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On the 32nd Anniversary of the Bologna attack the pain of the victims’ families live on. By Marta Castellani

by on August 8, 2012

The second of August, 1980:  an explosion rips through the air, and the clock stops for Bologna, a city in the Emilia-Romagna region, a city that cannot forget or move on from what has just occurred:

It is a normal Saturday morning. The summer is at its best, it’s quite hot, even if it is just 10:25 in the morning. The central station is crowded, more so than usual. People are coming and going, finally leaving for their holidays or just on their way home. The noise is of a busy urban station; the chatter of the men and women, the laughter of kids, the cries of babies. Suddenly everything is dominated by the explosion: a force that has the power to silence all voices. The silence doesn’t last long, it is only just a moment of quiet before the chaos. After that, all is a confusion of sirens, horns, cries of horror, and pain.

There will be no closure to the tale of this dramatic moment: the investigation blocked, there will be no causes given, no guilty party, no one held responsible.

“Bologna won’t forget” is written on all the banners silently brought in a procession by the families of the victims. But precisely what the deceased are victims of is still difficult to determine.- It has remained a massacre, a terroristic attack without a cause, and without a culprit for thirty two years .For the families of the eighty five people who died that day, and for the two hundred or more who were wounded, there has been no justice done. And while the fight goes on between the Italian Government and some fascist groups, each accusing the other, the only thing for the survivors to do is remember, to tell the stories of their beloved who died during that tragic morning.

This is the story of Catherine Mitchell, an English girl killed at only 22 years old. For over thirty years her parents have gone to Italy to commemorate her memory. But not this year. Her parents are old beyond their years, tired out by all the battles fought over the years for justice to be done so their daughter can rest in peace. This year, Harry and Shirley Mitchell have decided to stay in Launceston, and visit the graveyard where Catherine rests with her boyfriend, John Kolpinsky. They were travelling around Europe together after their graduation when they lost their lives. ‘They met in the university of Birmingham’, said Harry. ‘You couldn’t find two soul-mates like them. They were just meant to be together, and for a dad this is difficult to admit. That was their first holiday together. Catherine had always loved Italy and its beaches. We were just so happy for her. Beautiful, sweet, clever. She was the first one of the Mitchell family to go to University. We have been blessed with a daughter like her’.

In 1980 the era of smartphones was still far away. Catherine and John used to communicate with the families by postcards. A cruel trick of destiny, because some of the postcards arrived home even after that tragic day. “Somehow it helped us knowing that she was happy” continues Harry, as tears prevent Shirley from speaking.

It was John’s sister who broke to the Mitchells the news of what had happened in Bologna. For two days they didn’t have any news of Catherine, and believed she was still alive. But on the 4th of August, the English authorities in Italy confirmed her death, and her family identified her from her rings and clothes. John had already been declared dead two days before.

Today, a few friends and relatives are commemorating Catherine and John in Bath. In Birmingham there are three trees planted by their friends almost twenty years ago.

Meanwhile, in Italy the new Government has announced that a reform if going to be approved about the “secret of State”, and hopefully this will help to reveal the truth about the Bologna massacre. A small consolation, but perhaps a comfort, to all the victims and their families.

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From → Foreign Affairs

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