The previous 4th May 2018, the Giro d’Italia started from Israel, paying tribute to Bartali. The press was unleashed, and in the heat of giving news in the spotlight, not all the journalists have stuided Gino’s figure. A superficial vision emerged from some articles that I read, giving an uncomplete descrption about my grandfather.
The Yad Vashem, who had already declared Gino “Righteous among Nations” has given him now the “Citizenship of Israel”.
It is a pity that the invitation for some of us relatives arrived in delay, only 10 days before the cerimony. Anyhow this is a very high honour and sign of important appreciation, not just inside Jewish Community.
But sincerely knowing the character of my grandfather Gino, I guess that he wouldn’t have been enthusiastic to be named honorary citizen of Israel. He has never spoken of his good deeds during his life and I’m convinced that he wouldn’t have liked so much rumor.
In fact Gino even if against his will, has become an international symbol that encloses many meanings for our society. The difficult thing is to represent him in a way that show all this values. Without altering the man who he has been: the reserved, the humble and “strong” also in his own choices “not to appear”
Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket
My grandfather has embodied values in which he deeply believed: loyalty, humility, courage, brotherhood, solidarity. He contributed to save 800 Jews and not only. About fifty English soldiers and some politically persecuted persons. The fury against the Jewish community by the nazifascists has been a plague for humanity, for me so much cruelty is unconceivable.
Gino would have saved any person in danger,
without considering the country of origin, social level, religion, political belonging. Because he was a true solidary man with his own similars. Destiny took away the best years of his career during the Second World War, but as often happens, at the worst moment he gave his best: his kindness, his life. A human challenge, released by sport.
Many people ask me why my grandfather has never spoken about his humanitarian enterprieses in so many years. I believe that he has already spoken with his silence. The good hearted men who offer their life to save other thousands, or even only one, don’t need celebrations. A man whose soul is noble doesn’t need to emphasize his acts, his greatness consists working in secret.
During these months I too took part in a series of appointments to remember my grandfather, in his home town Ponte a Ema and in his Florence, where he wanted to remain to live. He loved his own city, its people and the beauty of the Tuscan landscape. We studied these program of events in order to hand down his exemplary being, in life and in sport, to the community.
Moreover it’s right to make Gino known to the childrens inside schools. Above all giving an example to the young guys who begin to practice the cycling, that would be a stimulation to face the effort and run in the most genuine way possible.
More than pay tribute to Bartali we must hand down his messages through him.
Together with the Associations of Ponte a Ema and Municipality of Florence we organized a calendar of events. We did not look for solemn ceremonies but to involve the citizens. The central event has been the 2nd Staffetta Bartali. A symbolic bike ride that starts from the majestic Florence Cathedral, stops at the Synagogue to meet the Jewish community and to exchange the “parchments”, until arrive to the G.Bartali Cycling Museum. It was a day of great partecipation also by young people.
I believe that young cyclists today feel the need to discover heroes of the past, as my grandfather Gino because the current Cycling offers spectacle, but not athletes who represent important human values through their sports. Today Cycling is about business and media, instead being adventure and challenge.
Translated from the Italian by Elonora Spada o.c.d.s
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