Bologna: Rose Colored and Red
Bologna, seat of one of Italy’s oldest and strongest local Communist governments, is now a turbulent place as political factions resort to extremes of violence. Only last year armored cars roamed the streets to quell the disturbances when leftist C.P. groups protested the jailing of their members.
How different the scene two decades ago when my husband Albert Weisbord and I spent a delightful week there! Serene and peaceful in atmosphere, filled with art treasures like most Italian cities, it seemed an ideal spot. I quote from my diary of the time: “Bologna, July 25, 1957. Albergo Regina, Via dell’ Independenza. Good third class hotel. Nice small room. Good clean bed. Seven drawers, hot water in court.” I described the fine old buildings, most of them colored in a rosy burnt sienna or amber tone, as were also some of the pavements. Arcades everywhere sheltered the pedestrian from the hot southern sun. And no mosquitoes! (Our previous sojourn had been in Firenze where our hotel was located right on the River Arno. The mosquitoes ate us up). The streets in Bologna were kept clean by elderly men or women wielding bundles of twigs as brooms… a good Italian custom.
The warm hospitality and humaneness of the people were not uncommon in Italy. And the food was outstanding. Read these menus and let your mouth water: 1. Green lasagna with sauce. Slice of ham rolled up with a little garlic and sweet sauce. Fageolini peperone with tomato sauce. Tomatoes and fruit. 2. Spaghetti al Pomodoro. Manzo bolkto con salsa verde. Eggplant Parmagean.
But these delights were not what impressed us most in Bologna and left such a poignant memory. That city had something I have seen nowhere else in Europe—and we traveled widely. It was on a big square, I believe it was called Neptune Square. On the wall of one of the large buildings were mounted side by side three huge glassed-in placards. They covered almost the entire wall. Behind the glass were endless enlarged photographs of people… all kinds of people, young, old, men and women 2000 in all (600 were women).
It had been in the days of World War II and Bologna like many other cities of Europe was occupied by the German forces. But the people of Bologna didn’t wait for the Allied armies to come to free them. Fed up with the Nazi scum, they arose, man, woman and child, fought the Nazis—and won. They liberated their own city. The pictures behind the glass were of the 2000 people, natives of Bologna who gave their lives in that struggle.
I read the inscriptions… workers, tradesmen, students, housewives, even children of 13 and 14 years. Smooth round faces of the young and craggy faces of elders—and in the eyes of all of them shone the clear light of courage and truth.
Martyrs of Bologna, you speak to us today. As the collapse of capitalism spreads, even here in its last stronghold the menace of Fascism threatens. Small, weak, ridiculous though the groups may be… Hitler started small! The people of Bologna showed us what to do—PUT THEM DOWN. Put down the Nazi hoodlums as soon as they raise their heads. The broadest sort of united front can be formed on this question—not merely workers, but middle class people, students, pacifists, religious groups, civil rights groups, even some sections of the bourgeoisie are not ready yet to accept Fascism and will fight for democratic rights. A small beginning was made in the successful counter-demonstration to Collin in Chicago Loop on June 24th. Let’s have more of that. Right on!
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