Italy welcomes a war hero and the values ​​he aspires to

ROME – Many of those mourning the wake and funeral of Mario Fiorentini – Italy’s most decorated resistance fighter who died Tuesday at the age of 103 – had stories to tell. .

They included a charming 102-year-old partisan, as World War II freedom fighters were known in Italy, who met “Mario” in 1944, when they helped liberate Rome from its occupiers. Nazi Germany and never lost contact. And the math teacher greatly admired Mr. Fiorentini, who became a mathematician and professor after the war, for being able to make mathematics interesting even for the youngest minds.

And the postal worker happened to befriend Mr. Fiorentini and ended up writing a letter a biography coincides with his 100th birthday. “He was a life teacher who changed me,” says author Mirko Bettazzi. “I am nobody,” he said—they had nothing in common, but that was Mario. “Open to meet everyone,” and an inspiration to many.

Hundreds of people woke up on Wednesday and a funeral full of military honors on Thursday commemorated Mr. Fiorentini and his heroic resistance against the fascist dictatorship.

For some, Mr. Fiorentini’s wartime deeds have reverberated ahead of next month’s national elections that polls suggest will belong to a centre-right coalition whose leading candidate for prime minister is likely to fall. The general, Giorgia Meloni, was a descendant of Italian post-fascist parties.

Those who knew Mr. Fiorentini remember his courage, his unwavering faith and willingness to fight for freedom, his insatiable curiosity in all things.

And they talked about his two great passions: mathematics, “which he studied madly,” his son Giancarlo said at Mr Fiorentini’s funeral on Thursday, and his love for his wife. , Lucia Ottobrini, who fought with him to liberate Rome. . They shared 70 years of marriage until her death in 2015.

“He can do what he did for Lucia,” their grandson, Suriel Capodacqua, said at the public viewing. A photo of the couple, taken in Paris in 1946, leaning against the casket. They had married a year earlier, in August 1945, at Rome’s City Hall, where Mr. Fiorentini’s public premiere was held. Mr Capodacqua said his grandmother’s wedding dress was made from an umbrella because “it was the only white fabric available at the time”.

Medals, including the medal of valor, were placed on a blue pillow over Mr. Fiorentini’s coffin, along with an Italian flag embossed with the emblem of the National Association of Followers. Italian Party, or ANPI, of which Mr. Fiorentini was an active member.

After Rome was liberated from Nazi Germany in June 1944, Fiorentini asked to be parachuted into northern Italy to continue fighting. His family said he was awarded the Donovan Medal for his work as a liaison officer with the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, as well as the British Special Forces medal.

Mr. Fiorentini, whose father was a Jew, was one of the last survivors from resistance groups that fought German forces for control of northern and central Italy in 1943. About 2,000 people The partisans who fought the war are still alive, Fabrizio said. De Sanctis, president of a local branch of ANPI, “but epidemic and hot this summer have faced harsh blows,” he added.

On Wednesday night, two parties and old friends of Mr. Fiorentini – Gastone Malaguti and Iole Mancini – paid their respects and for a few minutes stood in silence beside his coffin.

Like Fiorentini, 96-year-old Malaguti, a member of a partisan group in Bologna, regularly visited schools before the pandemic to explain student resistance. Sometimes he talks so much that he loses his voice, he said, adding, “They wanted to know a lot of things – details, my first act, how I found the courage in Age 17.”

This early year, Miss Mancini102, published a book about her experience in the resistance, fighting alongside Mr. Fiorentini and Mrs. Ottobrini. Mr. Fiorentini was a witness at her wedding to another boxer, Ernesto Borghesi. “So many memories, a lifetime – we were always in touch,” she said.

Keeping the memory of the resistance is getting harder and harder. “Young people today don’t understand the meaning of this simple word, freedom,” she said. “But then they’ve never lived through a dictatorship.”

“Our resistance was born to liberate Italy from fascism,” she said. “We have succeeded with many deaths – best friends, comrades who died for this ideal: freedom of thought, freedom of action.”

She continued sadly: “Then, unfortunately, life taught me that there are no shared interests. Everyone, think for yourself.” Italian politicians, she said, have forgotten what it means to “fight for an ideal, for the common good”.

Recall the many titles that marked his death – calling him “the last great member of the party”, “a symbol of the resistance”, “a great Italian” or a “partisan professor” – Gianfranco Pagliarulo , president of ANPI, said all is correct. .

But he added that he prefers to see him through the lens Fiorentini used for himself: an ordinary person who displayed an extraordinary will and passion when the time needed it.

And though his resistance hero status has made him nationally known, Fiorentini is far more proud of his rarer status as a remarkable mathematician. “Remember,” he told De Sanctis, the local ANPI official, “the resistance against Nazism is the most beautiful page in our history, but mathematics is more important.”

Fiorentini’s collected papers were compiled by Paulo Ribenboim, a Brazilian-Canadian mathematician specializing in number theory.

At the funeral, several speakers warned that freedom, and democracy, are hard-won values ​​that should not be taken for granted.

Mr. Capodacqua, a grandson who has lived with Mr. Fiorentini for 26 years, warned that fascism could still stand in Italy. “Never forget who Mario Fiorentini is and what is in his heart,” he said.

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