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Trieste National Hall in Slovenian minority's hands

Trieste, 28 March - A contract was signed in Trieste on Monday to formally transfer the ownership of National Hall, a building of great symbolic importance to the Slovenian minority in Italy, from the University of Trieste on to the minority. The ceremony was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, reports the minority's paper Primorski Dnevnik.

Trieste, Italy
National Hall (Narodni Dom) in Trieste.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA
File photo

The contract on the free-of-charge transfer was signed by Roberto Di Lenarda, the university's chancellor, and Rado Race, the president of the National Hall Foundation.

The pair also signed a contract under which the university can continue to use the building free of charge for ten years, until a building to which it will move is renovated.

Primorski Dnevnik also reports that a small crowd of people gathered in Unity Square in front of the Prefecture, where the contracts were signed, to greet Mattarella.

Among them were Tatjana Rojc, an Italian senator who is a member of the minority, Trieste Prefect Annunziato Varde and Interior Ministry State Secretary Ivan Scalfarotto.

Race said before the signing the ceremony taking place "at the Prefecture, at the government palace, in the presence of the president of the republic" was more than the minority could have expected.

Senator Rojc told Radio Slovenija that "it's a great pleasure for me that the entire ethnic community has taken over this important facility, which represents an investment for the future, for the entire city, where a new dialogue should be established, not only with the city itself but with the entire area around it."

Today's event brings to an end the process of restitution of National Hall which started on 13 July 2020 - 100 years to the day after Fascists burnt down what was the heart of the Slovenian minority's life in Trieste in the early 20th century.

It was on that day that a document on returning National Hall to the minority was signed with Slovenian and Italian presidents Borut Pahor and Mattarella on hand.

In today's written statement, Pahor recalled that he and Mattarella had first formally discussed the option of returning National Hall to the minority in autumn 2019.

He expressed gratitude to all those who had helped this happen, including the leaders of the two umbrella organisations of Slovenians in Italy Ksenija Dobrila and Walter Bandelj, Senator Rojc, Slovenian Ambassador to Italy Tomaž Kunstelj and Consul General Vojko Volk.

He also thanked "all the persevering Slovenians and Italians of all generations who have believed and continue to believe in justice, good neighbourliness, friendship and coexistence in the European spirit".

Last October, the Italian government adopted a legal basis on the transfer of ownership, which was then passed by parliament in December.

The multi-purpose National Hall opened in 1904, featuring a bank, hotel, library, a 400-seat theatre, sports hall, music school, print shop and the newspaper Edinost, several associations, restaurants and bars as well as flats.

Prosperous Slovenian politicians and businessmen from Trieste, who were behind the idea to build such a centre unknown of in Europe or the US at the time, selected Maks Fabiani, one the finest architects in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to design it.

Its torching presaged a campaign of terror that followed under Fascist rule. After it was burnt down, the building was repaired and turned into a hotel, which was closed soon after WWII and bought by the Friuli Venezia Giulia region to be later given to the university.

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© STA, 2022