A new Journey of Memory

by Federica Calandrino – participant Journey of Memory

Also this year the Mondoaltro Foundation proposed to the young people of the area a training course on the Memory of the Shoah, included in the “Artisans of Peace” project co-financed by Caritas Italiana. The path started during the #RAZZAUMANA event, organized on the occasion of the Memorial Day on January 28 in Agrigento, an initiative that involved many young people and students from the diocese. From that event, the proposal for a new Journey of Memory started, to be carried out in collaboration with ANED (National Association of Ex Deports in the Nazi camps). An extraordinary opportunity that was given to me and to five other travel companions who were selected to live the experience. You are therefore the young people involved: Giuseppe Guddemi from Calamonaci, Claudio Di Benedetto, Federica Calandrino and Giovanni Vullo from Agrigento, Noemi Lupo and Miriam Lupo from Favara.

The pre-departure path immediately involved the group, proposing training sessions to deepen the historical, philosophical and social aspects of the Holocaust; among these, the formative meeting with Don Giuseppe Agrò, which allowed us to re-read that page of history in a new light.

The trip, which took place between 9 and 13 May, had Rome as its first stop, where we had a meeting that marked us deeply: the testimony of Piero Terracina, ex deportee and survivor of Auschwitz, whose family was entirely exterminated in 1944. Piero, with his simplicity, telling his story, allowed us to reflect deeply on the meaning of Memory today, giving an example of great strength, getting up and moving forward, despite the cruelties suffered. Today its only mission is to sensitize the new generations so that certain tragedies never happen again. In the Roman stage we also had the opportunity to visit the Jewish quarter, under the guidance of Grazia Di Veroli, who proposed us an itinerary on the way of the stumbling blocks, which remind us of the stories of many families who were torn from the everyday life during the raking of the ghetto on 16 October 1943.

The second leg of the journey took us to Poland, to Krakow, a city you never forget. In this place, in the period before the racial laws, more than 68,000 Jews lived perfectly integrated into the Polish people. Of these only 5% will survive the death camps; a shocking fact that appears almost tangible to us during our visit to the territory of the former ghetto, where it is still possible to deeply perceive the vastness of the tragedy that has taken place. 68 empty chairs in the center of the Ghetto Heroes’ Square, representing the nearly 68,000 victims of the raids that took place there: men, women and children who would never have imagined that their life would be broken shortly thereafter.

The thoughts of the other participants …

Giovanni Vullo – Experience that touches the deepest strings of the soul and shows how far human horror and malice can go. Anyone who has lived or will experience such a journey has the duty to keep alive the memory that places and testimonies enclose; moreover, to make himself the spokesman of this memory, so that massacres like this one will not happen in the future.

Noemi Lupo – I found myself in front of those dormitories … little light penetrated the windows and I, in my mind, imagined thousands of children afraid and eager for their mothers, hurrying to go to bed immediately. 15/16 children per shelf, all piled up. At that moment I felt really small, but in my own small way I will testify because: “What happened cannot be canceled, but it can be prevented from happening again”.

Giuseppe Guddemi – This experience has been a journey backwards from history to history, from fact to experience, so that history that engulfs everything and returns everything in dates and numbers, has been slowly dissolved into millions of individual stories each with a name, a face, an identity. Stories of men, simple, normal, like those of other men. Lives brutally silenced by that banality of evil that latent lurks in every gesture that considers the other, the different, as an enemy.

Miriam Lupo – If I had not participated in the Journey of Memory I would never have understood the difference between what we absently study on books and what is reality. Piero Terracina’s story made me really understand that there were not only “numbers” inside the fields; but there were human lives, life stories, like that of Piero. Everyone has lived this experience in a personal and different way from each other. Who knows how many people were planning a trip, a wedding, or the birth of a child. Everything shattered in the blink of an eye.

Claudio Di Benedetto – The memory of what has often been missing; and soon there will no longer be even the direct witnesses of the Shoah. This is why our commitment to remember must be greater.