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Stories of invisible children and "yellow butterflies"

600 students for the Holocaust Remembrance Day

A picture of the meeting

A picture of the meeting

A meeting was held on the occasion of the Holocaust Remembrance Day at PIME theatre, for the initiative curated by the Association for the Garden of the Righteous (Composed by the municipality of Milan, Gariwo and UCEI), entitled “Stories of invisible children. A journey from the Shoah to the present days”.

It was a moving morning, designed to open a reflection on the theme of unaccompanied minors and the condition of the children, from Armenian genocide to the Shoah, and up to the present. The youngest are, in fact, the most vulnerable subjects in the societies and the first victims of genocide, but they are as well those who represent the future and have the possibility to give a more human and inclusive face to the world, through knowledge and sharing. They embody the hope and ability to make a choice for good, just like Terezin’s little girlwho drew the yellow butterfly flying over the barbed wires- remembered by Senator Liliana Segre in her speech to the European Parliament. Sometimes it is precisely the children who, more than anyone, can teach us the simplicity of a spontaneous gesture of nearness and openness to the other.

To protect minors, ensuring that they would become aware and respectful adults who see the differences not as limits but as gifts - it is the first step for making no longer happen the horrors of the past. Knowing History, alongside the actions of the Righteous who have not turn a blind eye in front of injustice, can therefore be, on an educational level, an important brick in teaching the men and women of the future to never fall into indifference.

After the greetings of the Municipal Council President Lamberto Bertolè, who put an accent on the importance of the “choice”, President Gabriele Nissim underlined how “Whenever the culture of the enemy emerges in our societies, anti-Semitism emerges as well”. “This is why Jews’ fate is also to take care of the destiny of the world, trying to make it better”, he continued, ”and in the Holocaust Remembrance day this task becomes everyone’s responsibility”.

It then followed the speech by Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Italy and Co-founder of Gariwo, Pietro Kuciukian. “When the armenian genocide began, my father Ignadios was embarked on a Greek ship and welcomed in a boarding armenian school in Venice, as he was an unaccompanied minor”. His speech made clear the connection between that child, his father, and today’s children who arrive on our shores alone of which we should take care of, as we have the opportunity to give them a brighter future.

A brighter future as the one found by Salimina Hydara, the other important guest of the day, who came as a minor from Gambia to Pozzallo few years ago and today wants to continue his study and work career in Italy. Incredibly quiet, he told every step of his story to the audience: “I went through the desert. Some soldiers asked money from us and then jailed us. They hit us, for blackmailing our families. In Libya then, I have been lucky as I met a man who helped me. When we tried to reach Italy, an italian ship rescued and brought us in Pozzallo, where I learned italian language, which was my other luck. My professors, the people, they have been my family. I passed the middle school exam with 9, and now I study at the linguistic high school”. Here the story stops, and something appears that we all should reflect on. Salimina - who in addition to his mother tongue and Italian perfectly knows English and French - risks being repatriated, if he does not find a job soon enough, despite in recent years he has always studied and worked.

This is a drama to which we often do not pay attention: there are many young boys and girls who arrive to our country, manage to integrate and study, and find out this is not enough to save them from the possibility of being sent back once they are no longer minors, in case they have lost their job. Sometimes also for an absurd bureaucracy, as said by Gaia Lauri, educator at the House Francesco minors community. The room suddenly became quiet when Don Virginio Colmegna, President of the House of Charity, intervened. "Minors unaccompanied have stories, faces, names”, he said. “We should welcome them as people, not as poors to help. We should discover once again the sense of legality that comes from culture and knowledge. We should not use the word clandestine, for example, which gives the idea of something bad: our language matters”.

We were also very honoured to have with us Elżbieta Ficowska, the youngest girl in the Warsaw ghetto rescued by Irena Sendler, Righteous polish nurse who saved more than 2500 Jewish children. Elżbieta is currently engaged in narrating the Shoah and Sendler figure to young people. Six months old, she left the ghetto on a freight truck, in a wooden box with a silver spoon engraved with her name and her date of birth inside. She has found out only at 17 years she came from a Jewish family and a woman named Irena Sendler saved her from a deadly fate to which all the children like her were destined during the darkest page of History.

Bieta, as she prefers being called, wanted to quote professor Władysław Bartoszewski, whose words have been a slap of reality: "It is worth being decent, even if it is not convenient. It Is convenient being indecent, but is not worth it.”

The morning ended with the active participation of the children from various schools, present at the meeting, who asked some questions to the guests, giving life to an interesting and constructive dialogue and showing, once again, how much the children, who are free from the adults inhibitions and preconceptions, know how to get straight to the truth.

Helena Savoldelli, Gariwo Editorial Staff

30 January 2020

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Remember the past in order to build a future

The International Committee of the Armenian Righteous. Memory is the Future was founded by Piero Kuciukian in order to commemorate those who went against the genocide of 1915. The title emphasises the function of the memory, which is not a nostalgic look back in history, but a a clear sense of the past to build a future without making old mistakes.
The memory has many solutions and presents conflicting results, either positive or negative depending on how it is treated. Reflections on the previous events help us to understand the present, which means to search for the coordinates that allow us to interpret new situations with awareness of the dangers or opportunities that are triggered by certain mechanisms such as cultural, social and individual. The experience of the genocides of the twentieth century, the phenomenon of totalitarianism, resulted in the devastating world war, the balance of power during the Cold War, provide very precise indications on the geopolitical hegemony and humanitarian frifts to be avoided, while the example of the Righteous, their varied efforts on behalf of the persecuted, the demand for freedom, independence of thought and the instance of the defense of human dignity, are to be taken to avoid the pitfalls of arrogance, denial of truth, the rejection of diversity, closing the other, unilateral decision.

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