Introduction: World War I
It’s been almost a century since the First World War started, but its memory still resides in most people’s conscience like very few other past events. The 1914-1918’s war was extraordinarily ferocious. It produced and spread all over the world the horrors and anxieties of the 20th century, involving millions of soldiers as well as citizens, leaving a terrible trail of death behind, using new and more devastating weapons, destroying the territory and creating enormous artistic emergencies. Besides the injustices, the frustrations, the seeds for new wars that the first conflict left as inheritance to Europe, it also gave birth to a grief-centered, bellicose, barbaric and full of hate culture.
The Italian front of this huge conflict is usually remembered abroad thanks to the battle, and the resulting defeat, of Caporetto. History books narrate about the military strategies, statistics list the slain, the disabled and the widows.
To Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto though, as well as to Austria and Slovenia, the memory is even more intense and upsetting. The war walked over these territories, it shred people and feelings and drained all natural resources. These are the territories where most of those terrifying battles took place. These are the territories where so many young people, coming both from the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, found death. Here, from May 1915 to October 1918, for twenty-nine endless months, the two armies fought harshly. The Julian and Carnic Alps, but above all the Karst, witnessed to twelve bloodthirsty battles. The plain, on the other hand, became, at first, an enormous rear guard for the Italian army, and then, an invasion-field for Austrian troops. In the meantime, on the high plateau of Asiago and on Mount Grappa, the Austrian assaults smashed Italian alpine troopers.
After the defeat of Caporetto and the following withdrawal of Italian troops, the frontline moved on the Piave where three massive conflicts took place: the “Arrest battle”, that stopped the Austrian; the “Solstice battle” the ultimate great onslaught that struck the enemy, and the following “Final battle” in Vittorio Veneto that led to victory and to the armistice.
Local people’s lives were deeply and irrevocably changed by war. Many evidences still testify war’s passage over this region, as well as the courage and the spirit of sacrifice shown by those who were called to arms: abandoned fortifications and shelters, trenches and paths, posts, milestones, monuments and museums represent just as many memories, through which is possible to recall and recollect emotions, hopes and fears of those who were involved in the war.
Text by Enza Chiara Lai
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N.Papafava, Da Caporetto a Vittorio Veneto, Milano 1965