September 21st: that desire for redempmtion that has made the history of Matera

Vincenzo Luisi was just 16 years old. He was a lively and enterprising boy. Perhaps “too much” for his young age. He was employed by the prefecture and in the afternoon of September 21, 1943 was at his workplace when he heard repeated gunshots coming from outside, he rushed into the street and thought he saw the Allies get to town to free her from the Nazis: “Here come the Americans!”, he started to scream frantically running through the streets of the city center. Unfortunately he “met” the Germans instead, who captured and then imprisoned him: a few hours after his young life would tragically extinguished along with 11 other Materans dead in the rubble of the Militia building that was blown up by the Nazis before leaving headlong the city.

The cover of "Voglia di Riscatto" by Vito Sebastiani

The cover of “Voglia di Riscatto” by Vito Sebastiani

73 years after it’s by now clear what happened in Matera that day and why. That was not a “political” story and  has nothing to do with the Resistenza, simply because September 21 preceded that by almost two years. But perhaps it was the prelude: Matera was in fact the first Italian city to rise up against the Nazis, a week before the more famous “Four Days of Naples”. That was instead a purely popular riot.

After all, the city’s history is full of such events: the heroic resistance against the siege Saracens in the year 1000, in 1514 the killing of Count Tramontano, tyrant of the city for about 20 years and then the massacre of Count Gattini in 1860. Expressions of great dignity of a meek and patient people as the Ox that represents it, that when is “tired sinks even stronger his paw“, as the motto written on the emblem of the city .

Matera's emblem

Matera’s emblem

This is why the Silver Medal for military valor attributed to the city in 1966 had seemed reductive. But after exactly 50 years, the gap has been filled. A few days ago the announcement: the President of the Republic Mattarella has given the city of Matera the Gold Medal for civic valor. The debt with the history was welded and the sacrifice of the 22 Materans dead that day has its worthy recognition: in addition to the 12 blown in the Militia, the 3 killed in the city countryside, the 4 killed in Via Lucana at the headquarters of the Societa Elettrica and 3 deaths in the guerrilla at Via Cappelluti. “The September 21, 1943 represented something new and unimaginable for the reality of Matera at that timesays Vito Sebastiani in the book Voglia di riscatto (Desire for redemption), where he beautifully tells the story of that day, that he lived personally as a young boy just eleven years old – the awakening of dormant minds, the desire for redemption of a population abandoned and humiliated for a long time“.

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