The year 1943 was a pivotal time during the war in Corsica. The Allied forces “liberated” Corsica and returned the island to the French. Among the first tasks that the French undertook was to subdue the Italian irredentists. They sent a clear message to those with Italian ethnic leanings by executing Col. Petru Simone Cristofini.
When Gen. Charles De Gaulle visited Ajaccio that October, he praised the Corsicans for their brave struggle: “Corsica has the honor and the luck to be the first free part of France.”
Contrary to De Gaulle’s post-war declaration that the Corsicans were lucky to be part of France, the majority of Corsicans were not in agreement. Already discriminated against ethnically and culturally by decades of forced assimilation into a strict French language and culture, the Corsicans felt further disdain toward France for the same reason Sicilians felt betrayed by Italy: a lack of economic development and financial support.
In 1946, nearly 100 other irredentist collaborators, including intellectuals, were rounded up and put on trial by the French authorities, eight were sentenced to death, but none executed. Petru Giovacchini was also condemned to death, but fled to Italy where he found refuge until his death in 1955. With him, the Italian irredentist movement in Corsica died out, though separate movements for independence from France like the Corsica Nazione, Partitu di a Nazione Corsa and the terrorist organization called National Front for the Liberation of Corsica remain active to this day.
The 1950s once again saw Corsica in turmoil and in the throes of another struggle, this time for total autonomy. By the late ’50s, there was an alarming increase in the number of people leaving the island. Corsica experienced a real “diaspora.” Lack of educational and professional opportunities forced the Corsicans again to leave their beloved island. This mass exodus meant that worker shortages added to the economic problems of Corsica.
On the island there was a wave of protest against the proposed construction of an underground atomic testing station and at the plan to sink atomic waste in the sea between the French mainland and Corsica. Further adding to the tension was the stationing of French Foreign Legionnaires; these troops were viewed as an army of occupation.
Moreover, there was growing resistance to the sale of the Corsican coast to financial consortia from the French mainland, who went on to line their pockets with the vast proportion of the islands’ income from tourism. As far as the new holiday villages were concerned, virtually everything was imported from the mainland, from the building materials to the food supplies: even the staff was almost exclusively non-Corsican. And thus Dr. Edmond Simeoni, leader of the ARC (Azione Regionalista Corsa), was speaking for many when he said: “The loveliest areas of Corsica were handed over to the real estate speculators and industrial tourist agents, who now destroy the local hotel business, commandeer the beaches and mutilate the countryside without producing any real profit for the inhabitants.”
Next month: The struggle for autonomy.
Corsican: I soldi, induve vanu? Induve ellu ci n’he di piu!
Italian: I soldi, dove vanno? Dove ce ne di più
English: Where does money go? Where there’s the most! Figuratively: Money follows money!