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Dante Corneli 1900 - 1990

a anti-fascist italian writer, he was imprisoned in a gulag for ten years

He was born in Tivoli in 1900 in a poor family. He started working when he was only ten and he became soon a trade unionist. In 1919 he subscribed to the Socialist Party and in 1921 he joined the PCd'I. He had to go in exile in 1922 to escape from the Fascists. He went to Petrograd after spending a period in Vienna and Berlin. He joined the Bolscevique Party, married a young muscovite communist and worked in a factory.
In Rostov, during the NEP, he signed a document that criticizes the Soviet system and joined the opposition to Stalin led by Trocky, Zinovev and Kamenev. For this reason, he was emarginated and retired from the political life.
In 1936 he was arrested by the political police, the NKVD, for his trotzkyst past and sent to the lager of Vorkuta, in Siberia. Only in the 1948 he can see again his wife and his son that was just born when he was arrested. A year later he was arrested again and sent forced residence in Igarka, on the Pole.
In 1960 he was released and went in Ucrania with his family (he had now two daughters, too) and contacted his kin in Tivoli.
He went back to Italy in 1965 with the help of Umberto Terracini and two years later he went back with his wife.
In 1970 he decided to settle down in Tivoli and his familiars, that were still in USSR, had to face the consequences of this choice. Corneli wanted to denounce the Soviet lager and wishes to do that in his country. He had no education and was not used to speak Italian; he was surrounded by the contempt of his fellows of the PCI, who considered him a traitor. Nonetheless he started writing his memories that he published at his own expenses. Only in 1977 the publishing house La Pietra, near to Pietro Secchia, accepted the manuscript, entitled "Il redivivo tiburtino", that was an opposer of Togliatti. The work was not mentioned during the years of the Historic Compromise and only after the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the opening of the Soviet secret archives, the denounce of Corneli provokes the interest that deserves. In the meantime he died, on the 10th September 1990, being isolated and forgotten by everybody.

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Stories of Italian victims

of Soviet totalitarianism

During the Twenties and until the early Thirties of the Twentieth Century, political refugees joined the ranks of the traditional Italian immigrant communities in Kerc’ and Mariupol. These newcomers were communists, anarchists, socialists and antifascists in general. Moscow became the destination of continuous political pilgrimage: very often, albeit for a short time, it was visited by the middle and high rank Italian Communist Party officials, the militants who came to work as officers in the party's branches and, in the end, the cadres who had to study at the party schools. We can calculate that at the time there were nearly 4,000 Italian in the USSR.
As a whole, nearly 1.020 underwent some kind of crackdown from 1919 and 1951: shooting, internment in a labour camp, confinement, deportation, deprivation of civil rights, loss of job, outcasting. At least 110 where shot and 140 sentenced to forced labour, while about 50 of them were confined, while over 550 members of the Italian communities in Crimea were deported to Northern Kazakhstan in 1942.
Despite all, many kept on believing in the ideal of communism and those among them who managed to get into safety, very often returned to civil life resigned and hopeless. Some of them instead were deceived, above all to honor the disappeared comprades. In this mission they met with huge difficulties, they risked to undergo new persecutions and they underwent discrimination and ostracism.
Their tales have just started coming into light, as the Soviet archives are opened and the group Memorial in Moscow carries out its denounciation activities.