Please to Remember the Fourth of November – The Plaques of Bologna

I only learned about Guy Fawkes day, November 5th, when I was living with my family in the capital of then East Pakistan, Dacca, aged ten.  I had been to an English school in Teheran previously, aged 8, but for some reason it wasn’t even mentioned there.  Here is what it’s all about, and I quote from :

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/remember_remember_the_5th_november.htm

Guy Fawkes & the Gunpowder Plot
Words of “Remember Remember” refer to Guy Fawkes with origins in 17th century English history. On the 5th November 1605 Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with several dozen barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes was subsequently tried as a traitor with his co-conspirators for plotting against the government. He was tried by Judge Popham who came to London specifically for the trial from his country manor Littlecote House in Hungerford, Gloucestershire. Fawkes was sentenced to death and the form of the execution was one of the most horrendous ever practised (hung, drawn and quartered) which reflected the serious nature of the crime of treason.

The Tradition begins…
The following year in 1606 it became an annual custom for the King and Parliament to commission a sermon to commemorate the event. Lancelot Andrews delivered the first of many Gunpowder Plot Sermons. This practice, together with the nursery rhyme and quote, ensured that this crime would never be forgotten! Hence the words to the quote “Remember, remember the 5th of November”

The quote and poem is sometimes referred to as ‘Please to remember the fifth of November’. It serves as a warning to each new generation that treason will never be forgotten. In England the 5th of November is still commemorated each year with fireworks and bonfires culminating with the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes (the guy) and people chanting the quote of “Remember remember the 5th of November”. The ‘guys’ are made by children by filling old clothes with crumpled newspapers to look like a man. Tradition allows British children to display their ‘guys’ to passers-by and asking for ” A penny for the guy”.

 

The folk verse is considerably longer than the first three lines we all remember  (Remember, remember!  The fifth of November,  The Gunpowder treason and plot;) and the last lines are quite the eye opener, I wonder if Pope Francis knows about this!

A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

And on with the reason for this, a very unusual post for me.

While it is November 5th that is remembered in Britain, in Italy there is a November 4th date that comes with hallowed historical importance.  There is many an avenue all over Italy called “Via IV Novembre”.  There is one in Bologna too.

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I was in Bologna last weekend, and spent much of my time just walking, up and down its streets and porticoes.

There is so much walking to be done in Bologna.  The date (November 4th) marks the end of World War I in Italy, following the victory of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto.  And Italy still commemorates “National Unity Day” and “Armed Forces Day” on November 4th, in remembrance of World War I. A laurel wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome by the country’s President.

Snippet of war history:  On November 3rd 1918, the Austro-Hungarian troops withdrew tired and demoralized while the Italian troops entered victorious in Trento and Trieste. On Nov. 4, 1915 The Austro-Hungarian Empire signed the armistice that closed hostilities on the Italian front.  On the same day Chief of Staff Armando Diaz issued the “Bulletin of Victory” .  The Bollettino della Vittoria, together with the address to the Navy by Paolo Thaon di Revel, is the symbol of the Italian victory in World War I.   Commemorative plaques with the text are hung up in every town hall and military barracks of Italy, fused using the bronze of enemy artillery pieces.

13And here.  see above, is the plaque of The Bulletin of Victory in a main square in Bologna, opposite the Palazzo Re Enzo.  I provide a translation the the text at the end of this blog just in case you might interested in reading it.

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Above, on the same wall as the Bulletin of Victory is another plaque, this time commemorating the city’s gold medal for the part it played in the resistance during WWII. And, at the same time, mentioning the number of Italian soldiers of the Acqui Division ‘lost’ on the islands of Cephalonia and Corfu – they were massacred with remarkable cruelty after surrendering to the Germans on 21 September 1943, with 3,000 others lost at sea.  Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – anyone read that book?

12This plaque is reserved solely for the citizens of Bologna and the partisans (Resistance), and the huge role they played in fighting the Nazis.  Bologna received a gold medal for military valour.

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This is the huge front of the building called Palazzo della Borsa, which is now a fascinating library.  The plaques I mentioned are the three starting from the right and going left-wards, even past the entrance to the building.  To the left of that are showcases with photographs of every single partisan or plain citizen from Bologna who fought and died for freedom during WWII.

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It’s very hard to get a good picture – the glass reflects back.  The photos are in black and white.  I looked on and held back a choking sensation in my throat.

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A wreath is also there in grateful commemoration.

Opposite this building is the Palazzo Enzo.

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There were plaques on it too.

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This one is in remembrance of soldiers who died in Nazi camps.

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This one is dedicated to all men, women and children who died in concentration camps during WWII, whether they were Italian or not.   It exhorts us to fight for human liberty, for the indpendence of peoples and to seek a more just society with peaceful interaction for all populations.

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The above plaque recalls a time even further back, during the unification of Italy and Bologna’s support of Garibaldi.  It is dedicated to the Garibaldi Partisan troop who fought in Montenegro 1943-45.

So yes, Bologna seems to want to keep alive the memory and memories of past battles, strife and personal and collective sacrifice.  It does not wish to forget the noble people who did all they could, sometimes at great cost, to look on the bright side of life.

I googled the name of a street with a man’s name:

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It turns out it wasn’t a ‘man’ at all – just a 15 year-old anarchist, who took a wild shot at Mussolini and was lynched by the mob as a result.  His name was Anteo Zamboni.   For the record, it should be mentioned that Mussolini himself condemned the lynching of the boy. “Con questo atto barbarico, che deprecai, l’Italia non dette certo prova di civiltà”, he said.  “With this barbaric act, which I deplored, Italy certainly did not give proof of civilization”.  Pope Pious XI, instead, condemned the assassination attempt – and quite rightly too  – as a “criminal act the thought of which alone saddens us … and makes us give thanks to God for having failed”.  No mention of that poor boy, however.  Sigh. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anteo_Zamboni

Another road is named after Ugo Bassi, who was a priest at the time of Garibaldi.  His execution enraged Liberals all over Europe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugo_Bassi There is a statue in via Ugo Bassi as well.

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Yesterday was April 25th and a national holiday in Italy, so-called Liberation Day, the Festa della Liberazione.

It is the anniversary to recall the end of WWII, and the worthy role played by the partisan combatants (Resistance), of which many were women.  Take a closer look on the following link:  https://www.thelocal.it/20160425/what-is-italys-liberation-day-all-about-giorno-liberazione-partisans-nazi-fascist-milan-uprising-italian-republic-public-holiday .

So, yes.   My mind has been caught up with the history of people fighting for freedom. And my heart aches at the thought of all the senseless killing, pain, distress and desperation that human acts of courage have entailed. throughout history, both recent and past.  I know my own granfather fought in the trenches in France during WWI and came back a changed man, at only 23 years of age.  It was supposed to have been the war to end all wars.

Lest We Forget

I don’t know about you but most of the blogs I follow are either travel or food related. I can’t help but notice, as might you, that the tone is nearly always cheery and rightly so, say I. This ‘wired’, tentacle-like, media-enveloped world we inhabit comes with a steady trickle of news that is never out of earshot or sight or hearing and, let’s face it, the content we perceive nearly always boils down to disquieting or bad news.  I think that food and travel blogs, with their upbeat attitude to writing, offer succour and respite as well as valuable advice and information.  I too try to inject some humour and light heartedness in my blogs, I feel I owe it to the readers who probably, like me, have many balls to juggle up in the air.  A little chuckle, a fleeting smile … these can be soothing, these too can be zen-like in their effect.

When my children were of primary school age and began eating supper with me and my husband (they used to eat before us previously), I told him he had to stop watching the news while I was preparing the meal because, willy nilly, the TV reports managed to waft right into our kitchen, and it would upset me.  The way I saw it then, and still do now, was that supper/dinner, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, was the time of day when we as a family could sit down and enjoy good meal and chat and ‘bond’ for a brief spell, and the last thing I (selfishly) wanted was to feel guilty about this pleasure in life.  I remember at boarding school when, during my first term there, one of the nuns at the table would admonish us to finish the meal and not be ungrateful (if we didn’t like what was on the table) and “think about those unfortunate starving people in Biafra”.  That just made me feel worse! There was I eating a meal, however unappetising, with a roof over my head and a uniform on, and having to think about poor people starving.  How could my feeling guilty about them help them in any way?  How indeed.

Bad news can lead to depression.  Well, if not depression, a bleak outlook.  People begin to feel disempowered and dismayed.  When I heard about the Stockholm terrorist attack a few weeks ago, I switched the TV on only a short while after it had taken place, and watched several TV stations’ news live.  In three languages: Italian, English and French.  I think I was glued to the screen for about half an hour, consciously keeping an eye my own reactions and trying to understand what was going on.  Half an hour can be a long time and I realized that the video journalists just kept repeating themselves and that no ‘real’ further news was forthcoming at that point.  Basically, all  there was … was vapid bla-bla in three languages. So I switched the TV off and got on with whatever else I was doing.  What would I have achieved by sitting there passively viewing scenes of human madness and distress?

We do need to know what is going on in the world, of course we do!, but I do wish that news agencies would also offer some items of news that might buoy us up a little.  I am sure that there are lots of ‘good’ things happening in the world too, but we rarely get to hear about them.  I was very impressed, for instance, with how the people of Stockholm reacted to this injury in the heart of their beautiful city.  Their attitude was indeed very ‘good’ news.

So, yes, I can be a bit of a pedantic Pollyanna about the unrelenting way news is broadcast these days.  I am not, on the other hand, enough of a Pollyanna that I can look at certain tragic historical events in the face without wishing they had never happened.  I can’t seem to ‘see’ any ‘good’ in a 15 year-old being lynched, in a priest being executed, in young men having been treated like cannon fodder during the First World War.  Sometimes, we need to be reminded of how lucky we are.  And that’s when all those plaques, in Bologna or elsewhere in Italy, or elsewhere in Europe, come in handy.

It behooves us to honour all the victims in question, whether they were men or women or children, and whether they were heroes or just ordinary people.  Without being morbid, it is good to give thanks and to realise that we owe so many of them such a big debt.

 

…………………………….

From the Supreme Headquarters 12:00 hours, November 4, 1918

The war against Austria-Hungary, which the Italian Army, inferior in number and equipment, began on 24 May 1915 under the leadership of His Majesty and supreme leader the King and conducted with unwavering faith and tenacious bravery without rest for 41 months, is won.

The gigantic battle, which opened on the 24th of last October and in which fifty-one Italian divisions, three British, two French, one Czechoslovak and a US regiment joined against seventy-three Austrian divisions, is over.

The lightning-fast and most audacious advance of the XXIX Army Corps on Trento, blocking the retreat of the enemy armies from Trentino, as they were overwhelmed from the west by the troops of the VII army and from the east by those of the I, VI, and the IV armies, led to the utter collapse of the enemy’s front. From the Brenta to the Torre, the fleeing enemy is pushed ever further back by the irresistible onslaught of the XII, VIII, X Armies and of the cavalry divisions.

In the plains, His Royal Highness the Duke of Aosta is advancing at the head of his undefeated III Army, eager to return to the previously successfully conquered positions, which they had never lost.

The Austro-Hungarian Army is vanquished: it suffered terrible losses in the dogged resistance of the early days, and during the pursuit it lost an enormous quantity of materials of every kind as well as almost all its stockpiles and supply depots. The Austro-Hungarian Army has so far left about 300,000 prisoners of war in our hands along with multiple entire officer corps and at least 5,000 pieces of artillery.

The remnants of what was one of the world’s most powerful armies are returning in hopelessness and chaos up the valleys from which they had descended with boastful confidence.

Army Chief of Staff, General Diaz

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