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    “Italians paid a high price for the right to be respected”

    photo credit: Bourgeois.A
    photo credit: Bourgeois.A

    Princess Astrid and Elio Di Rupo commemorated Belgian mining disaster 60 years ago. Princess Astrid participated on Monday afternoon (1 August) in Pescara and Manoppello in Italy, at a ceremony in memory of the mining disaster of Bois du Cazier at Marcinelle, near Charleroi.

    On 8 August 1956, an underground fire in the coal mine at Marcinelle killed 262 workers, many of them of Italian nationality, making the mining accident the worst in Belgian history.

    Despite an attempted rescue from the surface, only 13 of the miners who had been underground at the time of the accident survived. 96 killed in the accident were Belgian nationals; in total 12 nationalities were represented among the dead, including 136 Italians.

    Among those present at the commemoration in Italy was the former Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, whose family is from the Abruzzo region which paid the heaviest price in the tragedy. The village of Manoppello where the ceremony took place lost 22 men.

    At the invitation of the governor of the region of Abruzzo, Princess Astrid represented the King, said the Royal Palace. She inaugurated the exhibition “1956-2016. Marcinelle” and attend a concert yesterday evening.

    “In 1948, my father Nicola left Abruzzo for Belgium,” said Elio Di Rupo. “He left with a single suitcase as only luggage. Like millions of Italians after the war, he lived in abject poverty. To escape poverty, to find a job, he left everything that he loved.”

    “Just arrived, he was parked in a canteen with a large dormitory. Then my mother and her 6 children joined him (…) Father, mother and we children felt a bit like prisoners. Prisoners of the cold, prisoners of the rain, prisoners of a country called the black country “, he said.

    “Disasters like the one in Marcinelle remind us every year on the same date that Italians paid dearly for the right to be respected.”

    The Brussels Times (Source: Belga)