Fiumicello, Udine, held its breath yesterday for Giulio Regeni.
Here the streets are named after icons of justice and of the left: May Day, the Rosselli brothers, Antonio Gramsci, Falcone and Borsellino. The main street, via Gramsci, was at one point blocked for two hours to allow for the influx of mourners.
The grief wasn’t restricted to this small hamlet in Italy’s northeast corner, but across the province of Udine all activity stopped for an hour of stillness.
This is the hometown of Giulio Regeni, who yesterday, after an extraordinary, participatory and peaceful ceremony, was returned to be with his family. It was a somber homecoming to the places he left to research the world abroad.
The sky was dark, with little rain, and cold. Even the anger cooled. Only a few minutes of sun glimpsed through the clouds just after the commencement of the farewell ceremony.
Scores of people squeezed inside a gymnasium for the funeral. Many more stood outside among the tears and disbelief of those affected by this death. The family asked everyone not to bring banners or images. They asked to witness Regeni’s memory simply as humans.
We were there to testify to the pain that we all feel for Regeni’s cruel and tragic death. Because we feel his loss as our wound. His murder is a crime that, for many reasons, has directly affected us.
Outside in the cold, we could hear the words of the speaker who greeted Regeni’s body inside the gym, a sound that mingled outdoors with muffled sobs. He went “to change the world,” said youths gathered nearby.
The long goodbye sought to create a moment of peace, with representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities united in prayer, making clear the path of forgiveness and reconciliation, with the desperate composure of the family, with words in Italian and English for those who came from near and far.
And so many young people, never so many all together, saying, “It’s not fair.”
Farewell, Giulio. You will be impossible to forget. We will continue the search for truth and justice for your young life, shattered by cruel murderers.
You give us one more reason to exist, and to resist.
With this promise, even in the bitterness of a misunderstanding that we will solve together, we embrace Claudio Regeni and Paola Deffendi, Giulio’s parents, as one family.
Let’s stay human.