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The Righteous of Hospitality at Monte Stella

In the annual ceremony to mark Day of the Righteous

The four protagonists of the Ceremony

The four protagonists of the Ceremony

“Milan is here now at the Garden of the Righteous of this town of hospitality and peace, and the Garden of the Righteous is a visible sign of this Milanese identity. Milan is a city that has never turned away from the tragedies of the world, and has also kept on opening its heart to those who escape war and persecutions”. By these words, Milan Mayor Beppe Sala opened the Ceremony at Monte Stella hill, dedicated to the Righteous of hospitality.

Marking the Day of the Righteous of the Humanity, from this year civil feast in Italy, we, in fact, chose to honour those who have endeavoured to save and host people fleeing persecutions, war, genocide. “The Righteous, whom we honour in this Garden together with Gariwo – Sala went forth – have witnessed all over the world and in different times to a universal idea, which is precisely at the basis of our identity: the idea of the individuals' responsibility on behalf of the humanity”.

This is why, as underlined by Gariwo director Ulianova Radice, Vice president of the Association Garden of the Righteous of Milan, “we have followed the fil rouge that unites the Righteous of today with the legacy from the past: the commitment to civil coexistence and peaceful conflict resolution, with a personal assumption of responsibility. We have focused on one of the most difficult challenges of the present for our society, for us, here in Italy, but also for Europe and the whole world, in the critical moment, in which we feel the sinister wind of the fiercest hatred blow again, and we witness to the entrenchment in one's usual and protected spaces, the fear of the different, unknown and therefore perceived as threatening in his being other from us”.

This year the honoured Righteous have been Costantino Baratta, Daphne Vloumidi, Ho Feng Shan and Hammo Shero. Theirs are tales of people who have not turned a blind eye, but instead have acted, setting into motion their own gifts and abilities, trying to save lives. The ceremony recounted.

So did Costantino Baratta, fisherman of Lampedusa, who on that dawn of 3 October 2013 saved 12 shipwrecked migrants. “while we were still in order to help them, many of them, who were still in the water stared at us in awe. I understood they were scared we would leave them in the deep sea. I then tried to calm them down, saying: “Be quiet, we are taking you all, we are not going to leave anyone behind”, recalls Costantino with emotion. He expressed gratitude, as well, for the recognition bestowed on him and Vito Fiorino, who was at sea with him on that day, and he invited people to be more sympathetic: “The world would need many more Righteous people, people eager to lend a hand.. helping the needest costs nothing”.

Another rescue tale comes from Lesbos and the words of Daphne Vloumidi, the hotel owner who saved and hosted at her Hotel numerous refugees who had landed on the island, also involving her guests. It has not always been easy nonetheless. “What can you do? Help the people, in any possible way and at any price. There are many things to do. Do you - who already know something, who in the past have met many refugees, who have eaten and laughed with them, listened to all those terrible and harsh stories - believe also this time you will succeed, you won't bow your head, you will not be in despair... you are strong and you know... But suddenly the truth slams you.... you are tired, despaired, you cry. You feel all your efforts are nothing but a drop in the ocean.” But Daphne has resisted…

Today like yesterday, the tales of the Righteous of hospitality remind us that you can always do something for those who escape persecution. Ho Manli, daughter to Ho Feng Shan, Chinese consul to Vienna in 1938 who saved the Jews by providing them with forged visas for Shanghai, told us about this. “My father defied the orders of his superiors and the threats of the Nazi authorities to follow his conscience. The reason why he did all this was simply that, as he said, “seeing the tragic fate of the Jews it is natural to feel a deep compassion and feel in duty to help them”.

Also, the tale of the fourth Righteous honoured at Monte Stella hill is a tale of help and rescue of the persecuted. Hammo Shero, the Yazidi chief in Sindjar, gave shelter in 1915 to the Armenians who fled from genocide. This rescue deed was performed, as recalled by the Honorary Consul of Armenia to Italy Pietro Kuciukian, in a land, which is now in the mid of another tragic genocide, the one against the Yazidi community. Witness to it is Farida Abbas, a young Yazidi girl who survived the violence of ISIS, that kidnapped her in 2014. “what happened then to Armenia is being repeated now against the Yazidis in Iraq. I am one of the 6.500 Yazidi women and girls were kidnapped and sold on the market of sex slaves by the members of the ISIS. I often attempted suicide to free myself from the torture and injustice, always in vain. When I managed to escape, I decided I would become the voice of all survivors from enslavement and genocide, of all vulnerable minorities all over the world, to prevent what had occurred to my community from repeating against other people”.

The Righteous show us a possible pathway, their message concerns choices which we can reproduce, adapting them to our current situation, ways out that keep alive our hope to stop the drift that is tormenting us. The presence of hundreds of students at the ceremonies on Monte Stella hill is surely a strong positive element for a future of awareness and responsibility.

19 March 2018

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The European Day of Righteous

The value of individuals and personal responsibility

On May 10, the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted the Written Declaration establishing March 6th as European Day in memory of the Righteous.
The concept of Righteous, born from the elaboration of the Yad Vashem Memorial to remember the non-Jews who rescued the Jews, becomes the patrimony of all humanity.
The term "Righteous" is no longer confined to the Holocaust only; it becomes a point of reference for those who remember the genocide and totalitarianism in all their efforts to defend human dignity.

The significance of this decision is reminiscent of one of the cornerstones of European culture: the value of the individual and personal responsibility.

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