Impressions revealed deeply emotionally

Belarusian people are notable for their high degree of civic conscience

Belarusian people are notable for their high degree of civic conscience, notes Stefania Carnemolla, an Italian journalist and chief adviser for the film Soldiers of Mussolini. Someone Else’s War in Glubokoe District

Members of Italian delegation during their meeting in Borok

An Italian delegation recently visited the Glubokoe District as part of events to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Guests gathered at burial sites of Italian citizens, in the village of Orekhovno and around Borok, meeting the administration of the district and representatives of the media.

Ms. Carnemolla notes that, since 2009, she has been researching Nazi crimes against Italian prisoners of war in Belarus. This is her first trip to Belarus since her studies began and she admits, “I wanted to visit the places where these sad and awful events happened. It’s lovely to see that all is so tidy and clean here; meanwhile, many children attended the commemorative activities, showing the high degree of civic consciousness of the Belarusian people.”

The Glubokoe District was also visited by Ugo Boni, the Commercial Counsellor of the Italian Embassy to Belarus, and by Enzo Orlanducci, the Chairman of the ANRP: the Italian National Association of Former Prisoners of War, Military Internees and Veterans, and Their Family Members. They were joined by representatives of local authorities, pupils and the public.

The monument in the village of Orekhovno marks the site of the re-internment of the remains of 19 Italian prisoners of war and civilians shot by fascists. Remains were unearthed by the first specialised search platoon of the Ministry of Defence in May 1998, in woodland near the village of Orekhovno. In August of the same year, a solemn monument in the form of two crosses and a boulder was mounted on the site, bearing the inscription: ‘Here lie buried the remains of civilians and Italian prisoners of war brutally tortured by the Nazis during World War II, from 1941-1944. Rest in Peace’.

A concentration camp was sited in the village of Orekhovno during those years. Meanwhile, Camp 351 was located at Berezvechi Monastery. Hundreds of people perished daily from cold and hunger, and excessive toil. During the existence of the concentration camp (September 1941 to July 1944) more than 27,000 Soviet and Italian prisoners of war, alongside civilians, died there. Prisoners from Berezvechi Camp were buried in a small area called Borok, near Glubokoe. In 1946, two monuments were mounted there and, in 1964, Borok memorial complex was erected.

Wreath laid at burial place of Italian soldiers

Italy hopes for co-operation with Belarus in preserving the memory of war, notes Mr. Orlanducci, the Chairman of the ANRP. Speaking at the burial site, he underlined that such places inspire reflection. “The 27,000 people buried here gave their lives for our freedom. It is very important to me, and pleasant to see, that the graves are well cared for. Now, 70 years after the end of the war, it is important for us to hear the voice of these places: it speaks of peace. Belarusian people, who preserve the memory of war, have a future. I hope that we never see war again: no barbed wire or people behind it,” Mr. Orlanducci asserted. He is pleased that Italy and Belarus enjoy strong ties upon which wide-ranging co-operation can be founded, despite the fact that Italians and Belarusians were not always friends during WW2.

The Italian visitor underlined that, in preserving the memory and ascertainment the names of all victims of war, Italy hopes for close co-operation from Belarus, where people hold dear the sacred memory of victims. In all, 650,000 soldiers of the armed forces of Italy were detained by German troops after the conclusion of the truce between Italy and the allies; they underwent deportation and detention in Nazi camps. Initially considered to be prisoners of war, their status was changed first to ‘interned Italian military people’, and then to ‘civilian workers’. This deprived them of protection from the International Committee of the Red Cross (contrary to the norms of international law). Over a period of 20 months, they were subject to humiliation, hunger and mockeries, resulting in the death of about 40,000.

Cultural and educational projects aim to promote stronger co-operation between Italy and the Glubokoe District, as noted by Italian Commercial Counsellor Ugo Boni. He noted, “Today’s meeting is the first step towards further co-operation. We hope to hold a festival of Italian film, as we have done in Minsk; we want to repeat this across the regions. Several modern Italian films have been given Russian subtitles and may be interesting to people in Glubokoe.” He has noticed that Belarus is gaining familiarity with Italian films from several decades ago but that ‘modern cinema yet deserves attention from Belarusian audiences’.

Mr. Boni has offered to bring an exhibition of photos to the district centre: detailing the earthquake which occurred in Italy several years ago. The collection has already toured Belarus and is now in Pruzhany. The diplomat also hopes to see more student exchanges organised, with perhaps 10-15 Glubokoe students receiving training in Rome, and a similar number from Rome coming to the Belarusian district.

By Veniamin Mikheev
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