I elaborated with rhetorical skill on the subject ‘Should we die for the glory of Mussolini and the immortal destiny of Italy?’
My answer was positive.
I was a smart boy.
I spent two of my early years among the SS – Fascists – Republicans and partisans shooting at one another and I learned how to dodge bullets.
It was good exercise.
In April 1945 the partisans took over in Milan.
Two days later they arrived in the small town where I was living at the time.
It was a moment of joy.
The main square was crowded with people singing and waving flags – calling in loud voices for Mimo the partisan leader of that area.
A former maresciallo of the Carabinieri Mimo joined the supporters of General Badoglio – Mussolini’s successor and lost a leg during one of the first clashes with Mussolini’s remaining forces.
Mimo showed up on the balcony of the city hall – pale – leaning on his crutch and with one hand tried to calm the crowd.
I was waiting for his speech because my whole childhood had been marked by the great historic speeches of Mussolini – whose most significant passages we memorized in school.
Mimo spoke in a hoarse voice – barely audible.
He said: ‘Citizens – friends. After so many painful sacrifices … here we are. Glory to those who have fallen for freedom.”
And that was it.
He went back inside.
The crowd yelled – the partisans raised their guns and fired festive volleys.
We kids hurried to pick up the shells – precious items – but I had also learned that freedom of speech means freedom from rhetoric.
A few days later I saw the first American soldiers.
They were African Americans.
The first Yankee I met was a black man – Joseph – who introduced me to the marvels of Dick Tracy and Li’l Abner.
His comic books were brightly colored and smelled good.