Cippo martiri del SenioThe Senio originates from the Tuscan hills of Monte Carzolano; after 92km it joins the river Reno. Every year since 2004 locals have been celebrating April 25 (the liberation day, which is a national holiday in Italy) with a long walk that commemorates war events.

A river of memories
Although its size is actually that of a stream, Senio is generally defined a river because of the relevant historical events that have taken place along its banks over the centuries. These include at least seven conflicts, amongst which World War II protracted episodes in the winter of 1944-45, when German armies and allies (several armies from various countries) fought each other for four months; the fight culminated between April 9 and 11 1945.

Soldiers on the Senio
At the end of March 1945 Senio’s front line became crucially strategic. The allied armies joined forces and destroyed the German army on this side of the Po river, which had been held by the Germans for three months. From April 9 the allied armies started to defeat the Germans with a major attack.

Crossing the river Senio
On April 10, at dawn, between Fusignano and Alfonsine the operation “Sonia” took place; the “Cremona” army was ready to attack the river in order to access the nearby main roads.
Around midday, the 3rd battalion of the 22nd regiment freed Fusignano and the 21st and 22nd infantry regiments reached Alfonsine. Today that spot on the river is marked by a memorial stone with the following epitaph: “From this river bank the partisans, the Divisione Cremona and the 8th British Army heroically won on April 10 1945 and freed the area once and for all from the German invaders and from the fascist traitors”.

White flag on the river Senio
On April 10 1945, in the morning, the sky over Cotignola was invaded by airplanes ready for bombarding again, like they had done the day before. The attack seemed imminent, so the local priest father Stefano Casadio and Luigi Casadio (who became mayor afterwards) invoked a truce by displaying a white bed sheet on the river banks.

Martyrs of the river Senio
On October 23 and 24 1944 a group of youngsters that belonged to the clandestine Fronte della Gioventù were arrested in Lugo because of their antifascist activity, which included gathering weapons for local partisans. The fascist police of Brigata Nera picked up the youngsters and took them to the Casa del Fascio, then jailed and tortured them in the stronghold. The fascists stole money from the national bank Banca d’Italia, then handed the hostages over to the German army and ran away north of the region. At dawn on October 26 the Germans took the youngsters on the banks of the river Senio and shoot them dead. The remains of the bodies were only recovered in December 1944 and in May of the following year.
The slaughter of Masiera
Borgo Pignatta is a small village just outside Masiera; it is inhabited by labourers and is just on the river banks of Senio. On December 23, during the night, German soldiers destroyed the homes of the families Galassi, Pignatta and Costa with mines; these houses also hosted several other people from other families. The fire was so heavy that it was not possible to save anyone and the bodies were recovered only the following spring; there were more than 28 victims. The memorial stone located on the river banks is a stark reminder of such cruel events: “Nazi violence brought an end to these lives, but no violence will suffocate hope and the fight for a better world full of peace and freedom”.

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Info: Istituto Storico della Resistenza

(Updated 21/03/2023)

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