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Saturday, May 7, 2022

"Bella Ciao" comes to Ukraine

"Bella Ciao," Italy's anthem of freedom, resistance, and sacrifice, is now being sung, in translation, by Ukrainians in their epic struggle against the horrific Russian invasion of their country. Here's a link to a Ukrainian rendition, with translated Ukrainian lyrics, posted on Facebook several weeks ago:

and on YouTube with new lyrics, here:

In 2010, Frederika Randall, a dear friend and a brilliant translator and journalist, wrote about "Bella Ciao" for this blog. "Most musicologists," she wrote, "believe Bella Ciao was adapted from a [late 19th-century] work song of the mondine, the women who worked in the rice fields of northern Italy." 

Between 1943 and 1945, the song was adapted by the Italian resistance movement that helped liberate Italy from the Nazi occupation and Mussolini's Fascist dictatorship (although it's not clear it was ever sung by the Partisans). After the war it achieved world-wide circulation. The lyrics, as sung today, were first published in 1953, and the song grew in popularity in the 1960s. Some years later, it circulated within the dissident movement in Iran. The song has been covered some 25 times in Italian and in many other languages. Today it is sung in Italy on April 25, Liberation Day, celebrating the country's liberation from the German/Nazi occupation. 

Here's the link to Frederika Randall's post (republished in April 2020), which focuses on a controversy that developed over students at a middle school in Prati singing a portion of the song. The post includes the Italian lyrics to "Bella Ciao" as well as an English translation.

It is with great sadness that we must write that Frederika died in May, 2020, a month after publication of the re-post above. 


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