TORONTO - It’s pace to test endurance and focus. But, “once a commitment is made, you have to live up to it”. That was how Sam Primucci, reached by phone responded to my question about the almost frenetic pace the his friend Dan Montesano and the Hon. Judy Sgro insisted on maintaining as they led the Canadian delegation from one town to another and one formality to the next, in the province of Potenza, region Basilicata, Italy.
An arcane principle, perhaps, in a generation where selfies and hashtags proliferate, and substance is measured in the milli-seconds it takes for the next “alert” on your phone to erase their impact. Without such principles, or at least some individuals who do their best to live up to them, this would be a “brutish” world indeed, and one more than worthy of a Dantesque admonition.
Anne-Marie D’Amico, a young woman whose career in the Canadian military was on the ascendency, was one of 16 victims assassinated by a deranged terrorist on Yonge Street, Toronto, in July 2018. Her family was from Pietrapertosa, province of Potenza, Basilicata. She was already a “Canadian hero” for “potentini” like Primucci, Montesano and Antonio Locantore, President of the Basilicata Cultural Society (BCS) in Toronto.
They spearheaded fundraising efforts to establish bursaries and scholarships in her name. In addition, they commissioned a commemorative plaque in her honour that, with the acceptance and support of the Mayor of Pietrapertosa, Maria Cavuoti, and her Council, they would place in a corner reserved for it in the town’s municipal garden. A local architect, Marilina Giannotta fashioned a design whose symbols tell a story of hope, loyalty, equality, peace and womanhood.
The original plan was to have a single delegation from the BCS go to Pietrapertosa for the inaugural, dedication ceremony, in August, to coincide with the travel plans of the greatest numbers of Lucani expatriates intending to visit their native towns during the festive season.
Alas, as with “the best laid plans of mice and men”, communications couldn’t keep up with real time demands. Mayor Cavuoti and her Council, urged on by their colleague Michele Mastro, Mayor of Palazzo San Gervasio, accommodated two ceremonies: one presided by Antonio Locantore and the other by the Hon. Judy Sgro, representing the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.
Several other notables made commitments to attend: The Honorable Cosimo Ferri, member of the Canada- Italy Parliamentary Association in Rome; the Honourable Francesca Lamarca from Toronto; the (now) former Mayor of Potenza, Dario De Luca. The sudden call for a vote of no-confidence in the government of Italy caused them to alter their plans and to send congratulatory remarks instead.
At the last minute, issues beyond their control compelled Primucci cancel and Montesano to wait until one hour before boarding to confirm his attendance. Madame Sgro might have had to do all on her own.
Happily, Montesano’s and Primucci’s team on the ground – which included former mayors of Palazzo San Gervasio (Mario Romanelli, Federigo Pagano), Mario Sallusti, the director of the Pinoteca D’Errico at Palazzo, and the Mayor of Venosa Marianna Iovanni were able to pull everything together in a remarkable display of solidarity and regional pride. Anne-Marie’s memory was thus evoked in two different countries in “ceremonies” held in three different towns: Pietrapertosa, Palazzo San Gervasio and Venosa.
The region has a rich and profound history. It was the home of pre-Roman Italic peoples known as Samnites; colonized in turn by Hellenes, Carthaginians, Latins, Lombards, Normans, Angevins, Saracens, Swabians and Bourbons – “from conquerors to conquered”, all of them absorbed into a unique culture based on agra-production, artisanship, artistry, innovation and learning.
They are Italians, through and through, who value their origins and the legacy of their ancestors. Mayor Cavuoti relished the opportunity to link Anne-Marie to that Multicultural history resident in Pietrapertosa. At the invitation of Sam Primucci and Dan Montesano, she’ll have another opportunity to extoll those virtues further on October 25, at the BCS Gala, in Toronto, to raise funds for those Anne-Marie D’Amico Scholarships and Bursaries.