Italy today gave up the former Slovenian cultural center – one hundred years on that day it was burned down by fascists.
The movement, carried out in Trieste, is aimed at healing wounds with ethnic Slovenes in the northeastern city.
Italy annexed Trieste from the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of World War I, when Slovenian speakers made up about 25% of the city’s population.
Then, on July 13, 1920, Italian fascists set fire to the city’s cultural center, known as Narodni Dom in Slovenian, in retaliation for the killing of two Italian soldiers in Split, now part of Croatia, by Yugoslav nationalists.
A century later, Italian President Sergio Mattarella signed the building to the Slovenian community on Monday (July 13).
He said the handover marked “the beginning of a new chapter in the future with Italy and Slovenia, in the European spirit of mutual respect, cooperation and coexistence”.
“I know that feelings of division and pain are still strong,” he added. “Nevertheless, I am convinced that the desire for harmony and friendship is even stronger.”
His colleague, Slovenian President Borut Pahor, described it as “a dream come true as if all the stars had come together after one hundred years”.
“But they are [the stars] don’t do it ourselves – we do it, “he added.
The arson was a huge loss for the Slovenian community in Trieste.
It was one of the most modern buildings in Europe at the time, with a 400-seat theater and a glass roof that could be opened in the summer. It also has a fitness center, bank, music school, as well as restaurants and cafes, hotels and private apartments.
The building was restored and later became a hotel.
In the years after World War II and the fall of the Fascist regime, the Slovenian community asked the Italian authorities several times to hold host activities for them again.
“At the beginning of the 20th century, the Italian liberal party, which had a majority in Trieste, did not want to open Slovenian schools in the city center and limit the cultural, political and demographic presence of the Slovenians, who were more than a year old. the Trieste population, “said Marta Verginella, a historian at Ljubljana University
This attitude, he told Euronews, remained throughout the Fascist regime and also throughout the history of the Italian republic.
In January 2020, president Mattarella and president Pahor finally announced the surrender would take place in July, exactly 100 years after the burning.
Narodni Dom currently hosts a branch of the University of Trieste and a library with more than 43,000 books.
After the surrender, the building will be owned by an organization formed by two Slovenian minority associations, the Slovenian Economic and Cultural Union (SKGZ) and Confederation of Slovenian Organizations (SSO).