As Giorgio La Pira used to say, “At the sunset of life, what matters is how much we have loved.” This famous citation was the keynote of the entire event held in the Loppiano Auditorium last 28 November, and was invoked by Donato Palarchi, President of the Cultural Club “Towards Europe” of Arezzo, which sponsored the initiative together with IUS. Though the meeting focused on the civil and political path of Alcide De Gasperi, what stood at the core of the extraordinary dialogue undertaken with the Trentine Stateman’s daughter, Maria Roma De Gasperi, was precisely that continuous and pulsating love that stood behind all the actions, both private and public, of one of the greatest figures that have edified the history of Italy in the last century.
The evening was emceed by Marco Luppi, IUS professor in Theory of Politics, with the special participation of Rosa Bruna De Pasquale, once Member of Parliament and currently Director of the Tuscan Region’s Scholastic Office.
Mrs. De Gasperi, with 92 years of precious experience and enviable temperament, on rising to answer every question, managed to trace for a fascinated audience, an intense and moving testimonial. The evening featured also the reading of some brief writings gathered in a podcast on De Gasperi produced by the European Human Resources Network– “True to my star” (2008) – in which the careful biographer alternated the tone of confidentiality, with respect to the daily domestic affairs of a family rooted in deep and universal values, with the detailed narration of some crucial moments on the institutional scenario of the second post-war period, when the President of the Council guided the reconstruction of Italy. It consisted of just a few flashbacks to describe a time in the past, which especially the youth in the audience would have wanted to deepen further.
A poor politician for the poor
“When my father died, I thought of writing what the people should have been told about him: I gathered hundreds and hundreds of articles. People had to see what kind of man he was… Mrs. De Gasperi said. With a few coins in his pocket he left for his studies in Austria, studies which my grandfather could not afford to pay for. In Vienna he lived in a tiny room, and ate at the public canteen. All his life he had no difficulty in understanding the poor people, given that he had lived in those conditions. He knew what it meant to be sick and alone, to suffer from the cold, and ask for help from some friend to be able to get by and study.” “A man is formed when young; start in this way if you want to do something serious in life…” he further said, to conclude the brief insight of the period spent in Vienna at the turn of the century.
A father of the European dream“Also sharing his accommodations with a Slav student, a Hungarian, and others of different nationalities, helped him to reflect on the unity of European peoples. He knew what they needed and desired, and when he entered the Viennese Parliament for his first experience in politics, he brought along with him the wealth of this experience.” And the old Viennese Parliament still conserves a plate on the seat occupied by Alcide De Gasperi.
Tracing his life at this point, also drew up the figures of Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman, who represented the profile of a semi-destroyed Germany and of beleaguered France, two great personages, who with Alcide De Gasperi did all they could to avert the risk of a third world war.
Maria Romana De Gasperi often underlined her father’s constant reference to “giving to sons and grandchildren a true future of peace, which had to ensure the impossibility of killing one another, so much so that the Alps, till then a symbol of the confines beyond which the enemy lived, would have turned into hills. How many young people today cross these hills to pursue various initiatives of the Union, like the Erasmus university projects?”.
A similar logic transpired also from the proposal dictated by the times, to give Europe a common Army: for De Gasperi who was an anti-militarist, this would have required a common political entity able to deliberate its own policies. It was a step ahead, therefore. “Of course, none of the three fathers could have imagined how much time would have passed, how difficult it would have been for many governments to renounce something so as to help the other; how much distance there was still to travel. I don’t know if the youth will succeed, since we did not make it…”.
A free man, at everybody’s service
Sitting beside his daughters in the evening hours dedicated to them, he would read Dante’s “Inferno,” commenting on the rhymes and drawings: “…because humanity is like this.” On 8 September 1944, also he had to go into hiding, in a convent in the Lateran. Then came the time to restore the country’s hopes: “At times my father seemed like a valorous warrior wielding his sword: ready to undertake any type of sacrifice so that principles could be given the right value. And I didn’t mind having only two pairs of shoes, even when my dad was President: we didn’t really mind.”
The memoirs of Alcide De Gasperi live on today also thanks to the tireless commitment of the Foundation with the same name, established in Trent. But they will survive especially if, besides remembering his exceptional work, the new generation will know how to merit the price paid by men and women like these.
Author: Mario Agostino
Photos: Noemi Sanches