Easter Sunday was always special, but Monday was the fun! Here Marco Sorgetti
who has been tracking COVID-19 for FT
leans back a bit and recalls some Eastertide memories and thoughts
of what may lie ahead whilst also celebrating a lifetime in Turin, Italy.
In the north of Italy, the 1950s were probably
the busiest period the area ever experienced in modern times.
Our industry was trying to recover fast
from the destructions of World War II and Turin was then the busiest of
all cities, busy inventing and manufacturing Italian television, telephones,
cars, chemicals, fashion, food, pens, buttons, tires… you name it.
Olivetti, Nutella and Fiat 500
This is the time when in Turin, or near
Turin, we managed to create Nutella, the Cinquecento, the Olivetti typewriters,
and, just a wink later, in 1963, even the Olivetti Programma 101, which
is considered to be the first personal computer in the world.
Turin was also the place that built the
Fiat 500, the most popular automobile in the history of that company.
Grounded to Upwardly Mobile
this enormously polluted melting pot bursting with energy I was born to
a comfortable, but not affluent couple of young professionals, my late
parents, who fed themselves once a day only in order to have some kind
Post war trade and progress was so strong
then that in no time our family could afford the rent of a new apartment,
where my sister Daniela was born, and where I lived with my mother, Flavia
Lasagno and my father, Ugo Sorgetti. By 1957 we also had a TV and a car.
The time had not yet come for me to get
deep into international trade and logistics and witness all these productions
slowly move away from Turin to other places, first elsewhere in Italy,
then to close offshore factories and eventually to the rest of the world.
Walking Talking French
But the world was fascinating me. My pastime
was the perusal of the Atlas of the World, which my mother used at the
school where she was teaching.
I was busy asking my parents about other
countries and peoples.
The teacher role came to my mother's lips
and she replied she had only studied some French at school and her contacts
with “foreigners” had not been very many.
That was supposed to kill my indiscretion.
Very seldom, when we walked on the mountains near France, one could meet
some French who would reply in a language that only my mother could understand.
Au revoir, and we moved on, my curiosity
Watch Your Language
I decided then that I wanted to study languages,
so that I could understand everybody.
The truth is that 1957 was a time in my
life when everything seemed to be possible.
There being no climate change during the
1950s yet, winters used to be long, gloomy, and freezing,
I recall 1956 in particular, with Turin
frosted and buried in snow, as though Siberia had moved 150 kilometers
from the Mediterranean.
Easter Monday in Spring 1957
was long in the making, so we were all hoping for Easter and especially
Easter Monday, the day when everyone was out and about, trying to arrange
picnics in the fields.
That is where the all the fun was.
We had bought a car by then, and some family
friends had a car, too.
So, we packed three families in two cars
Easter Sunday in 1957 was on April 21st,
and we planned our al fresco luncheon for April 22nd.
We were going to Valdellatorre, a nice village
right at the foot of the first slopes of the Alps.
We planned to eat al fresco in the wonderful
fields sloping from the mountains into the river Po’s plateau. There
were a few clouds and we were praying they were only there for decoration.
By the time we pulled out our wine, frittatas,
eggs, anchovies and salami sandwiches of course it started to rain and
a few minutes later there was even a small snowstorm.
This being said, winter had been so long
(two years in a row, actually), and the pressure to escape out of Turin’s
smog so strong, we simply carried on eating and drinking, us kids romping
about and our parents and friends chatting and laughing.
We had a wonderful time: chilly, damp, and
cheerful, everyone oblivious of any possible obstacle between us sitting
on the damp meadow and the festivity of the Lamb we were supposed to sanctify.
We came back in the evening sneezing and
shivering, but very happy from that Monday after Easter Sunday so long
As it happens 1957 was also the year I experienced
the first pandemic in my life and I narrowly escaped death myself, while
30,000 Italians died of the Asian Flu disease during that period.
Easter Sunday 2020 Looks Beautiful
The weather forecast for this Sunday and
Monday is wonderful; we expect as high as 25 Celsius (77F) in Turin.
The air is so clean now you can see the
mountains in the distance.
For the first time since 1957, I insuppressibly
feel the same urge to escape somewhere out in the nature and I would be
ready to do so, even though I am almost 68 and I could probably never
get back on my feet after sitting out on the grass for a couple of hours.
But this is not possible, I shall not have
the privilege of getting damp and cold and happy, let alone sneezing!
Rules are Rules
One of the things my beloved parents taught
me then is that rules are rules and you must abide by the rules no matter
what else happens.
Luncheon for One
I am fortunate enough to have a more than
decent apartment, with a small terrace, and I think I shall be having
my lunch there, probably alone, as the only other person around me in
these times is my partner, who is a doctor.
This is not really the right time to be
a doctor, but we can do nothing about it, and we share a few minutes before
07:00 in the morning or in the evening after 22:00.
I feel we are lucky as we are not completely
alone, we have food and entertainment on the radio and TV, although I
must say it is less interesting . . . now that you actually need it.
An Easter Prayer
am planning my Easter Day in a rather unusual manner.
Any other person who would normally be invited
for Easter is unable to move and even my great-nephew, Vittorio, (right)
who is just six months old will be unreachable, somewhere else in town.
We shall have a video call instead, but
it is not the same.
If I turn my eyes to the other side, looking
at the many who are less fortunate than I, it is not a good feeling:
I see pictures of millions suffering in
the streets of India, bewildered faces looking out of their windows everywhere,
New York, London, Manila, even those speaking from the base in Antarctica
show a worried grin.
I feel helpless and fragile, unable to help
and assist anyone, even though I am trying my best to assist my neighbour,
who just lost her husband and is understandably distressed.
For sure this is not the best Easter in
my life, and I feel for those who may rightfully think that it is not
even the worst, those who lived through wars, famine, poverty.
Something of Value
It is a time for thinking of the values
in our life that count for each and everybody. This is the time that may
lead to a genuine resurrection of the soul, if we use it to cure our selfish
approach and leave all that is inconsiderate behind.
Time to Think Past and Ahead
I am frequently thinking about the world
that used to be mine: logistics, freight forwarding, CLECAT, FIATA, the
EU and the UN institutions, the meetings, the speeches, the position papers,
the voting recommendations, you name it.
It all sounds a little outdated and I wonder
whether we are getting some of this back anytime soon.
I am trying to imagine how our societies
will change, or not, and how the international trade will evolve after
this terrible punch in the face.
We are all afraid for our health and for
the health of our economies.
Rescue plans have been devised and will
probably be adopted to maintain our welfare and we hope these are successful.
The thought that this health emergency will be very hard for the entire
world cannot be avoided, but we shall overcome these problems if we try
to cooperate as selflessly as possible, looking into the future at what
our countries can do for one another.
Careful Steps Ahead Needed
If we only look at what we have done in
the past and strive to return to the same position, without accepting
the changes and the limitations that the COVID-19 pandemic has created,
I am not optimistic that the future will smile at us.
If we want the future to smile at us, we
need to look at the future with courage and resolution, modify our ways
to be more considerate and cooperative, and avoid regret for the past,
which is now over.
May your Easter be as happy as you can imagine
Have trust in your abilities and help those
you can, without breaking any rules. They are there to help you.
Turin—April 12, 2020.