bruised body. He weighed 38 kg and looked like an eighty year old. Nobody recognized him. For years he woke up at night submerged by nightmares and people found it hard to believe the horrors of Auschwitz he was telling ... he never forgot until his death at the age of 95.
Mario Tarabusi and the escape from the Austrian Lager
My beloved grandfather Mario (here, just to write his name and I am already crying ... he and grandmother I miss to take my breath away and I would give my whole life to spend one more day with them ... to fill cappelletti with grandma and drink Albana sweet with grandpa. How much he loved sweet Albana! That's why I chose an Albana Passita to toast my grandparents ... but we'll talk about this in a moment!)
Grandfather Mario constantly told me about the period he spent in the war, and often sang the songs of the time ... always with the smile on the lips of those who managed to survive so much horror, of those who made it to see the birth of a family ... and of those who raised two daughters and a niece who loved him very much and will always love him. I lived with my grandfather and grandmother for 21 years before moving to Ravenna. Fortunately, when they died, I was no longer living in that house. In reality that house is not even my home anymore without my grandmother coming towards me with a bunch of hungry cats around and one of her dresses that showed those dry and pale calves. And grandfather waiting for me in the armchair with his military-colored suspenders, the half banana shared with grandmother and the rosary in his hands. Let's just say that since they died I don't like going back to my hometown. I prefer to imagine them there waiting for me… and coming back is the hard clash with a reality that I am not yet ready to face despite the fact that several years have already passed.
Grandfather Mario had an extremely peaceful nature (although he also had a real temper) and he always said that for the duration of the war he never picked up a weapon of any kind. Grandfather Mario was a soldier in Sicily and there he cooked for the other soldiers. He often told of two incidents, which occurred while he was traveling up Italy to return home after the Italian army was in disarray with the fall of Fascism on 25 July 1943. In the first he was spotted and attacked by a plane in the countryside, with the plane that swooped down towards him and machine-gunned him and then pulled away and started over. Grandfather was circling a large tree for shelter and it repeated several times until the plane dropped because it couldn't hit it. In the second episode, during a bombing everyone went down to a shelter, while he hid behind a tree (mindful of the first tree that had brought him luck!). The shelter was bombed and they all died, while he was unharmed. From that day on, when the planes arrived to bomb everyone they followed him considering him very lucky.
Grandfather Mario was captured, like many other soldiers of the Italian army, on 8 September 1943 in Bolzano by German troops. After about 10 days of imprisonment in Bolzano he was deported to Austria and interned in the Lager XVIIA in Kaisersteinbruch. In this concentration camp the Italian prisoners were treated slightly better than in the other concentration camps of the Reich. Grandfather always said that the conditions of the prisoners were inhumane and the hygienic-sanitary conditions hallucinating ... and from that period I remember that he had the obsession of always washing his face with ethyl alcohol.
He remained a prisoner in the Stalag XVIIA in Kaisersteinbruch until October 10, 1943, and then he was taken to Enns to a sugar factory that served as a transitional field. On 9 December 1943 he was taken to Vienna to a school used as a Lager. He was picked up from school in the morning to go to work in companies that required manpower. On 13 March 1944 he was transferred to the Liesing Lager, which was also a former school used as a Lager, and he remained here until the end of the month. When the allies bombed the Lager he was brought back to Vienna and here he buried the dead in the cemetery. They went out in groups of 10-15 men unaccompanied. Shortly after, he was sent to a nearby location to work as a carpenter and repair houses damaged by the bombing. Obviously grandfather worked as a prisoner and did not receive pay. From September he began to work outside without being accompanied and, just before the bridge over the Danube was blown up by the Russian bombing, on April 5, 1945, he managed to escape from Vienna and return to Bolzano. Here he was a guest of a family for about a month, from April 12 to May 20, 1945, when he began the journey back home. During the return journey he spent the night in Bologna in the truck on which a dozen civilians were traveling in the direction of Forlì. On May 23, 1945 the truck driver unloaded him at home and his old father exclaimed in dialect: "Are you already back home?" and hugged him tightly.I am not a racist. I respect decent people of all colors and cultures. I am not religious. I respect decent people who have a faith, whatever it is. I am not political. I respect decent people on the left, right, center, above, below.
But I am very intolerant of those who distort history to legitimize things that should not be legitimized. Every dictatorship must be fought, regardless of whether it is left or right, religious or atheist. Fascism, even the ideal one, propagates a supreme leader at the helm of a Rome that conquers the world with violence, to which the "subject citizens" must obey and that's it. In Fascism, freedom and democracy do not exist, and for those who do not obey there is the reconstituted death penalty (Fascist Law of 5 November 1926): which individual with a minimum of empathy would really want this?
I want all of us to remember the 15 million deaths the Holocaust caused in concentration camps alone ... and some historians argue that it is an underestimate. Then I want us to remember that the Attacks of 11 September 2001 they've caused less than 3000 victims, just to give an order of magnitude to things. Yet I have never heard an Italian support the tragic events of 11 September 2001, so I would be happy not to hear support for Fascism and all the atrocities related to it.
“One day the fascists found a 15-year-old boy with some papers in his pocket“ which he shouldn't have ”. They took him to the front of the house, took the parents and made them sit in front of their son. They kept them still and forced them to watch him torture him. They tore out all his nails, cut off his ears, then his tongue, then his testicles, and finally gouged out his eyes. The parents fainted repeatedly to see the torture done to their son, and the fascists kept throwing ice water on him to wake them up and force them to watch. Finally they attacked him in the car all bleeding and drove away dragging him away. The trail of blood marked a long way, but the boy was never found again. The mother died the next day of heartbreak while the father lost his mind and died two years later. "
From a memory of Grandma Lelia
A toast then with my grandfather Mario's favorite wine, the sweet albana from Cantina Trerè… which was perhaps the very first wine I drank in my entire life. For his last birthday, however, I remember giving him a bottle of Albana Passita (now it has changed its name with the new labels and is called Mrösa) which we all drank together… for the last time. How he liked it! (By the way, you find it HERE).
mrosa, from the Romagna dialect lover, beloved, amorosa, lady… perfect for a wine obtained from the drying of overripe and partially moldy grapes in the field. The must obtained is left to ferment in 250 liter oak barrels. in which it remains for 2 years before bottling. On the nose, notes of candied citrus, ripe apricot, vanilla and acacia honey. In the mouth it is pure delight, soft, persistent, with a sweet but not cloying flavor… and for me it is absolutely perfect in combination with blue cheeses, especially with the gorgonzola spoon that is so special here on Lake Iseo. Seeing is believing! 😉
This toast is for you dear grandparents. This toast is to remind anyone who experiences the comforts of our age as an existential drama what you have undergone. What the world has paid for the folly of a handful of men, with over 68 million victims, of which nearly 44 million are civilians alone. From the day my aunt Anna remembers that she had found a 5 lire coin in the ditch, with grandmother Bina who was crying with joy because after so many potatoes she had bought 1 kg of chestnuts to celebrate, just 80 years have passed.
At your next "whim" about the more or less useless bullshit you would like to buy, think about it. I'll think about it.
Now I can dry the last tear, because between the lack I suffer from you and the sadness that assails me to think that you have felt so much pain, I have written crying practically all the time.
See you soon,
PS if you have memories of your great grandparents, grandparents or parents that you like to tell, leave me a comment. Everything is important NOT TO FORGET.