B hiDI MARINA VIOLA
I met Silvia Baraldini many years ago, perhaps in 1994, when I still lived in New Jersey and she in Danbury Federal Prison, in the state of Connecticut. From then until the birth of Sofia, in 1999, I went to visit her at least once a month and, melted the initial ice typical of those who do not know, in recent years we have developed a beautiful friendship.
I remember when in 1997, after she had participated in all stages of my pregnancy, we found out that Luca had disabilities. He was one of the few people, outside the family, who called me regularly to let me vent the anger and pain that accumulated in me.
I remember when I went to see her with Luca. The other women in the prison took him to play in the designated area for the children, so that Silvia and I could have some peace and talk.
I remember when he paid a woman in jail with her to make a crochet lion puppet for Luca, who now dominates the new house of Sofia, who shows it proudly telling all the absurd events of her mother’s friend, whose name is Silvia Baraldini and who was unjustly imprisoned with a sentence of 43 years in prison.
In short, the memories are infinite.
One thing we had (and still have) in common: we are Italian in America and American in Italy. There is little to do: when you are born in one country and when you are young you leave it to go and live in another place, it happens to everyone. The flaws and strengths of the two countries are beginning to be seen very clearly and objectively, and the difficult thing is to find people with whom to share these observations.
After twenty years of silence (Silvia was then extradited to Italy, where she is now finally free), the other day, with great emotion, I called her. I have wanted to hear it for a long time, but when something very big happens in the United States, like the anti-racist protests these days after the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd by a police officer, the first person I thought of calling was her.
I was thinking of an initial hindrance: after all, many years had passed. But instead no. Silvia is a straightforward person, and she gets annoyed to hear the “I missed you”, “How nice to hear”, and various things. He immediately wanted to see Luca, who is now 23 years old. “He has the same face as when he was a kid!” he said with a smile.
But almost immediately we started talking about the facts that are happening on American streets. Just that afternoon, I had started a discussion on Facebook about the film Gone With the Wind, and many Italians did not understand why a beautiful film, among other things very old, had to undergo such a persecution right now. “I have the feeling,” I said to Silvia, “that Italy is still there a very Eurocentric gaze about this kind of thing. I understand that Italian and European history has not lived through 400 years of slavery first and then racial segregation (but colonialism yes, ed) but in short, at least a minimum of solidarity towards the African American people, considering that many use the slogan Black Lives Matter!“, I said frustrated.
Obviously he gave me reason, and he told me of his difficulty, at times, in talking about this kind of thing with his Italian friends. “Also there issue of statues”, He told me animatedly. “They are racist symbols, they were built to remind the South of the war between North and South, fought to free slaves. The South has lost, but still believes it is important to show the various racist generals of the time. In the name of history. As if the Americans without the statue forgot … “. It would be like having a Hitler statue in Berlin, we said: is it really necessary to have a Hitler statue to remind us of what he did? It doesn’t seem to me.
As we spoke, a thought came to my mind: I am speeches that I can only do with her, that is, only with a person who is extremely intelligent and capable of seeing American reality with a rare knowledge of the cause to find. Likewise, both you and me (and maybe you are much better than me, since you live in it), we see Italy in a more objective way, more complete, e we know American culture in a profound and intimate way.
We then talked about something else: his travels and his work, my books and my boys. We promised to hear from you soon and to see you as soon as I arrive in Italy. Like many years ago, when I was sailing in the dark with Luca, Silvia made me feel less alone and also for this reason I love her.
American diary: me, Silvia and Black lives matter