There is the archive and then, there is working in the archive in search of a silenced history to produce a short film that narrates it.
In Trieste, as I worked in the archive, I became the ‘human fabric’ on which the documents worked. I started to record my own experience in discovering history, and people I would have normally been familiar with if history in Trieste was not silenced.
However, the impact of silenced history became palpable only when I confronted Vladimir Turina’s legacy, a rich archival collection. There, through the mending of broken links between family’s members, I found there was an inescapable connection between the cultural context that had been the target of persecution and my own childhood memories when places were visited without acknowledgement of their familiarity and customs were kept without recognition of their origins. When discovered and interpreted with the use of the documents in the archive, also in my case these “traces acquired meaning and enabled a new discovery of the past” (Jonker, J. and Till, E.K. 2009:303-335).
From the documents I found, I started to build the structure for a film that would allow me to express the sense of estrangement I felt in suddenly learning about Vladimir’s existence and the persecution he endured under Italian Fascism. Estrangement is a very challenging mental space to inhabit, where the words of Milan Kundera about Czech citizens opposing the communist regime resonate: “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” (1996:4), except that I contemplated the political amnesia created by Fascism first, and later on by Christian-Democracy (the leading political party in Italy from 1944 to 1994).
Similarly to Leo Spitzer’s reading of his family’s photos (2006: 229-252), my reading of Vladimir’s archive was ‘reparative.’ It narrates the trial of ‘putting life back in where only a vague memory or a bare trace was visible only to those who bothered to look’ (Gordon, 2008:22). The narrative I formed through the information I acquired, I cast a very personal understanding of the Italian ‘punitive missions’ against the Slavs that became particularly frequent after 1918 and contributed to the creation of what is known as the ‘Fascism of the border’. Additional documents gave me an overview on the events of April 3, 1920, when for the first time Slav shops, clubs, and houses in Trieste were simultaneously attacked and people were publically harassed.
Reading Vladimir’s school records I could see how these events impacted upon his life. He had to move from town to town in an attempt to complete his education in the Slovenian language while schools were closed, and he was forced to enrol in an Italian University. To me, his personal troubles constitute the occasion for considering how the indigenous Slav inhabitants were not only denied the right to any form of public expression of their culture but also were not allowed to be anything else but Italians. The forced Italianization, the closing of the school, burning of any Slav heritage belonging to the city, and the existence of the Italian concentration camps had to be mediated within this context, as they resonated with me through Vladimir’s predicament.
Here a document I found. It orders the enlargement of the Italian concentration camps of Visco and Gonars, of which Gonars mostly for Slavs.