Summer or winter, Lorena Fornasir arrives at 5 pm with her apple-green carriage in Piazza della Libertà, where a statue of “Sissi”, the Empress of Austria, who always stays in Trieste, in period when the port city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Slender silhouette, lavender blue eyes, silver hair, Lorena wore her 70s with charm and uplifting. A psychotherapist, she also studies nursing. His first source of inspiration was his mother, a nurse at a hospital in Gorizia during World War II and a great man of Resistance.
“He instilled in me the values of respect for life and good citizenship. I continue to implement his teachings by caring for the feet of migrants, in the name of freedom of movement. »
Heal the feet, heal the wounds
Hands, bent in front of a bench where the legs of Imran, an 18-year-old Pakistani who had just arrived in Trieste, were placed, Lorena took the products from her cart to disinfect and put- or the wounds, relieve the pain. On this summer day in 2022, he will treat about thirty migrants from the Middle East and Asia, until midnight.
With the extraordinary delicacy of all his actions, he explained what he understood. “The feet are like a parchment on which is written the suffering of those who reached Trieste through the Balkans. There, they are canal feet: inflamed, covered with blisters, after 15-20 days of walking harmful circumstances. »
Revived by Lorena’s “prodigies”, Imran smiled again and spoke to her “Nice to meet you mom”. Volunteers from the Linea d’Ombra association brought him food, tennis shoes and new clothes. He was only one night in Trieste and would try, ticket in hand, to get to Paris by train.
A committed couple
“At the station, near the plaza where our presence was allowed, the authorities blinded undocumented migrants. To walk them, for them, is to free themselves from the filth of man “, said Lorena’s husband Gian Andrea Franchi, 86. This former professor of philosophy, warm, energetic, would always accompany her to the piazza della Libertà.
Politically in favor of the weakest since the 1960s, he handled critical situations within the association’s framework, formed in 2019, and took care, along with other volunteers, to clean up the square and its fountain, to manage in the store where the basic necessities. stored, the result of material and financial donations.
European asylum is quietly dangerous, reforms are in an eternity
The couple also provided assistance in Bosnia where they have visited 27 times since 2018. “The road between Bosnia and Croatia is deadly”recalled Gian Andrea. “You have to walk on unclean water, in the middle of the woods, go down steep slopes, go under barbed wire, while trying to avoid bears, wolves, attacking dogs and the ultra-violent Croatian police. »
Migrants call it that “The match”, because it involves risking your life to cross the Italian-Slovenian border. Lorena echoed her husband to discuss the story of Umar, another 25-year-old Pakistani. “We met him in Bosnia, wounded and in a coma. We took him to the Bihac camp but before that we had to act. »
Umar tried “The match” 35 times. “I was tortured by Croatian police who burned my right leg badly with a hot metal bar”, he confessed, showing his terrible wound. After arriving in Trieste at the end of 2020, he obtained a human residence permit. “We took care of him, helped by doctor friends from the private sector because the public service was so slow, said Lorena. Her leg seems to have healed but the necrotizing infection has returned recently. »
Lorena continued her activity with a 48-year-old Afghan. “Oh dear! Wounds, wounds…”, he exclaimed, armed with tongs to catch the dust mites. While working with her fairy hands and her determined nature, she seeks contact. “What is your name?», she asked him in English. He received fragments of the response. Ehsan preceded Dari.
Communication with Afghans, Iranians, Kurds or Pakistanis happens above all thanks to the link that unites hands and feet, look and soul. “The body approach is a relationship tool that meets basic needs. It is a language in itself.Lorena noticed. “When I treat feet, I restore a person’s human value. And she, she recognized me as a kind of mother who brought her back to life. » In fact, everyone calls it “mama”. “They make me happy, they develop a sense of dignity in my life and that of Gian Andrea.»
Violation of unity
A sense of dignity prompted Gordana Omanovic, 71, to join Linea d’Ombra. Physicist, born in Sarajevo, he fled the war in 1992. “Offering love to migrants, by caring for their martyred feet, may be just a drop in the ocean of their needs, but no institution has taken such an initiative. »
Gordana prepares, at home, many of the hearty sandwiches she distributes at the piazza della Libertà. “It’s important to do it in broad daylight because Trieste is back on its own. I’m ashamed to say but I smell racist and fascist overtones.» There are no free public toilets. And to sleep, the illegal refugees have to live in an old building next to the station …
Yet Trieste has always been a gateway to immigration and contributed to the creation, in 2002, of the System of Protection for asylum seekers and refugees. But centers, such as the Italian Consortium for Solidarity, cannot do anything for illegal immigrants and limit the duration of joint admission because state funds have dwindled. While there is a lot of help for refugees in Ukraine. “European unity has two weights and two dimensions”, Gordana cried.
Gian Andrea and Lorena paid. In February 2021, they were indicted by the Trieste public prosecutor’s office, which was investigating the network of smugglers, because they hosted, one night, an Iranian couple and their children. “We are accused of aiding illegal immigration for profit, revealed by Gian Andrea. The file was transferred to the public prosecutor’s office in Bologna because Lorena is an “honorary” magistrate of the Trieste juvenile court. »
Nine months later, the judges concluded that helping people in distress, who had entered illegally, was not a crime if it was limited to Italian territory. “If our file remains in Trieste, we will have to face a trial for what could be described as a crime of solidarity.»
“Where is our humanity”?
For his part, Yannis Maizan, 22, a musician, has observed that we are likely to erase the history of a cosmopolitan, multicultural city, where many of its 214,000 inhabitants are exiled to their DNA. “This cradle of intelligentsia, of great writers like Italo Svevo and Claudio Magris, has become a wall on the right, run by a councilor from Forza Italia. I always wonder where our humanity is.»
For Maria Verina, a computer scientist from the former Yugoslavia, Trieste, whose port is the largest on the Adriatic, remains “a window open to the world”. But he notices an indifference to 21st-century wanderers.e century. “We met them like shadows, without questioning ourselves. As much is known about Ukraine, the silence exacerbates tragedies in distant countries. »
Maria praises Lorena and Gian Andrea because they embody the ideal of a world without barriers. “Deep down, we are all the same race, the human race, called to sail together for a better future. »
Migration flowed into Italy, between land and sea
As many as 58,000 migrants have illegally crossed the EU’s external borders between January and April 2022, according to the latest figures from Frontex, the European Agency for Surveillance of the EU’s external borders.
Among them, 27,000 passed the Balkan route – 130% more than the same period in 2021 – to try to reach Northern Europe, across the Italian -Slovenian border. Currently, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the main countries of origin for those, mostly men and teenagers, who pass through Trieste.
About the arrival of southern Italy, via the central Mediterranean, the Ministry of the Interior counted 25,988 between 1er January and June 24, 2022, compared to 19,361 in the same period in 2021. The main two countries of origin are Bangladesh and Egypt.
As for the displaced Ukrainians, Italy has already gained 141,000 since the start of the war.