03/31/2005versione stampabileprintinvia paginasend



In Gorizia, a War of Words Over a Difficult Past
La scritta sul monte SabotinoExactly one year ago,  people in the Italian border city of Gorizia were dressing up for a celebration. Slovenia’s entry into the European Union, to be marked on the first of May,  would erase one of the most delicate borders left over from World War II. The central square of the Transalpine city, for fifty years divided in two by a wall separating it from the Slovenian city Nova Gorica, would now open to become a symbol of victory over ancient diffidence. But instead of becoming a place of celebration, the plaza has turned into a perfect spot to observe how, for some, the past is more present than ever. After a half century of cold war,  a new war of words has begun. What started as a tit-for-tat of exchanged insults and teasing now risks newly inflaming nationalist sentiments that were never fully extinguished.
 
Nostalgia for Tito. During the night of March 5, on the Slovenian side of Mount Sabotino overlooking the plain of Gorizia and the plaza of Transalpina,  someone revealed a message in huge stone letters, “Nas Tito” (Our Tito). Made of huge blocks of Carsic stone weighing a half-ton each, built to twenty-five meters high and stretching one hundred meters, this “writing” had first been constructed in the late Seventies during a national meeting of Socialist Youth to mark an appearance by the Yugoslavian leader, Josep Broz Tito. Since independence came to Slovenia, the giant composition had been slowly covered by weeds and brambles. In March someone, apparently motivated by nostalgia, had cleared away the overgrowth around the marker,  shortly before the ceremony to mark the European Union’s embrace of Slovenia. Subsequently in June, with the intention of celebrating the historic anniversary of this small nation’s independence, a “pro-Europe” group re-ordered the stone blocks to read, “Nas Slo”  (Our Slovenia). This message lasted nine months before being returned to its original form.
 
La scritta come era stata modificata nel giugno scorso: "Nas Slo"Reciprocal provocations. The change appears not to be the whim of an isolated individual nostalgic for the past. Repositioning hundreds of huge rocks in the course of one night would require a team of about fifty strong men. Their nostalgic editorializing did not go unnoticed. Two weeks later, again during a nocturnal blitz, someone else changed the blocks from “Nas Tito” to read “Nas Fido,” meaning, “Our puppy.” In less than twenty-four hours, the message was returned to its earlier form. But in response, on the Italian side of Mount Sabotino, another night-time crew composed a giant script reading, “W l’Italia” (Long Live Italy).
 
Consequences. Perhaps it’s only a matter of a couple of dozen pranksters getting their kicks, but the feeling in the area is that a Pandora’s Box has been opened. Some days later on the side of Mount Cocusso near Trieste, another overgrown construction of giant stone letters reading, “Tito,” was restored, while in Gorizia a public display-case for the local Slovenian association was defaced with indelible ink, an action disturbingly reminiscent of anti-semitic vandalism, with Slovenes replacing Jews as the target. During a recent soccer match in the regional Triestine league, Italian “ultras” (hooligans) unfurled a banner that read, “Tito boia” (a slang expression meaning, more or less, “Tito’s a swine.”). Extreme taunting is nothing new in soccer, but the gesture had particular impact in the current atmosphere.
 
La scritta è stata costruita nel 1978, in occasione di un raduno della gioventù socialistaReactions. When they noticed that the air was growing tense, the mayors of Gorizia and Nova Gorica, who enjoy an excellent rapport, united to speak with a single voice against the extremism behind the war of words.  “There are hotheads on both sides of the border,” said Vittorio Brancati, mayor of Gorizia, “but they’re only a few stray cats. We have to isolate and marginalize them. But it worries us, because all these actions go against the cross-border collaboration that we are working so hard to build.” On both sides, everyone is hoping that the war of words comes to an end before it degenerates into something far more serious.
 
Alessandro Ursic
Topic: Walls, History
Area: Italy