The first European day of the Righteous has filled us with emotions as well as provided an occasion to proceed further in the assumption of responsibility for the past genocides and in the prevention of future tragedies.
Gariwo managed to organize a series of diversified events in Milan, Brussels, Prague, Sarajevo, Warsaw, Saint Petersburg and Kigali.
A first positive feedback was the fact that the initiative has been warmly welcome by a varied audience consisting in politicians, scholars, students, common citizens, music connaisseurs like in Milan and Warsaw, journalists and students.
Two major events in Brussels
In Brussels there were two prominent initiatives: one was held by the European Parliament, in the presence of the Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, the Israeli President Shimon Peres, who have honoured Dimitar Peshev, «The Man Who Stopped Hitler» as Gabriele Nissim, his discovered, has defined him. During the Holocaust Peshev put his career and even his life on the line to stop the massacre of as many Jews as he could. The European Day of the Righteous provided the occasion to admit, as well as Peshev’s heroism, also the responsibilities of Bulgarian collaborators for the deportation of the 12,000 Jews feom Thrace and Macedonia. As the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mr. Mladenov pointed out, the righteous deed by Peshev should not lead to forget about the actions of those who instead compromised with the villains.
The other event was a seminar of researchers and scholars discussing genocide prevention on suggestion of MEP Niccolò Rinaldi. among the first signatories of the Written declaration that set up the Day. The experts tackled the theme of evaluating the UN genocide prevention activities wth UN Special Adviser Deng, and discussed the future of Syria, where a “democide” might be taking place.
In Prague a conference to remember Václav Havel
In the Czech capital people remembered the first President after communism, the great personality behind the Velvet Revolution and fierce foe of totalitarianism. For the first time the event was attended by Israeli Ambassador Levy, who expressed his strong appreciation of 6 March,when “Europe remembers for the first time collectively the people who have risked their own and their dear ones’ lives to rescue the Jews”, and announced a document exchange between Israel and the Czech Republic about a Czech Righteous honoured in Jerusalem, Joseph Bleha. The EU day of the Righteous thus concretely helps build diplomatic bridges between countries, in the name of the eternal value of respecting human life.
In Sarajevo with the highest authorities
EU day of the Righteous was celebrated also in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a ceremony held in the presence of the High Commissioner for the International Community Valentin Inzko, of Stjepan Mesić who was the President of Croatia for 10 years, of the High Representative of the Council of Europe Mary Ann Hennessy and 1,200 university students from the whole Balkan region who took part actively of the event. “It is important that the highest political authorities recognize the Righteous”, said Svetlana Broz, “as this can lead to predict the future of a country: whether there will be wars or instead, as we hope everytime we bestow the Dusko Kondor Prixe or hold any other Gariwosa activity, the country is able to exit his past of ethnical cleansing and starts living in peace like your Western countries”.
Thanked by the Polish Righteous in Warsaw
In the Czech capital there was Annalia Guglielmi, Cross to the merit of the Warsaw government for his commitment in favour of dissidence. The programme was packed: in the morning, the hall of the Polish Parliament hosted an exhibition about Jan Karski. At noon, round table chaired by Tadeusz Mazowiecki on the creation of a garden of the Righteous in Poland; a”weighty and little formal” discussion at the end of which Gariwo managed to convince also the representatives of the Polish Childen of the Holocaust Association about the need to universalize the concept of Righteous.
Annalia left the meeting in Warsaw before its conclusion to go to Bialystok for the inauguration of three exhibitions, one of which was about the rescues in the town’s ghetto. She uttered a speech in front of the chief-editors of Gazeta Wiborcza, the President of the Helsinki foundation for human rights and the director of the Museum of the Polish Jews. This was followed by the screening of a documentary about the great educator Janusz Korczak.
Polish newspapers have covered the events very closely. In Warsaw on 8 and 9 March there was also the weekend about the Righteous open to everybody. Individuals and families with children could meet personalities of the highest level, despite the difficulties of honouring the Righteous that are still there due to many factors like the official stance of Yad Vashem. On the evening of 9 March great concert at the Royal Palace, again in the presence of Tadeusz Mazowiecki and presented by Annalia Guglielmi, who cried when a 90-year old Polish Righteous thanked her and Gariwo “personally and in the name of the Righteous” for our work in favour of these people who in Poland under communism have endured much hardship.
In St. Petersburg it was an absolute novelty
Journalist Francesco Bigazzi, author of books on the fate of Italians in Stalinist Russia, held the St. Petersburger day with Anatoly Razumov, founder of the Centre for recovered names which retraces the stories of the victims and Righteous of communism, in the presence of Italy’s Consult general. Luigi Estero. Presentation of Gariwo movie “Righteous and witnesses” about the Garden of the Righteous worldwide in Milan and a movie about the Levashovo monumental cemetery, before a very curious audience.
In Kigali with the old and new Righteous
Yolande Mukagasana, Righteous and witness to the tragedy of the Tutsi people, organized the ceremony of remembrance in honour of the Righteous from Rwanda, where exemplary people like Italian consul Pierantonio Costa who rescued 2,000 people in 1994, and Jacqueline Mukansonera, the rescuer to Yolande herself, whom we honoured also in Milan in the past years. Important was the presentation of a booklet about a nun who sacrificed to rescue her faithfuls. Unfortunately it is still impossible to create a Garden of the Righteous in Rwanda, but the seed of this major future task was has been planted thanks to the relentless effort of Gariwo Rwanda’s founder.