Tribute to the victims of
terrorist attacks worldwide
Comments: 8327
Mariela Baeva
Mariela Baeva
Member of the European Parliament for Bulgaria
2007 - 2009
(first direct EP elections in Bulgaria);

LEED to OECD partner (Nanotech)

Charter 4 Mobile

Charter 4 mobile

Anyone interested in fundamental rights in the European Union (EU) can now have easy access to the text of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in all official languages on their mobile device: http://fra.europa.eu/en/charter4mobile



Previous Image
Next Image

info heading

info content

The Letter

There’s expectation in the air, she thought, huddled a hundred yards

away. The pelting rain tore at the streams of onlookers meandering down the

grand ramped stairway, the Cordonata. Behind the central front window

throwing light to the Palace interior, she searched the piazza ahead. Her eyes

dimmed as she was overcome by memories of friends taken by the war. All

belonged to towns and villages of Bell’ Italia where the events of the WWII had

been in full sway to become the scene for crushing military campaigns across

the country and Europe.

A soft sigh. She felt the palpitation and cold sweat and that pricking behind

the eyes as her thoughts went to those who had attempted to trade lives for

the tramp of boots.

She surveyed the flight of steps – “wide so that nobles on horseback could

ascend the hill without dismounting” – leading to the piazza. The buzz of Rome

came with hundreds of boisterous people. They wended their way in the

torrential rain and peered through the guard.

The motorcade of black Lancia Aurelia emerged on Rome’s Capitoline Hill to

swing into the Piazza del Campidoglio. Castor and Pollux sculptures loomed at

the top. Civil Guards in Renaissance clothes, Carabinieri and mounted police

officers on duty snapped into a salute as the delegations eased up in close

proximity to the Palazzo dei Conservatori. Six flags were flapping in the

courtyard. Ornamental dark red roses and deep yellow tulips, intertwined with

eucalyptus and olive branches, erupted with the colours of the frescoes of the

Campidoglio.

Adriana?” She heard her name whispered. An imperceptible rustle behind and a whiff of Sandalwood cologne.

Oliver?” she asked softly as she turned to face the speaker. His eyes held hers.

The tall Briton, of slim build, wearing a suit in midnight blue with a pastel shirt and a habitual well-balanced expression, was smiling. He clasped her tiny hand and lifted it to his lips.

You – how nice to see you!” she bowed and strands of her silk auburn hair fell across her. While arranging them, she studied her companion. He never makes errors of taste, Adriana thought. The way he knots his tie and

always shows half an inch of cuff. A fleeting smile sped across her face –

Oliver’s presence was a release from the morning tension.

There was commotion in the Piazza. Adriana took her mind regretfully off him

and searched the courtyard ahead.

Paul-Henri Spaak, Joseph Bech, a few minutes later Konrad Adenauer and

Antonio Segni, followed by the French and Dutch delegations and guests in

impeccable order crossed the square that hosted the equestrian bronze statue of

the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and headed to the central portico of the Palazzo

dei Conservatori.

Adriana and Oliver swung away from the front window to join the hectic mass

of reporters and cameramen. The transmission was going out via all the

European stations.

Black frock-coated ushers greeted the guests. Snap. Flash. And they proceeded

at an unhurried, solemn pace to the “Sala degli Orazi e Curiazi”. Diplomats,

politicians, 200 journalists – Le Soir, Luxemburger Wort, Süddeutsche Zeitung,

Le Monde, Unita, radio and TV reporters met the charcoal-suited dignitaries.

The working meetings and sessions, notably to consider last-minute

amendments to narrow the gaps in the national positions, were to be held on that

Monday morning of the 25 March, 1957. It was 22 months after the Messina

Conference that had marked out new paths for Europe.

Near Algardi’s bronze statue of Pope Innocent X, there was a quiet, uninhabited spot. Adriana and Oliver set out for it.

Adriana gathered her taffeta skirt with wasp-like waist and sat at the edge of the richly carved sofa. D’Arpinos’s frescoes around her showed legendary episodes of ancient Rome.

I’ll give him the letter,” Adriana said at once. A tension furrow started at her

forehead.

I couldn’t find out anything about her,” Oliver said as he examined her delicate face, her lips pressed so tightly together that they formed a strip. She forced herself to speak.

You weren’t certain that you’d got her name correct, Oliver. How could you

find any traces of a family of hers? What if the child was an orphan? Keep the

memory and go on with it!”

Adriana bowed to hide the tear that trickled down her cheek. Endlessly stirring

his porcelain cup of thick black coffee, Oliver wanted to press the point but did

not. He ran a hand over his hair. He reeled back the moment they roared out of

the craft: We landed on the beaches…Just before moving four miles inland, I

saw her…Sitting alone, her clothes torn, her hair in bunches, her crystal-clear

blue eyes drowned in tears…

Oliver?”

Sorry, Ad. I was wondering…If Tiger I didn’t break through our defense, they both might have been…”

You never know, Oliver,” Adriana could hardly speak. ”Anyway, you shattered the attacks and opened the road to Rome,” she tried a smile.

Yes, agony and triumph, Oliver thought as he helped her up.

Some senior officials of the European Coal and Steel Community were busy

around with checking. The final 248 articles, bound in blue morocco, were being

clarified by the Foreign Ministers and their expert advisers. The Treaties were scheduled to be signed by 4 p.m. The avalanche of reporters was starting to gather in the Sala, extensively “cordoned off” on the thick-carpeted floor by 50 kilometres of TV and film equipment cable.

Adriana and Oliver joined the group. She noticed Signor Tupini, the Mayor of

Rome, and nodded to him. He presented the guests with a gold medal

representing lupa capitolina, the she-wolf that nursed the mythical twins

Romulus and Remus.

Adenauer, as the current President of the session, will now start his speech,”

Adriana whispered to Oliver. He placed trust in her; as a political journalist and

commentator she knew the protocol.

Chancellor Adenauer was studying the audience, his face granite. The joint

declaration on Berlin that had just affirmed support to their endeavors at home.

The tribute to the late De Gasperi. The horizons of the Treaties establishing the

Common Market denuded of frontiers and Euratom as atomic pool…After a

chain of years of hardship and despair. He heaved a sigh.

Without the great creativity of Mr Spaak, the Treaties would not have been

successfully completed. Europe has him to thank for this,” the Chancellor

concluded his address.

Joseph Bech, Luxembourg Foreign Minister, is next,” Adriana said to Oliver,

her words suffocated by the applauses. “He is said to be a man of wisdom and

objectivity. And quite instrumental in hosting the European Coal and Steel

Community in Luxembourg in 1951,” she added after the audience saluted

Bech’s speech.

As third in the row of six speakers, the imposing figure and narrow, aquiline

profile of the Dutch Foreign Minister Joseph Luns was silhouetted on

d’Arpino’s frescoes.

He has political friendships and contacts on both sides of the Atlantic,”

Adriana kept on sharing details with Oliver for his brand-new newspaper.

And an acute sense of humour,” she added.

A man of science, Gaetano Martino, the Italian Foreign Minister, was devoted to turning over a new leaf for Europe.

One of the “Three Wise Men,” Oliver caught the praise in Adriana’s voice.

His virtuosity in diplomacy was acknowledged during the Suez crisis.”

We need a closer cooperation between the Six and the United Kingdom,”

Christian Pineau, the French Foreign Minister, exposed his vision and surveyed

the listeners to let the impact of his words play.

He was capable of handling the Suez crisis,” Adriana said. “A syndicaliste;

French resistance leader; said to be unpredictable.”

The signing ceremony was gaining momentum when Paul-Henri Spaak, the

Belgian Foreign Minister, highlighted the importance of the event. His report at

the first Intergovernmental Conference in Venice authorized the preparation of

the two treaties seeking to make Europe stronger and more independent. It was

6.50 p.m. when he was the first to sign the founding treaties.

The bell tower of the Town Hall tolled.

Paul-Henri Spaak leaned back, placing his finger tips on the glossy tissue of the ceremony table. His emotions were so overwhelming that he could hardly

contain them. “Without a single shot being fired,” he whispered.

It was a moment of spontaneity when all rose to congratulate him.

The first great step towards European integration has been made,“ he said. “A

long road still lies ahead before the dream of my generation could come true”.

Instantaneous silence reigned. Tormented periods, marked by occupation,

campaigns, puppet governments, lust for power, resistance movements, defeated

lives, smashed illusions, stolen hopes seemed to have been over.

Oliver took his eyes off the speaker and looked at Adriana. Her head moved

slightly toward him and she could hardly suppress her grief. That pricking

behind the eyes again… The air in the hall seemed to thicken. Rain was heavier

than in the morning.

Adriana wavered and nearly pitched forward to cross Spaak’s way. She had

never had occasion before to see him that close. She was aware of a pair of

lucid eyes behind the half-moon glasses. There were dark rings of fatigue

beneath the eyes. His gaze was steady. He inclined his head and formed a tiny

smile: “Lady?”

I am a journalist, Mr. Spaak. I want to give you these. In memorium. For the 53 million casualties of soldiers and civilians. And for your commitment to an

“ever closer union”, Adriana handed the telegram and a letter. “Let them be the guarantee,” she added and bowed.

The telegram from the Ministry had been slipped beneath Adriana’s family

front-door one day at noon towards the end of January 1944. It contained the

Minister’s note of regret to inform Romano family of the death in a Red Cross

van of their son Roberto, Red Cross volunteer. ”No personal belongings are

available to be returned to you,” the telegram said.

For some months Adriana’s world fell to pieces. That little Roberto, her little

brother, disapproving of the war he had volunteered for at 19, in

peace and integrity only when alone with his medical books, had been killed by

an explosion from a shell.

Then, quite suddenly one winter morning, a British military turned up at their

house at a weekend when no one but she was at home. The military was

interested to know if he could speak to Ms Adriana. She confirmed and stared at

him. He said he belonged to the Royal Scots Fusiliers and had a letter from her

brother. She gestured him in and took the proffered envelope.

My dearest sister,

It seems ages since I last wrote to you. How are you, Ad? Mom? Dad? Here, we’ve fallen on bad times this January. We’ve been driving from village to village. Most wiped out. A few days here, half a month there. One day, in the half light of dawn, we ran into a battalion – so did we several times before. This time there was a bitter skirmish and our driver took a bullet through the lungs. He died coughing blood on my knees.

But, as a matter of fact, the important thing I wanted to tell you in this letter was Angelita’s appearance – we never knew if we got her name correct. Truly a memorable day. Around 50,000 Anglo-American marines landed 35 miles south of Rome, in the small fishing port of Anzio. They were to attack the German front of Cassino from the rear. On a frosty morning, nine days ago, Oscar from the Royal Scots Fusiliers found the child lost and crying on the beach in a bomb cannonade. He took her to his regiment where the girl was cared for a while. Shortly afterwards, the regiment found our Red Cross van and left her with us.

Oh well, you have to see her blue eyes – grief and triumph of life. Now we’re both writing this letter in the van and watching the flutter of pigeons sent skyward by the recent crash of fire.

I’ll have to stop now. We’re driving inland and have to be cautious. Do let me know how things are going with you. Pass on my regards to Mom and Dad. When I’m back, I’ll buy them the house perched high on the cliff with that spectacular view over the sea.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Your loving brother,
Roberto

P.S.: Oliver will deliver this letter promptly to you when his regiment reaches Rome.

Perhaps you would serve him our Cabernet?

The letter had been written minutes before an explosion from a shell struck the Red Cross van.

Spaak – who was able to look in the eyes and grasp what people meant to say –

uttered in a regretful tone: “Your pain is pain experienced by any family

belonging to any nation anywhere in Europe.”

He started for the exit of the Sala and halted, “Europe will never again be a

game in which one side wins and the other loses.”

Then there was silence.

23 Responses to The Letter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved.