With Rossana gone, an important part of our—and my—political and personal life has gone with her.
There will be time to reflect more deeply on the political and cultural legacy of such a great personality of the Italian left as her. But now, after her loss, for those of us who have shared a long history with Rossana, it is the memories that overwhelm us—vivid, sweet, painful, even traumatic as they are to us now.
My memories are of an already-white head, of a beautiful, noble and authoritative face, of a blue skirt and shirt, of a striking room lined with books at the end of the long corridor in Via Tomacelli, of a large desk, and, in front of it, an armchair in which those who came to talk to her would sit and listen.
For us girls and boys in our twenties who used to sit in front of her, on the fifth floor of that fantastic, messy, turbulent, overcrowded editorial office, all the hours, days, months, years are now jumbled together, hopelessly tangled, now that the great mother of il manifesto has left us.
It’s simply impossible to put everything in order, because of the close interweaving of life and politics, of passions and affections, of political growth and grand projects, that the left of the ‘60s and ‘70s carried in its head and heart.
When you’re twenty years old and lucky enough to be in the presence of Rossana Rossanda, Luigi Pintor, Lucio Magri, Valentino Parlato and Luciana Castellina on a daily basis, you don’t really understand just how much of an impression they will leave on your life, but you feel like you’re getting an education every day: an education in terms of knowledge, culture, sentiments, and you nurture a critical thought within you that will be with you forever.
Rossana was a strict mother, and every action, every behavior by us young people on the editorial staff came with a question about what she would think. But it was normal for her great culture to be so awe-inspiring (and not only to us of the 1968 generation), making everything else recede into the background. And, before feminism became for her a topic on which she would engage in pointed political confrontation with the women’s movement—which was when personal experience came to the fore—talking about private matters was not in the order of things.
So, when Karol, Rossana’s partner, an illustrious journalist of Polish Jewish descent, arrived from Paris, a jovial character with endless stories to tell, Rossana was smiling at the editorial meetings and even allowed herself a few joking remarks (“Come on, Karol, be quiet just a little bit!“). I think I’m not wrong when I say that the long period she lived with Karol was the most beautiful of her life.
Many years have passed through the rooms of that incarnation of il manifesto. They are certainly unrepeatable, because nothing seemed impossible to us back then, and because we were always on the inside of the movements, part of the meetings, part of every social conflict, in Italy and everywhere in the world, with our leadership group expelled and disowned by the Communist Party and enjoying immense respect in the international network of the left.
Thanks to Rossana, Luigi, Lucio, Valentino and Luciana (the latter being the only wonderful eye-witness left of that extraordinary history), we were able to face turns of events that were both hard to bear and exhilarating, moments of discouragement and enthusiasm. And I am sure that the temperament, determination, will and taste of that fantastic handful of people have been decisive, giving il manifesto the vital energy it needed to reach 50 years of existence.
Many things happened that affected our relationship with Rossana, including a radical change within ourselves. There were political events that involved people on a personal level, to the point of reaching a profound and painful break. That’s how it was for me, as for other people, for Rossana herself, and, I imagine, for the thousands and thousands of militants and readers who have accompanied us for over ten years.
There will be a time and a place to go deeper and tell that story. Now, what prevails is the regret that we couldn’t be fully reunited (she had returned to collaborate with us on occasion), but above all the dutiful, deeply felt, emotional farewell we owe Rossana.
She will continue to be with us as long as il manifesto lives.