On the 32nd anniversary of the Bologna bombing, the pain for victims’ families lives on


The date is 2nd August 1980. An explosion. A deafening sound. A clock, that stops showing twenty five past ten on a hot Italian morning. A time that hasn’t changed in all these years. A city, Bologna, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, that can’t forget or move on, because the story of that dramatic second still doesn’t make any sense. Nor did the investigation, blocked at every turn. No motive, nobody found guilty, nobody declared responsible.

« Bologna won’t forget », is written on all the banners that are silently brought in procession in the parade by the families of the victims. Victims of what, and of whom, it is still hard to tell.

Just an ordinary summer’s day

It is a normal Saturday morning in Bologna. Summer is at its best and it’s quite hot, even at 10:25 in the morning. The central station is very crowded, more so than usual. People going, people arriving, people waiting for the train home, people finally leaving for holidays. The noise of the busy station, people chattering, children laughing, babies crying. Suddenly everything is eclipsed by an explosion. The city is shaken from its very centre. It happens in a matter of seconds. Immediately everything is silent, but the silence that doesn’t last long, it is just a moment of quiet, before the chaos. After that, it is all a confusion of sirens, horns, desperation, horror, pain.

A massacre, a terrorist attack, still without a motive, still without a person behind bars, still without a guilty party. No one, in thirty two years, has paid for this crime, for the eighty five people who died, for the more than two hundred wounded. For the families. A deep scar that, unfortunately, doesn’t touch Italy alone.

Still, while the fight between the Italian government, held by some to be responsible and mandator of the massacre, and some fascist groups, also accused, goes on, covered by the shame of so-called « State secrets », the only thing that survivors can do is remember. Tell the stories of their beloved that died that tragic morning.

A tragic anniversary for English victim’s parents

Such as the story of the English girl Catherine Mitchell. For thirty one years, her parents Harry and Shirley have travelled to Italy every year to commemorate her. But not this year. Catherine was only 22 when she died, her parents are now significantly older, much more than their biological ages would suggest. They are tired after all the battles fought over the years. Deeply sad, because the result is always the same. It seems that no justice can be found for their daughter, to allow her to rest in peace. This year, the Mitchells have decided to stay in Launceston, in the family home. They will visit Bath, to visit the graveyard where Catherine rests, along with her boyfriend John Kolpinsky. They were on holiday together, travelling around Europe after their graduation. “They met at the University of Birmingham”, said Harry. “You couldn’t find other two soulmates like them. They were just meant to be together, and for a dad this is difficult to admit. That was their first holiday together. Catherine had always loved Italy and its beaches. We were just so happy for her. Beautiful, sweet, clever. She was the first one in the Mitchell family to go to university. We were blessed with a daughter like her".

In 1980, the era of smartphones was still far in the futue. Catherine and John used to communicate with their families by postcards. A strange joke of destiny, because some of the postcards arrived even after that tragic 2nd of August. “Somehow it helped us knowing that she was happy,” continues Harry, as tears prevent Shirley from speaking.

It was John’s sister who gave them the news of what had happened in Bologna. For two days they didn’t have any news of Catherine and they thought she was alive until the 4th August, when English authorities in Italy confirmed her death, and the family identified her from her rings and clothes. John had already been declared dead two days before. Today, only few friends and relatives are commemorating Catherine and John in Bath. In Birmingham there are three trees planted by their friends almost twenty years ago.

Could the truth soon be revealed ?

Meanwhile, in Italy the new government has announced that a reform is going to be approved about the « State secrets » and hopefully this will help to reveal the truth about the Bologna massacre, a last present, and probably the most important one, to all the victims and their families.


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Marta CASTELLANI

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