July 2, 2018
June 16, 2018
As I was driving in the afternoon Budapest traffic jam along the riverbank of the Danube River, an old pleasant memory popped into my head. https://youtu.be/9dYLEI3lrUg
When I was a kid and even later in life, it has been a family tradition to watch the Vienese Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance on television in the morning of January 1 each year. Many people whom I’ve known, got up in the morning of the first day of the new year and watched the concert regardless of how sleepy or hangover they were after their new year parties.
As a kid, the “Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss II was the highlight of the televised new year’s day concert. I guess, for no particular reason. Of course it has catchy tunes that has turned into a lifetime jingle (especially when driving along the Danube in Budapest in an afternoon traffic jam…), because my mother always talked about it during the concert and overtime the stories she said has built up my expectations. Also, because of the waltz’s dreamy title, “The Blue Danube…” and the awesome superimposed photos of the cities along the Danube’s 1770 miles banks, Ulm, Linz, Vienna, Bratislava Budapest, Novi Sad… as they slowly floated across the black and white television monitor to the tunes of the music. It has made me dreaming of distant lands along the river.
There is one memorable photo, easily the signature picture of Budapest split by the mighty Danube, taken high up from the great distance of the Castle hill. The picture shows the Parliament building, the famous Chain Bridge, and the calm mirror like magnificent river below. It has been the perfect and sanitized Kodak moment of the “Blue Danube.”
But how blue, and how calm and how perfect is the Danube anyway? It is the second longest river in Europe about 1770 miles long. Its headwater in the Black Forest in Germany and it enters into the Black Sea somewhere near the Romanian Bulgarian border after rolling through 10 different countries.
It is one of the most important major transportation water-ways on the continent, has its own unique fauna and flora, including its own river monster, the Danube Salmone or Huchen, that can grow as big as 4 feet and weight 110 lbs. Last, but not the least, the Danube is also a much feared and respected river in large parts of Europe. People along its river valley have a personal, relationship with the river. On the one hand, the river has provided jobs, irreplaceable drinking water, food, helped in building wealth, contributed to prosperity and inspired arts and cultures. On the other hand, its floods have also been the most destructive events that have taken thousands of lives, destroyed crops and wiped out communities over the centuries.
Uniquely, there has been no major superstitions and biblical prophecies applied to the Danube over hundreds of years, as Christian Rohr explains in his study of meteorological history, “The Danube Floods and The Human Response and Perception (14th to 17th Century) “. In fact, there has been a very sober and rational relationship between the river and its human inhabitants as Rohr describes it. People have learned to ignore god and his alleged doings during major devastations and instead of trying to appease God, they have focused on rebuilding and developing more effective flood prevention technics and river control methods . Oddly, the church has shared this approach and has provided generous financial support after each flood to help rebuilding the destroyed lives and communities.
It’s been a constant armwrestling between the river and its people throughout history. Budapest has also experienced its fair share of devastating floods during its existence. In the 1800’s, 23 major floods ravaged the City (not counting smaller ones) that have generated repeated severe humanitarian disasters. If you think about it, it is a very disturbing number. It means that people have experienced a devastating flood every four years in one century. Countless iives have been lost, tens of thousands of people have been displaced, properties destroyed and food supplies wiped out when major floods hit Budapest 23 times in a hundred year time period. For instance, during the flood of 1838, 150 people had lost their lives, 50,000(!) had become homeless. That number was about 1/3 of the entire population of Buda and Pest in the 1830-40s. (the two cities, Buda and Pest was not integrated that time.) The Danube effected real estate fortunes, impacted infrastructure over the centuries and the City kept defending itself from the destructive power of the river. People have not moved…
However, the mighty river cannot be blamed as the single culprit for all the pains and sufferings of its inhabitants. The river is also a long time witness and a passive conduit of its people’s lifestyle, biases, cultural, religious differences, and hubris, especially in the 20th Century.
The Danube has often been used as industrial waste dump, harnessed for its energy in harmful and devastating ways, and used to hide humanity’s sinister acts as a mass grave for people and war machines. It has also swallowed up cultures that were nihilated in the name of progress.
The tragic fate of the frequently romanticized “Turkish island,” Ada Kaleh, or the “Ottoman Atlantis,” as historians named it, on the Danube’s Romanian section has been a longtime Austrian outpost for the Habsburg Empire until it was seceded to the Turks, in the 1600’s. The Ottoman inhabitants of the tiny island, have established a thriving economic and cultural life during their close to 300 years of existence, until the Romanian communist government decided to built the infamous Iron Gate hydro-electric power plant on the Danube in the 1970’s. The newly built dam flooded the island that simply disappeared under water like the city of Atlantis with its buildings and entire unique muslim history and culture.
When Central Europe’s multicultural melting pot have over boiled time to time, it has brought violence, destruction, ethnic cleansing and suffering for the area along the Danube’s river valley. Two world wars have been started in the region, in which the river has always played an important strategic role. Near the end of WWII hundreds of Nazi river warships were sunken by the Germans to avoid the Soviets to seize and use them against the retreating forces of the Third Reich. These boats have never been lifted from the bottom of the river and during excessive droughts, the gost ships break though the surface of the water and can be seen from passing boats and from the shores.
One of the most shameful WWII atrocities along the Danube is memorialized by the abandoned shoes memorial on the river bank of the Danube in the center of Budapest. Between 1944-1945 the henchmen of the Naci sympatizer Hungarian government, executed twenty thousand Jews on the river front of the Danube. The memorial is a chilling testament about one of the darkest moments of humanity.
Disasters and tragedies in more recent memories were the cyanid pollution of the Danube from the Romanian gold mines in 2000 and the infamous toxic sludge river pollution from the caustic byproducts of aluminum production from Ajka, Hungary. The heavy sludge broke the levees of the giant storage pools and polluted over 15 sq miles of lands, creeks, displacing and killing wildlife, and livestock. More than 10 people have died and hundreds were seriously injured. Towns and villages in the area have been abandoned and never rebuilt. The chemical sludge ended up in the Danube that has carried the devastating pollution further downriver to other communities.
What is the takeaway of these stories? I do not know. Perhaps that the “Blue Danube Syndrome” is really not an isolated chain of events specific to a certain geographic area or its people. While we tend to dismiss our hubris and the plentiful cautionary biblical prophecies, we cannot escape to be repeatedly reminded of our not too bright future. In a twisted way, the entertainment industry and cinema have taken charge of the delivery of prophetic messages by way of rolling out apocalyptic action movies and stories that depicts mankind’s potential gloomy fate in response to our arrogance.
Budapest and the Danube also have their very own apocalyptic film now, produced in 2017. It is titled, “DVNA” (Danube). Tamas Yvan Topolanszky, the young Hungarian director in his nightmarish movie, depicts life in Budapest, immediately after the Danube disappears from its river bed overnight.
What is the outcome of the movie? I won’t be able to tell you because the traffic has finally started moving along the river bank and I am not supposed to write on my phone while driving the car.
Instead, I start doodling the “Blue Danube” again.
To be continued…
June 13, 2018
Man plans, God executes … (or corrects what man keeps screwing up…) I am back in Hungary again, at this time with Anka. Even though, this trip has been planned in advance, our departure date has been seriously circumvented by climate change. As it turns out, climate change manifests not only in rising sea levels, more frequent and more intense weather events or dying coral reefs, it also effects my dogs’ physiology. To be precise, my bitches’ heat cycle have turned on like clock work in the past, however, this year, because of the unusual long winter (I believe…), everyone has been late.
Ironically, it was a relief to see the sudden growing tension between my girls, as their hormones finally started kicking in. It was the long awaited signal to set preparations in motion for my trip. Veterinary certificate, USDA papers and most importantly the airplane ticket with two dogs in the cargo hold. ( FYI I also planned to take Agyag along to give her a chance to finish her Hungarian Championship at the Budapest Grand Prix.)
I am not lucky with Lufthansa – to say the least. Back in 2013, Lufthansa have lost Fruska and Agyag for close to a full day that has created some major complications to reach the Budapest WDS, my destination at the time. Booking my ticket and two dogs in the cargo hold with the airline, has seemed unusually easy at this time. Once ticket purchase was out of the way (or so I thought), based on my flight schedule, I went ahead to plan my entire itinerary. However, as it has turned out, Luftwaffe not only friendly fired my plans and screwed up my ticket with the two dogs in the busiest traveling season, they also refused to honor my original reservation.
Since my trip has been time sensitive, I had no time to run after my loss. I had to look for a another airline that could accommodate two dogs and flew me to Hungary for a reasonable price. While I’ve managed to secure a ticket, unfortunately, they could accommodate only one dog. Obviously I took Anka.
So we made it to Budapest where I am staying with my sister and planning to see many friends and acquaintances while managing Anka’s dating schedule.
To be continued…
Another memorable milestone has been reached during our long Pumi journey. GCHB CH Catskill Apacatancos Anka, PT, JHD, CA, after two AKC National BOB, and the first ever Pumi BOB at Westminster has said goodbye to the pups of her first litter. She’s been an exemplary mom
So this weekend, the pups of our F-litter have moved to their new homes this weekend, to destinations in Florida New York, Massachusetts and Ohio. The last day went fast while playing with the pups, sharing food and stories. Luckily, the weather was collaborating.
We are thankful for Marika and Paul Foreman and Martha and Bob Fisher to stop by and help this joyous event to roll smoothly.
As the pups move to their new homes they pave the road to build new friendships and Pumi camaraderie. Our Catskill family has grown bigger and stronger. When we search for the best homes for our puppies, we also build relationships that offers reciprocal growth and learning opportunities for the new owners and us, the breeders. Once the pups leave us, the proverbial umbilical cord is not cut, rather our connection gets stronger.
Maria, JoAnn, Nanci, Cathrine and Dana, Jane and Mark, Lisa and Barry, thank you for opening your homes for our pups raising them to be examples of the breed that we can be proud of and happy members of your family. We hope to hear from each of you often!
March 7, 2017
Bubbles the JRT, got to us about twelve years ago from the Manhattan ASPCA where she was facing euthanasia. She was already five years old. When I picked her up I thought I’ve seen it all. Bubbles thought otherwise. It took us months to build a relationship. When we moved to the farm, Bubbles has gone through a cathartic change. From an urban menace she turned into a hard working farm dog. She has never left our side while doing the chores and she has faithfully patrolled the chicken and duck coop where she has decimated the annoying rat population daily. She killed martins, several weasels, even one fox with the assistance of Schatze, the other JRT. Bubbles had an unsavory relationship with skunks. She has always lost those battles. One day after a major loss, she could not open her eyes for three days.
She’s always terrorized the UPS guy and learned how to extort at least three “Large” biscuits out of him at delivery times. In my estimation poor guy left at least $100 worth of dog biscuits here over the years.
Bubbles was a tough cookie, she growled and fought most of the Pumis and got into trouble with Fruska all the time.
We will always fondly remember you Bub. Rest in Peace.
March 13, 2016
Barely back to Budapest from Graz, Austria on Monday and by early Thursday morning we hit the road again to the south, to the City of Pecs. First we stopped in a small town, Egerág, at the studio of Marta Csille Hungarian felt artist, for a two day workshop to learn more about the tricks of the trade and enhance my felting toolbox. I felt tired and a bit sick, I thought because of the crazy weather, lots of traveling, and lack of sleep. By mid day, I had high fever, serious sinus pain and major headache. Things did not go well. I finished the day early, got some cough and headache medicine that somehow got mixed with some palinka (Hungarian distilled spirit) and went to sleep. Since I did not improve overnight, I got some antibiotics next day. I cancelled my second day of workshop and took an early and a pretty drowsy drive to Pecs, to the weekend FCI dog show. I could not wait to arrive. I crashed at the duplex that I rented in the middle of town and tried to get some rest.
Even though, my condition improved somewhat by Saturday morning, I was still heavily under the effect of the unfortunate mixing of medicines and alcohol from last night. First thing, I took the dogs for a big walk in the city center of Pécs, while holding my swollen running nose and barely balancing my 100lbs head on my neck.
The streets were dead empty not a single soul in sight. It seemed strange.
Location Location Location…Hungary might have been the real estate dream market throughout history, however, it must have been the nightmare for insurance companies for close to two thousand years. No wonder why. Hungary has been a virtual crossroad between east, west and south where different cultures have clashed for hundreds of years. They thrived, prospered than disappeared overnight, giving space for the next weave of invaders, Romans, Avars, Celts, Mongols, Ottomans and others who fought over religion, land and resources.
Pécs’s history go back to the ancient Romans. The City was established in the 2nd century and was named Sopianae. Excavation have unearthed Celtic burial sites and a Christian Necropolis. By the first millennium Pecs, like other parts of the country was under the control of the first Christian Hungarian King, Stephen I. As the nation accepted its new religious faith, the semi nomadic tribal military culture gradually faded into extinction and the ruling feudal system has risen from the blood and tears of the past.
Medieval Pecs was built from the remains of five christian chapels and Sopianae was renamed “Five Churches.” Its new name was used in all of the languages of the area. The name has been reduced to Pecs over the next 1200 years. The city has become a major cultural center. By 1367, Pécs has opened the doors of the first university in Hungary. Next, the expanding Ottoman Empire has left its impact on the region and the whole country for 150 years…and I kept walking with the dogs in the empty city streets…
The dramatic eruption of the nearby volcano of Mt. Mecsek destroyed the city of Pécs, killing all and burying the city under 20 ft of volcanic ash. For several hundreds of years the buildings, objects and the bodies that lay beneath the ash cover have been untouched and perfectly preserved because of the lack of air and moisture. When the excavation uncovered the hermetically sealed site, plaster fillings were injected in the voids of the ash layers that held human bodies. It allowed to see the body positions of the people, as they died. The city has remained an empty haunted place, virtually an archeological site ever since.
As I walked on the empty streets with the two dogs, the rhythmic clacking noise made by the impact of the dogs’ nails with the cobble stones pavement, echoed from the thick walls of the empty buildings. My brain was pulsing, my vision was blurry and my body still exhausted from the fever when finally the fresh air and the warm rays of the morning sun slowly started clearing my druggy head. I felt hungry and my brain craved for coffeine. I walked into a patisserie and I bough a croissant and a large cappuccino.
After a few sips of coffee, I went into panic mode as I realized that holly @*#%…! I was mixing up the history of Pécs, Hungary and Pompeii, Italy. But something still did not add up, where did all the people disappear from the city…? “Why are the streets empty?” I asked the barista.
“There is a dog show in town and they all went to see some wonder dog from New York, I think a Pumi…,” she answered.
p.s. Agyag did fantastic both days. She got BOS, CACIB, CAC and Excellent 1 Saturday and Sunday too.
I am sinus free and back safe and sound in Budapest again.
February 22, 2016
It’s been seven busy days in Budapest with the girls, Fruska and Agyag. In this short time, I’ve managed to squeeze in a family reunion, a four day international dog show, some city hopping/shopping and a three-day long un amour de chien. By the way, Kaffogo Agyag justified her amorous attitude with a quote from the famous romantic poet, Ashley Madison, a contemporary of Jane
Austen NOT…, “Life is Short, Have an Affair…”
Meeting my family is always a passionate gathering and my sister’s high-rise flat seemed a bit tight at times…
Starting on Thursday, February 18, we’ve participated the FeHoVa International Dog Show at HUNGEXPO, the Budapest fairground. Five shows in four days. Dog shows are a different kind of animal in Europe than in the U.S. One is better to cancel any other plans on a dog show day (the day really goes to the dogs.) The organizers certainly give you all the time for your entry fees.
I was glad that I entered Kaffogo Agyag to the shows. I had a chance to get a partial inside look at the Hungarian Pumi field. Partial, because, unfortunately, there has been a major schism between the Hungarian Pumi aficionados. There are breeders and dog owners who are members of the official Magyar Pumi Klub (Hungarian Pumi Club) and than there are the “others” who refuses to recognize the official Club. If you thought that the partisanship in the U.S. Congress is serious than you ain’t see nothing. It is a sad state of affairs, because there are good breeders and great minds on both sides. Members of the opposition, with a few exception, do not enter to dog shows organized by or associated with the official Club and vice versa. As a result, I had a chance to see approximately 70% of the Pumis of those who tend to participate at dog shows and a handful of foreign breeders.
Since the 2013 Budapest World Dog Show, I’ve noticed some changes. Some Hungarian breeders/handlers started following the Nordic countries and have been experimenting with a more dramatic grooming than what we used to see earlier. Shorter hair and sculpting becoming a more frequent appearance. Interestingly, even some of the judges seemed to prefer the more sculpted Pumi look. In fact, I’ve heard some judges suggesting to some handlers whose dogs entered the ring with a more natural coat that they should groom their dogs better. I am hesitant to go either way, however, one of the disadvantages that I can see is that much shorter cuts will reduce the importance of the quality of the Pumi coat because it simply won’t be possible to check it. Attitudes and customs have been changing. One thing however, most handlers seems to be resistant to is, wearing former attire in the ring.
Gray has become the dominant Pumi color. Fawn, unless it is white or off white looking, appears to suffer some set backs. I had a chance to talk to some of the foreign participants and it sounds that they’ve experienced similar tendencies in their countries too.
The Teddy Bear Syndrome: I had an interesting discussion with some breeders and “off duty” judges about the increased number of Pumis on the smaller end with softer denser hair with more curvy angles than one would think of the Pumi after reading the breed standard. They are certainly cute and huggable, however, they are missing the size and stamina necessary for the breed’s original function, herding. I’ve noticed this trend the past few years in the northic countries and now in Hungary too. Some voices have also raised concerns about this issue in the U.S. too.
The update on Friday’s story is that I filed a formal complaint with the MEOESZ, the Hungarian Kennel Klub, about Judge Istvan Laszlo’s action of withholding the CACIB certificate from Agyag, because she was in “heat.”
According to FCI rules, the judge’s decision is final an cannot be reversed. However, if the MEOESZ rules in my favor, the judge can get sanctioned or disciplined. I was surprised how much support I’ve got from people. Surprisingly, there were also some supporting opinions from the opposition Pumi camp.
Even though the dog show has consumed most of my time and energy, I managed to have a nostalgia ride with my sister on the number 6 tram on the ring around the center of the City. The line is 8.3 km long has 19 stops in 29 minutes and it runs 24/7. The tran stops 225 times at each station during the day in both directions during the school year and 210 times when schools is out. The tran starts and ends on the Buda side of the city, however, rides the longest on the pest side.
Now that Agyag’s love affair and the dog show are over, I am ready to catch up with myself. I am starting my spin class in the nearby gym tomorrow.
February 19, 2016
The four-day long FeHoVa International Winter Show has begun at HUNGEXPO, the Budapest International Exposition site yesterday. The show is becoming a rather peculiar event.
There have been 25 Pumis from 13 kennels and 4 countries yesterday. The judge was Mrs. Szabo, Katalin Ivanyi. Kaffogo Agyag placed second in her class with Excellent 2 and Res. CACIB. Well done Agyag!!
Before I start to tell today’s bizarre experience in the ring with judge Mr. Istvan Laszlo, Let me congratulate to Nyirsegfia Tuske/Pityke/ BOB and Heczendorfer Jozsef, his owner/handler.
To make the story short, I’ve noticed that Mr. Istvan, the judge, has made some not exactly complimentary statements about a fawn (fako) male Pumi to the dog’s owner in the ring earlier. He also asked the handler/owner of the same dog that who was the breeder of the dog. When later we walked into the ring, he also asked me whether Agyag’s breeder was the same person as the fawn Pumi dog’s earlier. I told him that no, my bitch comes from a different kennel.
Judge Istvan overall complimented Agyag and gave her first place in the Class, “Excellent one, ” however, withheld the CACIB from Agyag by saying, “I cannot give her the CACIB because she is in heat….” (it is on her official written record) Mr. Istvan Laszlo also did not allow Agyag to advance and enter the ring for the BOB title, even though, she won her class.
I admit, I was unpleasantly surprised. I looked at him, and nonchalantly told him that, how funny this was because three years ago this was not an issue when he, Mr. Istvan Laszlo selected Agyag to be the first Junior Raisits Cup winner in a much larger competition and Agyag, was in heat just like today. He stared at me with wide eyes and open mouth, (I think his tonsils have been removed..)and after a short pause he composed himself again and said, “yes, but she was close to finishing it back than…”
Since we did not have to show again, thanks to the judge, it gave me plenty of time to check the FCI rule book. I copied out the relevant sections for our situation. below is the direct copy of those sections.
4 SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS / ADMISSION OF DOGS
…Bitches on heat are allowed to participate subject to the show regulations of the organisers.
7 TITLES, AWARDS AND MAIN RING COMPETITIONS
…CACIB – Certificat d’Aptitude au Championnat International de Beauté de la FCI
The only dogs which can be taken into consideration for the CACIB are those which have been awarded “EXCELLENT 1st”. A CACIB can only be awarded if the dog in question has been assessed as being of superior quality. The CACIB is not automatically and compulsorily linked to the “EXCELLENT 1st”.
So yes, indeed, he has the right to withhold the CACIB, even though, the dog got Excellent 1 and won her class. The rule book does not give examples of reasons why the judge might withheld the International Certificate. The unfortunate part is that he also withheld the Res. CACIB from Annika Linden’s dog, Akkinaz Rams who got Excellent 2 and second place. He won our class and also BOS yesterday.
To be clear, I am not questioning the fact that Mr. Istvan withheld the CACIB because he has the right to do that. What I do not understand is, his reasoning, that “the dog was in heat.” He did not say and wrote that she was not a “superior quality” for the following reasons…(and listing the reasons.) He said that the bitch was in heat and that’s why she cannot get CACIB and go for the BOB. The rule book clearly says that “…Bitches on heat are allowed to participate subject to the show regulations of the organizers “ based on the information at the time when I checked, there was no stipulations by the organizers that while bitches in heat can enter the conformation show, they cannot earn CACIB and advance for the BOB title (because they are in heat.) I am not sure that when a bitch is in heat what that has to do with her conformation. (I think it is safe to say Mr. Istvan Laszlo would not vote for Hillary Clinton for the same reason… but that one is for another blog…)
This story might finally makes me one of the “official” whiners and complainers of the Pumi breed, (now internationally too,) but you know what, someone has to stand up and ask the uncomfortable questions for the integrity of the “game” while the rest of the group hide quietly in the bushes. By the way, those in the bushes, watch out for dog poops.
June 9, 2015
Some background info for my Italian trip…
According to the legend, it started with the wolf kids, Romulus and Remus. Romulus established Rome and Remus did not come to America to become Uncle Remus, a fictional character telling folk tales in post- reconstruction era America. He was killed by Romulus. In fact, the wolf story has never been true. Rome had a
boring start on a marshland with three tribes they were not Martians. The three tribes were the Ramnes, Tities and Luceres. If you wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me to recite the names of these tribes, I would not know them, even though, I’ve learned them in school millions of times. I had to look them up for the blog.
We all learned the great Roman stories. in school, from books and from the silver screen. Hollywood has kept delivering the big budget epic dramas, Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Cleopatra and the others with tons of buttery popcorn. Hate to break the truth for younger audiences however, Marc Anthony did not play Mark Antony and therefore, Jennifer Lopez was never Cleopatra in the 1963 movie directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.
When we go to Italy, we want to hear the great stories again and again retold by a tour guide with a charming Italian accent, even though, we do not understand half of the guide’s stories because of his accent. I am not going to go through the entire history of Rome you can rent it from Netflix University.
Italy is a relatively new country, younger than the United States. The country was not fully unified until the Pope was defeated in 1870. In light of this outcome, honestly, I do not really understand the fuss about the Pope’s famous Swiss Guard.
The twentieth Century has kept up the excitement. Among the many “isms,” Italy has given us the relatively user friendly fascism (the Italian version.) Did you know that Mothers’ Day is a Fascist invention? In 1933, Mussolini met 93 mothers at the Palazzo Venezia. He greeted these mothers as heroes of Italy. These 93 mothers, gave birth to 1300(!) children combined (that is about 13 children each…) as part of the Fascist national policy to revive the Empire and double its population.
Mussolini also rallied the nation to finance the occupation of Ethiopia in 1936. On “The Day of the Wedding Rings,” married women were asked to donate their gold wedding rings for the cause of the war. Thousands of wives gave up their rings to be melted down in support of the war effort. Ironically, close to a thousand wedding rings were also collected from the United States and sent to the DUCE. Racist policies did not start until WWII in Italy. In fact, Mussolini had a jewish mistress for ten years. Fascism was especially unkind to women with regard to such issues as employment, emancipation and independent welfare. Unfortunately, post war and even 21st century Italian politics and policies have problems to fully disconnect from the heritage of pre-WWII women issues and welfare policies. Inequalities of women has been integral part of the cultural DNA and has been woven into the Italian social fabric.
Italians also had a serious affair with Communism after WWII. Eurocommunism was made popular in Western Europe by Italy. I remember, Eastern European communist leaders had a hard time to explain back home the phenomenon of church going Italian communist party members during the 1970s.
In 1963, after decades of fights against Communist ideologies, Pope John XXIII officially recognized the Italan Communist Party as an organization that mission has been to improve the lives of ordinary Italians including women. He made his decision against the advice of the Papal administration. He was dead in two months after his famous Pacem in Terris – go figure… One of the big sensations was when the Pope exchanged Christmas cards with Nikita Khrushchev after the Cuban Missile Crisis. John XXIII was also a vital actor in the diffusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis (it turns out that after all it paid off to elect a Catholic president in the US…)
The 1970-80 have been poisoned by leftist terrorism in the north and violent Maffia activities in the South. The economy still has not opened up for the majority of the women. Southern men migrated to the North to be part of the industrial boom. Their families and wives have been left behind. This wave of migration created the “white widow” class of southern women who basically lived from the money their husbands send back home from the Northern cities. Economists and sociologists blame the feminization of Italian agriculture in the south due to the lack of men who migrated to the north and its direct consequence the feminization of poverty, on the post-war labor and welfare policies of the Italian state.
In 1987, Hungarian born pornstar, Ilona Staller aka Ciccolina, ex wife of Jeff Koons American artist, has been elected member of the Chamber of Deputies and remained in office until 1992. A MP from an unlikely sector of the economy to promote women’s rights….
After Ciccolina, politics has never been the same again in Italy. Today, Italy has the largest number of women in parliament in the history of the country. One of the main goals is to reduce violence against women in Italy (one women in every three days becomes victim of violent crimes in Italy) Do they have the will to crack stubborn traditions? Future will tell.
So when you visit “The Boot” next time, the least you can do is to hire a woman tour guide.
P.s. Currently, Italy is facing its latest crisis, the waves of North African refugees escaping poverty famine and violence in their countries.