scorecardresearch
Follow Us:
Thursday, July 02, 2020

‘Bella Ciao’: Why a World War II anti-Fascist anthem is ringing across Europe again

'Bella Ciao' is being sung at rallies in Italy, and was heard during the anti-Brexit protests in the UK, the pro-independence demonstrations by Catalan activists in Spain, and the Yellow Vests movement in France.

Written by Om Marathe , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 21, 2019 6:56:42 am
Italy Modena protest, Sardines movement Europe, Bella Ciao, Bella Ciao Matteo Salvini, Matteo Salvini Italy, World War II Bella Ciao, Indian Express Explained This was the second large protest in two weeks organised by the grassroots movement called the “Sardines”, which held a rally in Bologna last Thursday that drew over 12,000 people. (Image for representational purpose)

On Monday, more than 7,000 people gathered in the Italian city of Modena to protest against Matteo Salvini, the far-right leader who served as the country’s Deputy Prime Minister until September.

This was the second large protest in two weeks organised by the grassroots movement called the “Sardines”, which held a rally in Bologna last Thursday that drew over 12,000 people.

In both these protests, the attendees were heard reciting the song “Bella Ciao”, a melody from World War II written by anti-fascists who were opposing dictator Benito Mussolini.

What is the Sardine movement, and what is the significance of the tune “Bella Ciao”?

The Sardine movement

Salvini is currently campaigning in Emilia-Romagna, an industrial region in northern Italy that has traditionally been a leftwing bastion.

It is currently ruled by the centre-left Democratic Party, and goes to polls in January next year.

Salvini’s far-right League party, which according to various polls enjoys considerable popularity throughout Italy, has vowed to defeat the Left in Emilia-Romagna.

A protest against Salvini’s party drew an estimated 12,000-15,000 people in Bologna last week.

During the protests in Bologna’s main square, the group squeezed together in the rain “like sardines”, giving the movement its name.

The subsequent rally in Modena on Monday was also successful, drawing 7,000, and more have been planned in Milan, Palermo, and Florence.

The Emilia-Romagna poll is important for Salvini, as success here would mean that he could force national leaders to call for an early general election, which could bring his League party to the power given the wave of support it is currently enjoying.

Italy Modena protest, Sardines movement Europe, Bella Ciao, Bella Ciao Matteo Salvini, Matteo Salvini Italy, World War II Bella Ciao, Indian Express Explained Matteo Salvini, far-right leader who served as Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister until September. (AP photo)

The song “Bella Ciao”

“Bella Ciao” was sung at both of the Sardines’ rallies, and has been a favourite among anti-fascist protesters across Europe in recent months and years.

The song has been heard during the anti-Brexit protests in the UK, the pro-independence demonstrations by Catalan activists in Spain, and the Yellow Vests movement in France.

The song has also been popularised by the 2017 Netflix crime drama series ‘Money Heist’, which ran it as part of its soundtrack.

The anthem’s origin can be traced to the Second World War when the anti-fascist Partisan movement was fighting against the Republic of Salò, a puppet state of Nazi Germany in northern Italy.

Many anthems became popular during this period, including the Russian folk song “Katyusha”, and the Italian songs “Fischia il vento” and “Bella Ciao”.

“Bella Ciao”, meaning “Beautiful Goodbye”, talks about the possibility of dying in the mountains (the Italian Alps). “Una mattina mi son svegliato, e ho trovato l’invasor,” goes a line, meaning “One morning I awakened, and I found the invader.”

According to an article in the Spanish paper El País, the song is believed to have originated in the Po Valley, where rice gatherers sang it to lament the loss of their youth in the hard work of the field.

The lyrics are said to represent the idealism of the Italians fighting Mussolini and the Third Reich.

The complete lyrics in English:

One morning I awakened,

oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao! (Goodbye beautiful)

One morning I awakened

And I found the invader.

Oh partisan carry me away,

oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao

oh partisan carry me away

Because I feel death approaching.

And if I die as a partisan,

oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao

and if I die as a partisan

then you must bury me.

Bury me up in the mountain,

oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao

bury me up in the mountain

under the shade of a beautiful flower.

And all those who shall pass,

oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao

and all those who shall pass

will tell me “what a beautiful flower.”

This is the flower of the partisan,

oh bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao

this is the flower of the partisan

who died for freedom.

Don’t miss from Explained: Why your holiday in Bhutan could now cost more

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Explained News, download Indian Express App.

0 Comment(s) *
* The moderation of comments is automated and not cleared manually by indianexpress.com.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement