A sunny day saw the Italian and Hungarian defense ministers visit the Cima Grappa military memorial on Thursday 7 September to pay homage to the remains of the twenty-three thousand soldiers who died in the Great War. There are 12.615 fallen on the Italian side and 10.300 on the Austro-Hungarian side who rest in the two ossuaries built on the steps of the circular-shaped temple, united, rather than separated, by a road that leads to the top, the Via Eroica.
Minister Guido Crosetto arrived at the scene by helicopter, welcomed by the commander of the Northern Operational Forces, army corps general Maurizio Riccò. He then received his Hungarian counterpart, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, who was accompanied by the President of the National Assembly of Hungary, the Honorable László Kövér and the Hungarian Deputy Defense Minister Tamás Vargha.
Many visitors and citizens arrived on Monte Grappa for the ceremony, as well as many civil and military authorities.
A solemn meeting which saw the Hungarian flag waving on the Shrine for the first time, where the ministers, each for their own part, laid a laurel wreath on the almost all nameless soldiers. Of the twenty-three thousand fallen, only 2600 have in fact been identified.
The speech of Minister Guido Crosetto
“This was a place of pain, of death, of suffering, of war. For decades it has been a place of quiet, peace, remembrance and even friendship." said Minister Crosetto, subsequently underlining that “Today we hoisted the Hungarian flag together with the Austrian and Italian ones. They represent why so many soldiers died. They fought on behalf of opposing parties, they were enemies, but they fell with the same honor because they all fought for their Flag and their Homeland.".
In one passage, the Italian minister recalled the ties with Hungary, citing the support provided by the Italian military when, in 1848, the Hungarians rebelled against Austria and proclaimed their independence. “Today we stand here as heirs of those people, of those soldiers, of their values and their courage. And I believe that the ancient relationship between Italy and Hungary will guide us in the future too".
The speech of the Hungarian minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky
The Hungarian minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky wanted to start by talking about the Cima Grappa complex as “a mighty fortress which, however, was not built to fight, but for the realm of the dead, a place of remembrance and unconditional respect. Of the horror of the Great War when we reflect on the figures of this silent fortress, 12.600 Italian casualties and 10.200 from the Austro-Hungarian army. The soldiers know well that the war in the mountains was the hardest and cruelest of all time. In fact, here people fought for existence alone, because these mountains required immense sacrifices".
“For the Hungarians, the Italian front of the Great War has a particular meaning - added the minister - The bloody places of the Isonzo, Monte San Michel, Monte San Gabriele were defended mainly by Hungarian infantry regiments at the cost of terrible losses". She then wanted to point out how “During the war the Italian side performed a beautiful, edifying performance, considering that there wasn't an Italian family that wasn't involved in these losses.”
And then a personal detail. “Both my grandfather and my great grandfather fought on this front, on these rocks. It is no coincidence that King Charles IV, visiting these places, read with amazement an inscription in Italian: On these peaks, Italians and Hungarians fought bravely and became brothers in death".
Hence, the value of the flag. “The fact that today the Hungarian flag can fly on this great Italian monument, on this sacred place, is the most beautiful expression of the gesture of our Italian friends at the time, it is of inestimable importance for us. We thank the Italian government for having made it possible for the survivors and future generations of the survivors of our ancestors to be able to come here and remember the Fallen in this place where the soldiers who rest are no longer enemies and their memory rests side by side. We must honor our heroes wherever they fought.".
The bilateral conversation
The meeting then continued with a bilateral meeting of the ministers on the various topics of common interest. Among the topics covered, industrial cooperation in the defense sector, national commitment within NATO on the eastern flank of the Alliance, the Western Balkans and the Sahel. Minister Crosetto also addressed his personal thanks to the local communities, as well as to the Opera Madonnina del Grappa and to the Combat and Weapons Associations of the Provinces of Treviso, Belluno and Vicenza, for what they do to safeguard the territory and the stories that they guard with pride and passion.
It should be remembered that the Cima Grappa Shrine is open to visitors all year round, from Monday to Sunday and on holidays, in the morning from 9am to 12pm and in the afternoon from 13.30pm to 17.00pm (Info: tel. 0423544840, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)