Voices of Courage in the Italian Language

Apr 21, 2017

April 25

Il coraggio


Every April 25 Italy celebrates the anniversary of the  Resistenza (Resistance) and the nation’s liberation from the fascist and Nazi regime. To honor this day, I am reprinting some of the  messages of love (messaggi d’amore) written by young freedom fighters  before being executed (prima di essere giustiziati) —usually fucilati (shot) against a prison or cemetery wall:

Paola-Garelli-224x300Paola Garelli, a professional hairdresser, wife and mother, thought of her daughter:

La tua mamma se ne va pensandoti ed amandoti, mia creatura adorata. (Your Mom leaves thinking of you and loving you, my adored child) … Non devi piangere né vergognarti di me. (You must not cry or be ashamed of me) … Quando sarai grande capirai meglio. (When you grow up, you will understand better) … io ti proteggerò dal cielo (I will protect you from the sky)  La tua infelice mamma (Your unhappy Mom).


Achille Barilatti, a university student who became a commander of a Resistance brigade, penned this note Achille_Barilattito his mother:

Mamma adorata, quando riceverai la presente sarai già straziata dal dolore. (Adored Mom, when you receive this you will already be torn by grief)  Mamma, muoio fucilato per la mia idea (Mom, I die, shot for my idea) Non vergognarti di tuo figlio, ma sii fiera di lui (Do not be ashamed of your son, but be proud of him)  Non piangere Mamma, il mio sangue non si verserà invano e l’Italia sarà di nuovo grande. (Don’t cry, Mom. My blood will not be shed in vain, and Italy will be great again)

SALVATORE-PETRONARISalvatore Petronari, a Communist who opposed fascism from its earliest days, sent this message to his wife:

Sii forte, sappi sopportare questo dolore con forza, come io sopporterò quello dell’esecuzione. (Be strong, endure this pain with strength, as I will endure that of the execution) … ho sempre pensato a te e alla nostra bambina che ho sempre sperato di poter rivedere per dargli gli ultimi baci, ma non mi è stato possibile (I’ve always thought of you and our baby girl, whom I always hoped to be able to see again to give her the last kisses) … Perdonami di questo dolore che ti do, e pensami con amore (Forgive me for this sorrow that I give you, and think of me with love).

Irma Marchiani, an embroiderer who grew up in an openly anti-fascist family and became an informer IRMA-MARCHIANI1for the Resistance, wanted her sister to know this:

Credimi non ho mai fatto nessuna cosa che potesse offendere il nostro nome. (Believe me, I’ve never done anything that might offend our name) Ho sentito il richiamo della Patria per la quale ho combattuto. (I heard the call of the homeland for which I fought) … muoio sicura di aver fatto quanto mi era possibile affinché la libertà trionfasse. (I die certain of having done as much I could so that freedom would triumph)


Orlando-orlandi1Orlando Orlandi Posti, an 18-year-old student killed in a mass execution of Italian prisoners in Rome, left a particularly heartbreaking note to a girl he called mia Marcellina (my little Marcella):

Ti volevo bene, ma molto bene e da molto tempo solo ho saputo far tacere il mio cuore perché non ero degno. (I loved you, [I loved you] very much, and for a long time I could only silence my heart / keep it to myself because I was not worthy) … ora che è impossibile che possa realizzare il mio sogno ho voluto confidarti il mio segreto. (Now that it is impossible to realize my dream I wanted to confide/reveal my secret to you).

One sentiment echoes throughout the letters: Viva l’Italia libera! (Long live free Italy!)

Words and Expressions

La lotta partigiana — the partisan struggle

Imprigionamento — imprisonment, incarceration

Nome di battaglia — pseudonym, the secret name partisans used to keep their identities secret

Dianne Hales is the author of  LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World, LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language and MONA LISA: A Life Discovered. For more information, visit

Click below to listen to a modern rendition of the stirring anthem of the Resistance:

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La Passione
Mona Lisa
La Bella Lingua