Follina, Italy, October 9, 2022. Today, the 31st Tree of Peace was planted at the Memorial of Austro-Hungarian Soldiers in Follina. The planting ceremony was part of an international event called “Commemoration of the fallen soldiers and civil victims of every nationality and all wars”. The traditional commemoration was held after two years of the pandemic, which added to the specialness of the celebration. The main organizer was the Committee for the Austro-Hungarian Memorial in Follina (Comitato per il Sacrario Austro-Ungarico di Follina) in cooperation with the Municipality of Follina, the Austrian Black Cross (Österreichisches Schwarzes Kreuz), the Follina Section of the Italian National Artillery Association (Sezione Artiglieri di Follina) and by groups of Alpins from Follina and Valmareno. The whole event was supported by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Rome. In addition to local authorities and Her Excellency Karla Wursterová, the Slovak Ambassador to Italy, San Marino and Malta, the Ambassador of Ukraine, the Consul general of the Czech Republic, a representative of the Slovenian Embassy and representatives of the Austrian Black Cross also took part in the commemorative ceremony. About 50 soldiers of Slovak origin are also buried at the Austro-Hungarian Cemetery in Follina. The new and dignified form of the Memorial and Cemetery was taken care of by the Committee for the Austro-Hungarian Memorial in Follina, which was initiated by Mr. Marcello Tomasi, the President of the Committee. In 2008, a memorial stone dedicated to the Slovaks who died in the First World War in the area around the Piava River was installed in the area of the Memorial.
The event began at the “Le Crode della Storia” Memorial with the raising of the national flags of Italy, Austria and Slovakia to the tune of the national anthems of all three countries. After the Flag Raising of Italy, Austria and Slovakia the national anthems of Ukraine, Czechia and Slovenia were also sung in homage to the Ambassador of Ukraine, the Consul General of the Czech Republic and the Minister Plenipotentiary of Slovenia. Subsequently, a march of flag bearers and invited guests formed to the Military Memorial and Cemetery, where the main program began with speeches by the organizers and diplomats. During the ceremony, Ambassador Karla Wursterová laid a laurel wreath at the Military Memorial and in her speech thanked all the actors involved in preserving the memory of the fallen soldiers. She also emphasized the need to protect peace around the world and appealed for the fastest possible end to Russian military aggression in Ukraine. She assured her Ukrainian colleague of Slovakia’s strong support for his country. The event continued with an ecumenical worship service by representatives of the religions professed by the fallen soldiers buried at the Military Cemetery in Follina. “Since the last event in 2019, a number of events have come into our lives that have shocked the world: a pandemic that has not yet left us, a war in Europe, political, economic and social consequences whose extent and impact we still do not know. These three years also profoundly changed interpersonal relations and brought tense situations. But we hope that the distant future will bring us peace and health again”, said Marcello Tomasi, President of the Committee for the Austro-Hungarian Memorial and the main organizer of the commemorative act.
The ceremony ended with the symbolic planting of the 31st Tree of Peace (Tilia cordata) and the unveiling of a Memorial pillar with a plaque of the initiative. The roots of the tree were symbolically sprinkled with soil from the Burial-mound of Milan Rastislav Štefánik in Brezová pod Bradlom, where the co-founder of the Czechoslovak legions rests together with his Italian crew after his tragic death. This act further strengthened the connection between the common history of Italy and Slovakia. Dr. Marek Sobola, Secretary-General of Servare et Manere also spoke to the participants at the Tree of Peace. The event in Follina was a stimulus to reflect on the horrors of war and the great value of peace, as well as the need for each of us to devote ourselves to peace. Currently, the coexistence of all peoples of the world, dialogue, tolerance and mutual understanding with respect for the environment are extremely important. During the final part of the event, Secretary-General of Servare et Manere announced the nomination of Mr. Marcello Tomasi for the Memorial Medal of Tree of Peace, a high award of Servare et Manere, for his merits in preserving historical memory and the constant presentation of the values of friendship and understanding between nations.