Mediterraneo (in English)

The film Mediterraneo (1991) directed by Gabriele Salvatores tells the story of a small group of Italian soldiers sent to a small Greek island in 1941 to establish a garrison there.  Lieutenant Raffaele Montini narrates the opening scenes in which he introduces the “platoon of misfits like me”:  There is a mule driver, two brothers who are mountain men, a sergeant and a deserter, among other quirky people.  It’s one year after Italy joined Germany against the Allies, and the Lieutenant says our mission is to “observe and report,” our strategic importance…zero.

The island, called Megisti in the film, was shot on the Greek island of Castelrosso (Kastellorizo in Greek).  It is located in the Levant Sea in the eastern Mediterranean not far from Rhodes and only 2 kilometers from Turkey.  When the Italian soldiers arrive, the island appears to be deserted.  The first night they see bombing on the horizon and by radio interception, they discover that the ship that had been intended to pick them up was destroyed.  Gradually, people reappear in the village.  They say they hid because the Germans had taken all their men, but seeing that the Italians were absolutely harmless, they decided to return to their normal lives. 

The Italian soldiers are absorbed into the lives of the Greek islanders, and the days are idyllic, full of friendship and love.  The local orthodox priest asks the lieutenant, who is an amateur painter, to restore the murals in the church.  The mountain men brothers befriend a lovely shepherdess, who, in turn, loves them equally.  The sergeant, the only one with a spirit for war, learns folk dancing.  And the shyest soldier falls in love with the island’s prostitute, Vasilissa (which means “queen” in Greek).  They marry…she in an elegant Greek bridal gown…and eventually open up a restaurant together.  In fact, there are many Italian and Greek cultural elements in the film—like coffee and soccer—that reinforce the theme of “one face, one race.”

Three years later, a reconnaissance plan makes an emergency landing on the island.  The pilot tells them what happened in Italy, from the fall of fascism to the allied liberation of the country.  The ending of the film is the reunion of some of these soldiers on the Greek island.

This film won many awards, including an Oscar for the Best Foreign Film in 1992.  However, there were many film critics at the time who found the film “superficial” and without “any redeeming merits.”  These critics were not living though a pandemic in which people were craving a sense of normalcy, beauty and peace.  Nor did they anticipate that people would want to travel…if only for two hours…to an absolutely idyllic Greek island.

Posted in Differenze culturali, English, Film, Foto, Italia, Politica, Storia, Vacanze | 1 Comment

Un miracolo di Natale

Mentre questa storia circolava sui media di tutto il mondo, a dicembre 2020, ha anche ricevuto un titolo: “il miracolo del Natale”. È la storia del ricongiungimento di un soldato americano in servizio in Italia durante la seconda guerra mondiale e dei tre bambini italiani che lui stesso salvò.

Nell’ottobre del 1944, il ventenne Martin Adler era tra le truppe statunitensi che stavano liberando dai nazisti l’area intorno a Monterenzio, un villaggio sull’Appennino vicino a Bologna. Entrò in una casetta di Monterenzio sperando che non nascondesse soldati tedeschi. Ma quando sentì un rumore provenire da un grande cesto di vimini, era pronto a sparare. Una madre in preda al panico corse nella stanza gridando: “Non sparate … bambini, bambini!” Tre fratelli (un bambino e due bambine), dai 3 ai 6 anni, saltarono fuori dal cesto. Sollevato, Adler chiese se poteva fare una foto con i bambini usando una macchina fotografica che aveva con sé. La loro madre acconsentì, a condizione che potesse vestirli con i loro abiti migliori.

Dopo la guerra, Adler iniziò a soffrire della sindrome da stress post-traumatico da stress.  Ricevette una medaglia di bronzo per aver salvato i feriti, ma vide morire molte persone. Adler negli anni custodì gelosamente la foto scattata con i bambini come un prezioso ricordo della guerra. Si chiedeva spesso chi fossero e dove vivessero.

Ora ha 96 anni e vive a Boca Raton, in Florida, Adler ha chiesto a sua figlia, Rachelle, se poteva trovarli. Il 12 dicembre lei ha pubblicato un messaggio e la foto su una pagina Facebook per i soldati veterani di stanza in Italia. Il messaggio è stato letto da Matteo Incerti, scrittore e giornalista emiliano-romagnolo che ha scritto un libro sulla seconda guerra mondiale. Incerti ha ripubblicato il messaggio e la foto e li ha condivisi con giornali e televisioni sia locali che nazionali. 

Il giorno successivo, in occasione della festa di Santa Lucia, una donna ha contattato Incerti su Facebook, dicendogli che un uomo di 83 anni aveva bisogno di parlare con lui riguardo la fotografia. Ricorda Incerti: “Ho preso un respiro profondo e commosso ho chiamato il numero di telefono di un certo Sig. Bruno Naldi, nato nel 1937. Emozionato, mi dice che si è riconosciuto nella foto e che a casa sua ricorda gli americani, in una frazione di Monterenzio, sull’Appennino Bolognese.” Bruno gli racconta che le due ragazze con lui nella foto sono le sorelle Mafalda e Giuliana, nate nel 1938 e nel 1941. Sono tutte e tre vivi e abitano a Castel San Pietro, in provincia di Bologna. Anche se “i bambini” non ricordano di aver scattato la fotografia quel giorno, non hanno mai dimenticato il cesto in cui si nascosero e la cioccolata ricevuta dai soldati americani.


Incerti ha subito organizzato una videochiamata tra Adler e i tre fratelli. Ricordando alcune parole italiane che aveva imparato durante la guerra, la prima cosa che Adler ha detto loro è stata: “Ciao bambini. Vuoi del cioccolato?”  Era come se il tempo si fosse fermato. Bruno ha ricordato che durante la guerra era andato a rifugiarsi dal nonno. Alla fine, è stato in grado di riunirsi con sua madre e le sorelle, ed è stato a questo punto che le loro vite si sono incrociate con quella di Martin. Durante un incontro Adler ha detto, emozionato, che gli piacerebbe vivere fino a 100 anni in modo da poter venire in Italia per abbracciare Bruno, Mafalda e Giuliana quando la pandemia sarà finita. Adler ha detto che era “estremamente felice… quella foto mi ricorda un giorno molto felice, il più felice della guerra. Trovarli è il regalo più grande per un soldato. ” Quella notte Bruno vide di nuovo le immagini al telegiornale … e ha pianto.

Per Incerti, che in passato ha risolto casi simili, questa storia sarà l’inizio di un nuovo libro. “Tutti lo chiamano un miracolo di Natale”, ha detto. “È una favola … una favola della vita nata nell’oscurità della guerra. In questi momenti bui del nostro tempo, abbiamo tutti bisogno di trovare il calore umano e l’amore.”

Posted in Foto, Italia, Italiano, Storia | 1 Comment

A Christmas Miracle

As this story circulated on social media and in newspapers and television throughout the world in December 2020, it was dubbed “the Christmas miracle.”  It is the story of the reunion of an American soldier stationed in Italy during World War II and the three Italian children that he saved. 

In October 1944, 20-year old Martin Adler was among the United States troops liberating from the Nazis the area surrounding Monterenzio, a village in the Apennines near Bologna.  He entered a cottage in Monterenzio hoping it did not hide German soldiers.  But when he heard a noise coming from a large wicker basket, he was prepared to shoot.  A panicked mother ran into the room shouting, “Don’t shoot…children, children!” Three siblings, about 3 to 6 years old, jumped out of the basket.  Relieved, Adler asked if he could have a photo taken with the children using a camera he had with him.  Their mother agreed, provided that she could dress them in their best clothes. 

After the war, Adler suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome.  He received a bronze medal for saving wounded people, but he also saw a lot of people die.  Over the years, Adler jealously guarded the photo taken with the children as a precious memento of the war.  He often wondered who they were and where they lived. 

Now 96 years of age and living in Boca Raton, Florida, Adler asked his daughter, Rachelle, if she could find them.  On December 12, she posted a message and the photo on a Facebook page for veteran soldiers who had been stationed in Italy.  The message was seen by Matteo Incerti, a writer and journalist from the Emilia-Romagna region who has written a book on the Second World War.  Incerti re-posted the message and photo and shared them with both local and national newspapers and television.

The next day, on the Feast of Santa Lucia, a woman notified Incerti on Facebook that an 83-year old man needed to talk with him about the photograph.  Incerti recalls, “I took a deep breath and, moved, I called the phone number of a Mr. Bruno Naldi, born in 1937.  Excited, he tells he that he recognized himself in the photo and that he remembers Americans in his house, in a hamlet of Monterenzio, in the Bolognese Apennines.”  Bruno tells him that the two girls in the photo with him are his sisters Mafalda and Giuliana, born in 1938 and 1941.  They are all three alive and live in Castel San Pietro, in the province of Bologna.  While “the children” don’t remember taking the photograph that day, they never forgot the basket that they hid in and the chocolate that American soldiers had given to them.

Incerti immediately set up a video call between Adler and the three siblings.  Recalling a few Italian words that he had learned during the war, the first thing Adler said to them was: “Hello children.  Would you like some chocolate?”  It was as if time had stopped.  Bruno recalled that during the war he had gone to take refuge with his grandfather.  Finally, he was able to reunite with his mother and sisters, and it was at this point that their lives crossed with Martin’s.  In an emotional reunion, Adler said he would like to live to be 100 so that he can come to Italy to hug Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana when the pandemic is over.  Adler said that he was “extremely happy…that photo reminds me of a very happy day, the happiest of the war.  Finding them is the greatest gift for a soldier.”   That night Bruno saw the images on the news again…and he cried.

For Incerti, who has solved similar cases in the past, this story will be the start of a new book.  “Everyone is calling it a Christmas miracle,” he said.  “It’s a fairy tale…a fable of life born in the darkness of war.  In these dark moments of our time, we all need to find human warmth and love.”

Posted in English, Foto, Italia, Storia | 1 Comment