In the darkest years of the Holocaust, some men and women went against the tide “acting in order to save the lives of some Jews, to preserve the Eternal People, to sustain the hope for a better world in which tyranny would be defeated. They helped us maintain trust in the human good,” Dror Eydar, Ambassador Designate of Israel to Italy, said during the ceremony awarding the medals of “Righteous Among the Nations” to the families Cencelli and Gessini.
Armando and Luisa Cencelli, Ludovico Gessini and his daughter Iole “not only saved the Terracina family, but they also risked their life doing so. They were not even carrying out their good deeds to be rewarded afterwards. The greatest repayment they got has been seeing Terracina’s family descendants alive and active today.”
In the Jewish tradition, we say “whoever saves a life saves the world”: “Look how many worlds you have saved. The descendants of the survivors, and the descendants of the descendants,” the ambassador added. The ceremony was held at the Pitigliani Jewish Centre in Rome.
The relatives of Giulio Terracina, whom Cencelli family hid in their home during the Nazi-Fascist persecution, were also present.
“I remember that morning when Mr Terracina took his seven-year-old son Giulio to our place to hide him. He said to my father, ‘Armando, they will take all of us away.’ He became like a brother to me,” said Massimiliano Cencelli filled with the emotion followed the award and the ambassador’s words.
Ruth Dureghello, the President of the Jewish Community in Rome, Bruno Zed, Pitigliani’s head and the Shoah Museum Foundation of Rome also honoured Cencelli and Gessini families with their speeches.
“I am now addressing to the young people here today, students,” said Dureghello, “we live in a complicated age in which there are many negative models and violent episodes of racism, in stadiums for instance. Try to identify the positive ones which will create a bright future for humankind.”
The members of the Terracina family who attended the ceremony were speechless and wanted to show their gratitude by standing up before Cencelli family and to show what Armando and Luisa’s courage meant to them and to the Jewish community: new lives and Jewish history going on.
Translated by Mattia Stefani and revised by Sara Facelli, both students at the Advanced School of Modern Languages for Interpreting and Translation of Trieste University and interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.