Varna to Varna

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

47547_439750384424_51319942 My friend lives in Brixen (Bressanone in Italian), one of the major cities of the Südtirol, though it contains only 21,000 people. The city of Vahrn (the Italians call it Varna) is, today, essentially the northern suburb of Brixen. I travel up here every so often to chart the progress of my friend, to bring him word from the civilization the rest of us inhabit beneath the sky. A Pakistani by birth, and a New Yorker for many years by choice, my friend has become Südtirolian in his heart. He has absorbed, without exactly trying, the specific passions and distractions of these parts. The mountains simply claimed him, I suppose.

One thing that bothers him is that Brixen (Bressanone), Varhn (Varna), and the other cities of this region always bear two names. It gnaws at him, this Alpine schizophrenia. The Südtirol, formerly a part of Austria, was given to Italy as a reward for joining the winning side after World War I. Various attempts to make the area more “Italian” ensued. But the wheels of Italianization really began to move once the Fascists took power in Italy in the late 1920s. In 1939, Mussolini decided it was time to take the final step. Hitler, for his own Hitlerian reasons, had never cast his otherwise covetous eye on the Südtirol. He was happy to let the Italians have it, thinking that the Germans in the Südtirol should come back down to the German heartland where they could hear him better. So, Hitler and Mussolini cooked up a scheme whereby the German-speaking citizens of the area would be encouraged to move away, into Greater Germany. At that time, Greater Germany included much of the northern and western coast of the Black Sea. The plan, then, was to move the people of the Südtirol from Varna to Varna, more or less. From the Alpine mountains to the coast of the Black Sea.

Thus, the troubled dreams of my Pakistani/American/Südtirolian friend, strange things he hears from inside the mountains. He is having nightmares of relocation. People in the Südtirol don’t talk about these things very much anymore. Why should they? But the old fears can still trickle back after the midnight hour, in the dark mountain nights when a clump of Alpine rock can take any form the imagination will give it. A sensitive man, if he listens hard enough on a moonless night, he can almost hear the waves of the Black Sea lapping up against the rocks of the Dolomites.

More here.