Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

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Recollecting the past to build the future

The international committee The Righteous for Armenians. Memory is the future - founded by Pietro Kuciukian to remember the ones who opposed to the genocide of 1915 - focuses on the function of recollection, not to be thought as a wistful looking back in history, but as a much more hefty attempt to give a sense to the past, in order to build a future that won’t repeat the same errors.

Memory has many implications and it presents conflicting outcomes, positive or negative depending on the perspectives. To ponder upon the facts that preceded us, in order to understand the present, means to research the coordinates allowing us to interpret new situations, with a consciousness of risks and opportunities that certain cultural, social and individual processes activate.

The experience of genocides in the Twentieth Century, the totalitarian phenomena that gave raise to a devastating World War, the balances in the Cold War, supply us precise clues on the geopolitical hegemony demands and humanitarian drifts to avoid; the example of the Righteous, their wide commitment on behalf of the persecuted, the recall for freedom, autonomy of thought and the request for human dignity defense, is whereas representative as a model to avoid the traps of arrogance, denial of truth, diversity, closure towards the other, unilateral decisions. Only a hard but fruitful democratic debate can guarantee the development of human civilization, under the sign of pacific cohabitation and universal progress.

The future is in young people’s hands, but it is shaped both with good and bad teachers. The creation of a civil conscience depends on the role of education. Together with teachers and parents, the action of institutions - as structure of collective lives, representatives of the single individual in the social organization - is fundamental. The denial of a genocide, totalitarian ideological fake promises nostalgia, not only offend the victims and reiterate the anguish, but also deprive of force and value the ones who were committed and still are for the affirmation of human rights worldwide and for a future freed from the abuse of power. The Garden of the Righteous, promoted worldwide by Gariwo on the example of Yad Vashem Garden in Jerusalem - dedicated to the Righteous among the Nations during Shoah -, are a strong vehicle of memory that allow young people to be put in contact with the exemplary figures of past and present, and claim people and individuals’ right of truth - without which identity, neither individual or collective, exists. At the same time, didactic paths proposed for all scholastic ages supply the teachers with useful drafts and materials to address students’ formation.

In 2003 Gabriele Nissim and Pietro Kuciukian, founders of the Garden of the Righteous Committee - Gariwo, inaugurated in Milan the Garden of the Righteous Worldwide, with the support of the Municipality of Milan and the Jewish Community, whereas in Yerevan the Wall of Memory was built to remember the Righteous for Armenians beside the Genocide Mausoleum.

In Sarajevo Svetlana Broz founded Gariwosa, the Bosnian Gariwo branch, every day fighting to defend civil cohabitation values and in order to see the memory of the ones who refused to subjugate to the logic of ethnic cleanliness acknowledged.

In Moscow, between the struggles, the Memorial Association tries to keep alive the memory of the victims of Gulags; in Saint Petersburg, Anatolij Razumov is building the Center for Recovered Names, in order to preserve the identity of the ones slaughtered and thrown in mass graves in Levashovo during Stalinism years.

The young German literate Armin T. Wegner, sent in Turkey under the army, risked his life in 1916 in order to secretly provide photographic evidences of the Armenian people deportation and extermination, in camps and along the desert way. Wegner himself wrote in 1933 a letter of protest to Hitler, invoking the dignity and the honor of German people against Jewish persecution. For this he was arrested and tortured by Gestapo.

A famous scientist, sportsman and Norwegian diplomat, Fridtjof Nansen, at the beginning of last century fought to defend the most impoverished, especially the Armenian who survived to genocide.

Italian consuls Giacomo Gorrini, Guelfo Zamboni and Pierantonio Costa, in different time and place but with the same humanitarian spirit, tried to save the victims - Armenians, Jews, Tutsis - from extermination, the first one in Trebisonda in 1915, the second one in Thessaloniki in 1943, the latter in Rwanda in 1994.

Vaclav Havel and the other intellectuals and young “dissidents” of Charta ’77 in Czechoslovakia, without forgetting the terrible sacrifice of Jan Palach in Prague; Adam Michik and Jacek Kuron from Kor, in Poland, together with the young ministers like father Popielusko, slaughtered by secret police, and the workmen of the construction sites in Danzig, founder of the free sindacate of Solidarnosc; the writers and poets Anna Achmatova, Osip Mandelst’am, Alexander Solzenicyn, Varlam Shalamov in URSS, free spirits victim of gulags - all of them had the moral strength to preserve they dignity of human beings and claim the right of autonomy of thinking, deeply convinced to serve only the truth, answering to their conscience.