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The Peace of Gessopalena on Armistice Day

by Sam Dunham

On a hop, skip & jump through Abruzzo’s villages, past well-tended central memorials, one often wonders how many villagers were left at the end of the First & Second World .

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Faced with a brutal occupying force, with fierce Apennine resistance my elderly neighbours in our little village tell how they were forced as children to trap and eat sparrows by their parents;  you hear stories of the chronic post-war poverty, children being forced to leave their family & homes and work long hours on farms nearer Rome just to secure a meal.

Today was 11/11/11, Armistice Day, which is celebrated in Italy however on the 4th Armistice of Giusti.  With a new-born son I have spent most of it cringing and weeping inside as I listen to the radio, impressed upon by poetry and plays that I zone in & out of.  I read newspapers filled with tales of men, women, children and animals that suffered so greatly.

Gessopalena Memorial

From an introduction by my English teachers to the poetry of Sassoon, Brooke & Owen, coupled with the harrowing silence that would envelope my grandfather when asked with childish naivety of the horrors of war, I never truly understood the nature of sacrifice through the miasma of politics…however this quickly dispelled by a visit to the open-air Museo del Gesso in Gessopalena.  This is the remains of Gessopalena’s medieval heart which was bombed along with its inhabitants by Axis forces on their departure.  Viewing the remains of the shattered homes and its memorial looking out towards the fresh faced motherly , you simultaneously view the horror we inflict on one another whilst seeing the beauty of freedom that so many people are still fighting a battle for.  It’s a wonderful place to see the good and bad, with a view that makes you see and remember.