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Road to Valor

a Review of the Book by Aili and Andres McConnon

Book cover

Book cover

The book is not only a detailled account of the underground activities carried out by Gino Bartali to aid the Jews over the years 1943-44, when he cycled back and forth from Umbria to Tuscany transporting forged ID documents and hid a Jewish family in his cellar. It is a far broader and multifaceted work: it is a history of cyclism, with interesting technical details, descriptions of the races and of the evolution in training techniques; it is a history of Italy, of the fascist Ventennio, Second World War, the first years of the Republic and the beginning of Cold War. And within all these events the book depicts the heroic contribution of Bartali, who repeatedly risked his life and the one of his dear ones to take part in the network of rescue to the Jews and the antifascists run by Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa.
The fact that all events, mainly occurred in Italy, are narrated by two North American authors, a journalist and a historian, helps give the facts a real and objective broadth, really above parties, while the American writing style makes the reading very easy and pleasant, although the tone is sometimes oversimplifying and a bit too emphatic. 
In general, thus, this work can be considered both as an epic novel about cyclism and one of its Italian champions with a historical focus, and a history of interwar and immediately postwar Italy seen from a cycling perspective. Bartali’s antifascist activity, that takes up a couple of chapters in the book, turns up to be a side issue, nearly a detail: only in the epilogue it is stressed and more insight is offered about it, and also the reason behind the long silence about Bartali’s brave deed is explained: as this heroic champion put it, “If you are good at sport they will pin medals on your jersey, and then they will shine in a museum. But if you win a medal for doing good it will pin on your soul and will shine elsewhere”.

Tea Camporesi

19 December 2013

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whoever saves a life saves the entire world

In Yad Vashem's Memorial, in Jerusalem, the Garden of the Righteous remembers those who tried to rescue the Jews in the Holocaust: those who hidd them, helped them expatriate with forged documents, nourished them or gave them a job; those who, seeing them suffer, helped them somehow instead of remaining indifferent.In Yerevan's Wall of Remembrance the memorial stones remember the rescuers of Armenians during the genocide of 1915, those who tried to stop the massacre, refused to obey orders, sheltered children, reported the extermination that was occurring beneath their hopeless eyes to the world's public opinion.
In 1994 in Rwanda, some Tutsies who were hunted by the interahamwe militias were protected by neighbours, friends - some times strangers, too - belonginf to the Hutu ethnic group, who refused participating in the "man hunt" with machetes that had been planned by other Hutus to exterminate the country's Tutsi minority.
While ethnic cleansing was ravaging Bosnia leading to the murder of thousands innocent victims some people trying to escape the massacre were helped in the same way by neighbours, school mates, friends, or strangers, who were members of other ethnic groups.
Still todate, in many places in the world, there are such rescuers who risk and sometimes lose their lives in the attempt of helping the victims, and become victims themselves. Other times they lose their jobs, wellbeing, social status or they are imprisoned, tortured, cast out. At any rate, even before starting their endeavours, they know they run a serious risk, but they prefer doing so rather than bearing the weigh of remorse for remaining indifferent for the rest of their lives. Everytime by their action they "save the entire world", as stands in the Talmud.

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