Andrea Angeli was born in Macerata on 6 December 1956. Graduated in Law and Political Science, he acted in his capacity as Italian UN official in numerous war scenes including Chile (during the regime of Pinochet), Iraq, Namibia and Cambodia. It was impossible to record his brave and selfless deeds, beyond the limits of his own duty, because of the prohibitory environment, in which they took place. This is true except for an episode, the rescue of the last Italian citizen remained in Sarajevo at the time of the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rosaria Bartoletti, 69 years old. In their exposé book J’accuse l’Onu, Zlatko Dizdarevic and Gigi Riva mention Angeli in the preface as one of the very few people who, despite the ambiguous mandate and the shaky leadership of the UN contingent, succeeded in “making the difference”.
In the Winter of 1993, the Italian embassy to Belgrade insistently searched for the one whom they deemed to be as the last Italian citizen trapped in Sarajevo, Rosaria Bartoletti. After some vain attempts that relied on the drivers of Italy’s Cooperation Mission, who sporadically unloaded some humanitarian aid, Consul Mauro Conciatori had delivered to Angeli an envelope containing 1000 German Marks, putting him in charge of delivering it to Ms Bartoletti. The sum was comprised in the emergency contribution that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assigns to fellow nationals finding themselves under very particular situations of distress. Angeli did not retreat. Retracing somebody without knowing their address in a city of half a million inhabitants under shelling, in which the phone lines are out of duty and movements are severely limited for security reasons, is an arduous task. Angeli does not lose heart and mobilizes all possible channels to find the elderly lady. He ventured into narrow underground passages, spaces under staircases and shelters, as the zone he had to search was located near the frontline, at the mercy of snipers and of the Serb artillery. Eventually, he found Rosaria in a downtown house. The woman from Brescia, at the beginning of the war in Bosnia, in April 1992, had been forced to leave her home destroyed by the bombs, which was located along the river Miljacka, right on the frontline between the Serbs and the Muslims. Since then, together with some displaced people of her same age, she lived in a cellar put at her disposal by the Sarajevo citizen Kanita Focak, who for some months had provided also food supplies to the group. Rosaria welcomed Angeli in tears and told him that she ate the little she and her Bosnian host managed to obtain from the United Nation aid. Several times, over 20 months, she had tried to reach the UN headquarters, but she had never succeeded in passing through the checkpoints. Angeli activated in order to find somebody in Italy able to host her, and once he accomplished the procedure for the admission to the military flights on the Sarajevo route, he agreed on the details for Rosaria’s new life with a family from Caltanissetta. Eventually, on 5 February 1994, Rosaria managed to get back to Italy.
Andrea Angeli commented about his experience this way: “Succeeding in identifying her house was not easy, but we did it in the end, with the help of the High UN Commission. Thanks to a permit, could reach the headquarters of the UN and take off on a German military plane engaged in humanitarian flights”.
.The City Hall of Ortona, in 1996, awarded Angeli the First International Saint Thomas Apostle among the nations Prize, for being the first Italian UN officer to serve in Sarajevo during the war. In 2009, Andrea Angeli and the colonel of the Sassari Brigade Gianfranco Scalas were awarded the Antonio Russo Special Prize for the very ling activity of public information within the peace missions. In 2010, he received the Special Mention of the Lombardy Peace Prize and he was appointed Commendator of the Order of the Star of Solidarity.
Angeli – as a man of peace, as the motivation reads out - is an honorary citizen of San Pietro Infine, a village set against Montecassino, destroyed during World War II.
Reported by Emilio Barbarani