Gino Bartali, non solo un grande del ciclismo, ma anche un eroe
1948 attentato a Togliatti
L’Italia è ad un passo dal baratro, e Bartali la salva pedalando. E, senza dubbio, nell’immaginario collettivo dell’epoca la sua vittoria al Tour de France ha rappresentato l’ancora di salvezza per un popolo ormai vicino ad una drammatica deriva. (Marco Regazzoni)
(Richard Hurovitz for the Daily Beast)
.....After the war, an exhausted Bartali returned to competition. The “Iron Man of Tuscany” went on to win the Tour de France again in 1948, becoming the oldest man to do so—dramatically surging ahead of the pack at the Catholic pilgrimage town of Lourdes. His victory, occurring during a period of dangerous civil strife in post-war Italy, united Italians and helped diffuse somewhat a political powder keg.
Bartali rarely talked about his work during the war, sharing stories with his son Andrea—but swearing him to secrecy. On occasion, he would visit paintings by Giotto at a monastery at Assisi, one of the focal points of the Underground, for a quiet moment of reflection. “Do good, but don’t talk about it,” he told his son. “I don’t want to talk about it, or act like a hero. Heroes are those who died, who were injured, who spent many months in prison.” When Bartali died, his obituary mentioned the unifying effect of his Tour de France victory in 1948 and in passing his work with the partisans. It made no mention of his aid to his Jewish countrymen. His headstone does not even mention his athletic achievements. “He was very modest about it,” noted another friend. “He held a profound sense that so many had suffered in much greater capacity than he had. He didn’t want to be in the spotlight or diminish the contributions of others.”
It is estimated that Bartali was responsible for saving 800 people and that the network he was a part of rescued 9,000. In 2013, 14 years after his passing, Bartali was given the honor of being named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel. His son spoke at the ceremony. “I want to be remembered for my sporting achievements,” Andrea Bartali recalled his father telling him. “Real heroes are others, those who have suffered in their soul, in their heart, in their spirit, in their mind, for their loved ones. Those are the real heroes. I’m just a cyclist.”
This May, for the first time, the Giro d’Italia will start outside of Europe. The race will begin in Jerusalem and the first three stages will be held throughout Israel before moving on to Italy. Bartali, no doubt, would have been proud that a race that defined his life and gave him the opportunity to save so many would bring its message of peace to the Holy Land that united him and those he rescued.
At a time when so many in the world are turning on each other in anger, Bartali’s actions deserve to be recognized. “Good is something you do, not something you talk about,” he said. “Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket.”
Posted by Oscar Bartoli