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Italian, Slovene presidents hold hands, recall sad times

The presidents of Italy and Slovenia met at several ceremonies on Monday linked to sorrowful events in their nations' shared history and aimed at reinforcing reconciliation. In the area of Trieste, a port city near Italy’s border with Slovenia, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Slovenian President Borut Pahor held hands and observed a minute of silence at a monument to four anti-Fascist Slovenes who were executed by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s regime in 1930. The four became symbols of the Slovene minority's resistance to Italian Fascism.

The presidents also stopped in the village of Basovizza, where an unknown number of Italians were killed and thrown into sinkholes by the forces of Yugoslavia's communist leader, Josip Broz Tito. Among those they honored was a 106-year-old Italian Slovene writer, Boris Pahor, who as a little boy witnessed the 1920 torching by Fascists of a Slovene cultural center in Trieste.

Italy's interior minister, Trieste's mayor and other Italian officials signed a memo of understanding Monday to transfer the center to the Slovene community in Italy. “History can't be canceled and painful experiences, suffered by the populations on these lands, cannot be forgotten,.” Mattarella said. But that was all the more reason to choose friendship and a path toward the future instead of rancor, Italy's head of state said.

President Pahor expressed "immense joy" over the day's ceremonies, during which he said “a wrong was righted, justice was done.”

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