“La Città dei Ragazzi” by Eraldo Affinati.

The wind on my face on the Magliana bridge. Honda Transalp. Grande Raccordo Anulare, Via della Pisana. At the entrance gate someone shouts: “Professor!”. it’s Petrit, I saw him a couple of times last year, in the main seat of the school where I teach. He recognized me immediately. He attends the third year of High School for mechanical operators. Today only the first classes attend: he is waiting for the bus to go downtown. We say goodbye, till tomorrow. It’s eight o’clock. Nobody has come in yet. I continue walking towards the closed school.
I smell the air, the paths have the perfume of grass. In the air you feel the presence of the sea: a Mediterranean essence of trees and piers, before the stones turn to sand. A few kilometres away is the Tyrrhenian sea. A part of Rome which I have always considered to have something of magic, good to go on holiday. My father driving the FIAT Cinquecento, a stoplight after another, on the Cristoforo Colombo. First part of the years 1960. Time has gone by like a head cutter who does not look his victims in the face. He works determined, carrying out a task and the reasons do not regard him.
I take a walk inside the “Città”. The paths are entitled after important personages: Pio XII, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The main street is called “Corso Italia”: many visitors have walked here, from Paul VI to Walt Disney, Rocky Marciano to Humphrey Bogart. The homes were the youngsters live are called Amerigo Vespucci, Giovanni da Verazzano. Near “Piazza Texas” is the Bazaar. Behind it the Bank. Around the corner, the Assembly Hall. On the field, in front of the church rests Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing. Big Heart. Irish hard head. It was him who saving the children from the ruins, during second world war, invented all of this: the system of self-government with child majors, the councillors for finance and sport, the inspectors, the local money, called the “scudo” useful to buy fruit juice and sweets. He died in 2001: I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him. But, coming here every day, it is as if I’m talking to him.
I imagine him giving me a pack on the shoulders. “Be brave, son, everything will go well”. I turn towards the yard again sitting down on the brick wall. For a few seconds I feel overwhelmed by discouragement. The fear of not being able to make it. Or the sudden conscience of what I will have to face, outside and within myself. A pack of dogs are around me, a band of evil people surround me. It is the psalm twenty- second. Lord, my force, don’t stay far away, come to help me.
A little by little from the leaves that separate the school from the places where they live, come the boys: once they used to be the Italian “sciuscià”. Now their names are Khurda, Qambac, Nabi, Francisco, Lazar, Sharif, Shumon. They have just had breakfast in the big dining room. They come from Capo Verde, from Nigeria, Morocco, Romania, Moldavia, Bangladash, and Afghanistan.
We are all here waiting for them, coming back from the long summer holidays. They present themselves to Antonio, the person responsible for the Professional Institute, himself an ex – citizen, they embrace Anna and Rosaria, they say hello to Corrado, they meet the new Professors. In their past they have broken families, passions destroyed, broken toys, the fables never listened to, that which cannot be said, holes in their incisive teeth, their eyes alert, unforgettable, from the anxious sentinel in the nights of rain spent in the cold, waiting for the enemies who want to kill them.


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