Book Review: Matteo Pretelli and Francesco Fusi, “Soldati e patrie. I combattenti alleati di origine italiana nella Seconda guerra mondiale”, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2023

By Gianluca Cinelli

The Allied armies fighting in the Second World War were an international and transcultural aggregation of Western, African, Southern American, and Asian soldiers. The main reason for the intercultural diversity in the French and British armies consisted of the extensive deployment of colonial troops on several fronts, from Europe to the Pacific, in the air and on the sea. Unlike their European Allies, the United States did not rely on a colonial empire and had only American troops to deploy in the war. However, the American armed forces were the mirror of American society, which included a variety of ethnic and cultural communities. The book Soldati e patrie (Soldiers and Fatherlands) offers remarkable insight into one particular aspect of this phenomenon, namely the presence of the Italians in the Allied armies, with a focus on the US Army.

Read the full text here

Book Review: Illya Titko, “Blood Formula”, translated by Jeffrey Stephaniuk, Regina, Benchmark Press, 2021, 210 p.

By Gianluca Cinelli

Senior Lieutenant Illya Titko is a combat veteran from Kalush, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ukraine. He was drafted in September 2015, or rather, he volunteered for the mobilization that was underway. Mr. Titko writes his book from the per­spective of a citizen-soldier, as a man who continued to maintain one foot firmly in the civilian world, even though his new environment was a war zone, and “war is when your entire world is turned upside down.”

Jeffrey Stephaniuk, the excellent translator of this book, introduces with these words the author (at p. 6), highlighting the perspective from which the whole story is told: that of a “citizen in arms”, a man who has answered the impellent call of duty when his country was in dire danger. Titko himself adds some remarks a few pages later:

It was not an easy task for me to write this book. It was a real inner struggle, for over a year, on whether I should write it or not. But I was pre-occupied with those past events, mulling that chaotic time over and over in my mind, conscious of the fact that it really wasn’t that long ago when I lived through them. There were nights when I couldn’t even sleep. I’d argue with myself: Should I or should I not write this book? I clearly understood that not only should I write this book, but it was nec­essary for this book be written. First, it was necessary so that everything I ex­perienced would have its place and not become lost in the subsequent living of my everyday life. I needed to write this book so that those who hadn’t been there personally could know about these events. I wanted them to know what happened and how they happened to those involved, with the people, with the country, and of course all those individuals who resolved to walk this same path, namely sol­diers defending their country. I realized that such a book would be necessary for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, so that they would have access to first-hand accounts about these difficult and stormy days and nights in the history of our nation. (12)

Read the review here

Launch of new journal section: “Back to the light. Stories of healing from trauma”

War affects our world and lives, whether we are directly involved or not. Its effects are like those of a disease that spreads through the organism, weakening it and altering its relationship with the environment. War destroys communities, poisons associated life, and builds walls. And, which is worse, it plants rotten seeds from which bitter fruits will grow. One antidote to the spread of its malice is listening to the stories of those who have seen its very Gorgon’s face and suffered from its scorching touch.

The Close Encounters in War Journal inaugurates a new section called Back to the light. Stories of healing from trauma. It is entirely devoted to the stories of people who have experienced the war and learned how to cope with the burden of its traumatic memories. Sharing these stories means much to the authors both in terms of ethical commitment and psychological effort. They reveal something intimate that has been troubling them, a core of traumatic memories that haunt their lives. Nonetheless, they are eager to share their stories worldwide with a public of interested and empathic readers, who want to listen and know what war is about.

We are happy to launch this project with two contributions by Ukrainian refugee Olga Kornyushyna and American former infantryman Charles Collins. Olga tells about her traumatic encounter with war as a civilian who had to flee from Kyiv, bombed by the Russians in the present war. Charles tells how he went through four turns of deployment overseas and how he had to fight to heal the moral wounds that such experiences inflicted on him.

The editors of the CEIWJ would like to express their profound gratitude to the authors of these stories and invite all who have stories of healing from war trauma to share them with us and our readers. Veterans, families, friends, therapists, and healers are welcome to submit their contributions.

Our gratitude also goes to Ed Tick, who has generously accepted to embark on this endeavour as co-editor of the Back to the light project, and the members of the section-specific editorial board, Charles Aishi Blocher, Kate Dahlstedt, Nathan Graeser, Lawrence Markworth, Donald McCasland, Glen Miller, Roxy Runyan, and Floyd Striegel.

“Poems for Roman” by Svitlana Povalyaeva

Svitlana Povalyaeva is a Ukrainian writer and poet. She received a degree in journalism at the National Shevchenko University in Kyiv and worked as a journalist for a number of years at major TV channels and media outlets. Svitlana is the author of eight books, one of which is a collection of poetry “After Crimea” that was written after the annexation of Crimea. Her second poetry book will be published in Ukraine by the end of 2022. Over the years, Svitlana took part in countless major literary events, festivals and forums as an author, presenter, and speaker. She practices Buddhism, which has an important influence on her writing. Svitlana is a long-standing civil activist. She took an active part in the Revolution of Dignity (also known as Euromaidan) in Kyiv in 2013-2014 together with her two sons.

Her younger son Roman Ratunyi was a well-known Ukrainian public figure, a defender of green recreational zones of the city of Kyiv, an author of original forms of municipal activism and resistance to corruption, which went far beyond environmental issues, and a volunteer soldier. When the full-scale Russian invasion broke down on February 24, 2022, Roman enlisted as a volunteer and fought in the battle for Kyiv, he took part in the de-occupation of Kyiv Oblast and later joined the 93rd separate mechanized brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces “Kholodnyi Yar” where he was a part of the military intelligence unit. Roman took part in the liberation of the town of Trostyanets and fought in Sumy Oblast. He was killed in action near Izium, Kharkiv Oblast on June 8, 2022. The sentence written by Roman in his last will and testament is symbolic: “Kyiv, I died far from you, but I died for you”. Roman became an inspiration for thousands of Kyiv residents and a symbol of the young generation of Ukrainians.

Read the poems for Roman here

Warriors – Ancient and Modern

By Edward Tick

A Chapter excerpt from Soul Medicine: Healing through Dream Incubation, Oracles, Visions, and Pilgrimage. Forthcoming in January 2023, by kind permission of Inner Traditions Publishing, https://www.innertraditions.com/books/soul-medicine. All rights reserved.

The bulwark

I am leading a healing journey to Greece with World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans and their wives. We will use both ancient warrior and Asklepian dream incubation traditions, the origins of modern psychotherapy, for guidance and healing of modern wounds.

We stand at the rocky base of the towering Acropolis, Athens’s bulwark, and holy center. Her patron goddess Athena’s gleaming temple is high above. We are in the remains of the Asklepion, sanctuary of the healing god founded during plague and active for centuries. Suddenly rocks fall from above, barely missing us as they clatter on the stone walkway. We look up. Teenagers toss stones down from the height and laugh.

Some onlookers freeze or duck for cover, but short and broad John Giannini steps into the barrage. John is Italian-American, a Jungian analyst from Chicago and a World War II combat veteran. His humble size betrays his strength. He stands as if ready to take the shots from above to protect the rest of us. He looks up, points, and calls out, “Stop! This is dangerous, not a joke. This place is sacred. Athena is your goddess. No violence here. You are commanded to stop!” The youths drop their raised arms and slink away.

On her height above, Athena once had several guises. She was called Parthenos, maiden, the virgin goddess, and Nike, victory, with temples to these. Her third guise greeting every supplicant coming through her gates was the goddess’s tall statue striding forward with her spear and shield at the ready. She was Athena Promachos – The Defender, the One in Front, the Bulwark, the Protector. She taught that preservation and protection, not aggression and violence, were the true warrior values and strategy rather than aggression the best tool.

On the ground below, our group’s elder, an old combat veteran, strode forward to protect us all…

Read the full chapter here

Book Review: Ruzzi, Marco. “Generazione Littoriali. Rugby e fascismo in Italia dal 1928 al 1945”. Cuneo: Primalpe, 2022

By Gianluca Cinelli

Sport and politics are connected insofar as the latter provides the structural conditions to perform the former: laws, infrastructures, funding, and representation. There is one sombre aspect of this fortunate combination, namely when the political system is a dictatorship. This is the case investigated by Marco Ruzzi in his last book, Generazione Littoriali, in which he unfolds the story of how rugby was introduced to the Italian public and how it developed during the years of fascism and war.

Ruzzi’s book is remarkable in many aspects. The first is the richness of the information that the author provides about a sport that in Italy has occupied a niche, overshadowed by football and other specialities such as athletics or swimming, bicycle races, and Formula 1.

Read the full-text review here.

Rewards of a Journal’s life

As our readers know, the Close Encounters in War Journal is a scholarly publication that aims to make people aware of the multifaceted reality of war and its deep and often devastating impact on human lives. Over the years, we have decided to expand its scope to reach the broader public in a variety of ways, including the publication of short stories, testimonies, poetry, reviews and so on. Sharing, reaching out, and participating are our ambition, which makes the project of CEIWJ appreciated worldwide by an increasing number of people with the most diverse cultural backgrounds.

That being said, we are happy to publish today an unusual or, to better say, unexpected post through which we would like to tell the story of a recent pleasant event. We have been contacted by Stephanie, a mother reaching out for her son James, who is currently learning about the American military history at school. James has an interest in this topic and, as his mother puts it, he keeps going on to learn more, even after school. Browsing the Internet, James landed on our homepage and thought it would be no minor feat if he could participate somehow in such a project that he found inspirational. Thus, he sent us a link to a page about the history of military vehicles, which we found quite interesting, insofar as we are now preparing the next issue about science and technology: https://alansfactoryoutlet.com/a-history-of-military-vehicles-cars-trucks-and-tanks/. Knowledge is something one builds in bits and pieces, neither all at once nor once and forever. James was in the right place at the right time, as it were, and we are grateful to him for having shared his enthusiasm and this piece of knowledge with us and now with our readers.

Book launch: “Il ritorno del guerriero” by Edward Tick

Turin 5 May 2022, 6 pm; Cuneo 6 May 2022, 4.30 pm

American psychotherapist Edward Tick’s Warrior’s Return. Restoring the Soul after War (Sounds True, 2014) has been translated into Italian and published last March by Nerosubianco publisher with the title Il ritorno del guerriero. Guarire l’anima dopo la guerra.

The book will be launched on Thursday 5 May in Turin at 18:00. The Centre for Peace and Non-Violent Culture “Sereno Regis” will host the event. The author will join the event remotely to dialogue with the translators Gianluca Cinelli and Patrizia Piredda and answer the questions from the public.

The event can be attended remotely live on the host institution’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/serenoregistv.

The book will be launched again the following day (Friday 6 May) in Cuneo at 16:30. The event will be hosted by the Institute for the History of Italian Resistance in Cuneo (http://www.istitutoresistenzacuneo.it). The Italian translators and the publisher will be discussants.

Download the flyers here:

Book launch – Turin, 5 May, 18:00

Book launch – Cuneo, 6 May, 16:30