Moral Courage prize awarded

The Monte San Martino Trust has announced the winner of its innovative Moral Courage Award, which ran as a pilot project in Lucca Province in 2018.

Ortensia Mele

The award recognises the same display of moral courage and leadership in 2018 as that shown by Italian civilians towards Allied escapers and other fugitives in 1943-45. The recipient is Ortensia Mele, and the award recognises her unselfish actions in providing a home in Lucca for a family of Syrian political refugees. The prize of 2,000 euros was to help the father buy a means of transport so that he could take up a job opportunity.

The scheme ran in co-operation with the Institute for the History of the Resistance and the Contemporary Age, Lucca, (ISREC). The intention was to seek nominees among people exposing, and fighting against, discrimination in any form; befriending those whom society has excluded; and daring to stand up for fair and transparent dealing in the face of violent corruption.

The award was judged by a panel consisting of an MSMT trustee, a senior MSMT member, the director of ISREC and a representative of each of the Italian charities, Sant’Egidio and the School for Peace. The Prefecture of Lucca Province also pledged its support.

The award ceremony on September 5th 2018 was, by kind permission of the Mayor of Lucca, Alessandro Tambellini, incorporated into the City Council’s annual commemoration of Lucca’s liberation on September 5th 1944. It took place in the Council Chamber of Palazzo Santini. Silvia Angelini, deputy director of ISREC, spoke on the importance of the historical example and of the Institute’s links with MSMT.

Anne Copley, an MSMT trustee, presented the award. She praised Ortensia Mele for making a house available to the Syrian family despite the possibility of being criticised for her actions. She said: “Signora Mele’s actions reflect exactly those of the many thousands of Italians, often the poorest and most dispossessed, who welcomed into their homes the starving and ragged young men escaping from prison camps all over Italy after the Armistice of September 1943.”

Ortensia Mele, who is in her eighties, unfortunately could not be present in person so the award was accepted on her behalf by Luca Andreozzi of the Comunita` di Sant’Egidio. The organisation’s Humanitarian Corridors project was the inspiration for Ortensia Meles’ generous donation of the use of her house.

The idea for the award was conceived by Andrew Adams, an MSMT member, who acted as Secretary to the Award Programme.