Gressoney-St. Jean, Val d’Aosta

This bronze Alpine soldier stands ever vigilant near a mountain pass at Gressoney-St. Jean, in Val d’Aosta. Now traversed with ski trails, here are peaks that troops once climbed across at nightfall. Many never returning.

A plaque records their sacrifice in florid prose:

“These mountains shall crumble before the bravery of so much dead youth on foreign fields passes from memory.
For the glory of Italy.
May 1915-November 1918.”

Vittorio Emanuele, III, King of Italy, Emperor of Ethopia, King of the Albanians

Vittorio Emanuele III, the King of Italy from 1900-1946, sent Italian troops to two world wars. Much loved during WWI, he was forced into exile after WWII.

Today Italy no longer has a king; Europe is now unified; and
this bust of the long-gone king presides–mostly overlooked–in a small square.

Today my boys, in red and black parkas, oblivious, pass by the monuments. Their skis on their shoulders–no guns, helmets or ammunition–they head for the lifts.

Behind them I pause, sensing the deep wells of other mothers’ sadness that still lurks here, pooled at the fringes of today’s sun and snow and skiing.

And in the distance: the happy clank of the chairlift.
Carrying my boys up to where mountaintops glisten.

–Natalia Sarkissian

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