We The Italians | Great Italians of the Past: Sandro Pertini

Great Italians of the Past: Sandro Pertini

Great Italians of the Past: Sandro Pertini

  • WTI Magazine #102 Apr 14, 2018
  • 1207

Statesman among the most beloved in Italy, admired by the people beyond the personal political faith, Sandro Pertini has remained over the years the symbol of the proximity of political power to ordinary citizens. In the month of April 25, a date that commemorates the liberation of Italy from the Nazi-fascist yoke thanks to the intervention of the Anglo-American forces and of the Italian partisans, remembering such an extraordinarily human personality seems the best way to tell how the ideals of liberation continue to live through the admiration towards political characters of this caliber.

The life of Sandro Pertini winds through the crucial stages of the Italian Republic. Born in 1896 in San Giovanni di Stella, near Savona (Liguria), Pertini is a young boy when he decides to fight alongside the Italian troops during the First World War: in 1917 he will be awarded with a silver medal for this.

His struggle against the fascist regime is tough and tireless. First arrested in 1925, he will be confined in 1926 because considered "an uncompromising opponent of the regime": he will live in Paris and Nice before returning to Italy in 1929 to try to reorganize the Italian Socialist Party, creating a network of contacts in different cities. But on April 14, 1929, in Pisa he is recognized by chance by a fascist, arrested by the blackshirts (the fascist guard) and sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison. There he will get to know Antonio Gramsci, with which he will form a deep friendship.

Sandro Pertini will be released only in the August of 1943, shortly after the fall of the fascist regime. He will continue to fight the regime and the Nazi invasion, contributing to the attack of via Rasella, to the liberation of Rome in June 1944, to that of Florence in the August of the same year. A crucial frontrunner who shows his leadership on the date of Italian fate: on April 25, 1945 he is the one who proclaims the "Insurrectional general strike" in the city of Milan.

The political career of Sandro Pertini is marked by strict and firm actions that will often be discussed for their autonomy from the system. Following the assassination of Aldo Moro, in the Socialist Party he will be among the few to follow the line of firmness, total rejection of dialogue with the “brigate rosse” (the red brigades).

On July 8, 1978, after 16 votes, the Parliament of a country still shaken by the assassination of Aldo Moro elects Sandro Pertini to the Presidency of the Italian Republic. His extraordinary strength, his charisma, his reputation as a partisan and as a fighter, proud supporter of the national spirit, will enable him to drive Italy among the most difficult years of our history. 

Pertini inaugurates a different role of the President of the Italian Republic, able to influence the political parties, to stimulate the state machine, to lash out against the Mafia, corruption, lack of public ethics: a strong authority and a consistency that over the years everybody will recognize. "Consistency – he used to say - is behaving as you are and not as you have decided to be"

Nonetheless, his relationship with the people is what will mark more than any other trait his presidency, and will remain unparalleled in the political history Italian. Sandro Pertini gets the institutions close to the Italian people, thanks to his extraordinary humanity, his candor, his openness, his will to stay always in contact with the common people. He refuses to dwell in the Presidential palace: instead, he decides to live in a small attic room, with just a light escort for his security.

A staunch defender of democracy, so much as to prefer "the worst of democracies to the best of all dictatorships”, he relentlessly fights against the distortions of the Italian state, never losing the bond with people and his moral rigor. 

A few famous episodes that will contribute to make him the most beloved of the Italian Presidents of the Republic are the visit to Vermicino, a small town close to Frascati, in Lazio, during the attempts to rescue a young kid, Alfredino Rampi, fell into an artesian well; the energetic exultation during the final of the Football World Championships in 1982, won by Italian national in Spain; the scenes with the children, who loved to listen to him during his visits to schools all around Italy.

On March 25, 1982 Pertini will visit Washington. Ronald Reagan, on the occasion of the visit of the President Italian, remembered: "He has 84 years and is a fantastic gentleman. There was a touching moment when he passed in front of the Marine who kept our flag. He stopped and kissed her".

Sandro Pertini died in Rome on February 24, 1990, at the age of 94 years. Veritable personification of the Italian republican values, he is still loved by people of every generation and every political color. He left us, among many others, the teaching to fight for what we believe in, without exception, even if at the end of the road the success is not obvious.

Therefore he loved to say: "Sometimes in life you need to know how to fight not only without fear, but even without hope”.