“While the wards at Albenga Hospital filled with children, the search for hope on the water began. Small lifeless bodies were pulled one by one from the calm water and gradually they were transported to the White Cross outpatient clinic. Before 11 pm, the recovery was over. Meanwhile, the mothers sadly fell asleep after praying for their distant child“. With these words and a gripping title that is a blow to the stomach,”The mothers of the 43 siblings have arrived“Dino Buzzati on July 17, 1947 announced in the Corriere d ‘information one of the saddest pages in the history of the city of Albenga: the shipwreck of the motorboat Annamaria, in which 44 children and 3 educators lost their lives”.
Seventy-five years later, Albenga has not forgotten it, and this afternoon at the Children’s Monument, he commemorated with a memorial ceremony the tragedy that was consumed in the stretch of water in front of Albenga the distant, but never forgot, July 16, 1947.
Present were Albenga Mayor Riccardo Tomatis and Bishop Monsignor Borghetti, as well as several members of the Junta and Minority Councils, civil and military authorities, Bernardo Ardoino, President of Croce Bianca Albenga, numerous struggle and voluntary associations. Among the participants also the president of Anpas Liguria, the honorary president and a moved survivor of the shipwreck.
“I was trying to find the right words to describe the pain and suffering of the episode, I admit I did not find them – commented Mayor Tomatis – then I said to myself that it is not necessary to find them: it is enough to remember that episode, to remember those days and in our hearts the same feelings of pain are aroused that we humans have no explanation for. Maybe Monsignor Borghetti will help us understand, I think it might need to be read in a different key: not so much the pain of death, which is inevitable, as the importance of life. This could be a key to understanding such a dramatic event that would otherwise not be acceptable“.
The mayor also stressed how in the wake of this tragedy “we discovered the generosity of the Albanian people, who, as always happens in difficult times, unite and do their utmost to try to meet those who actually need“.
It happened around 5pm on July 16, 1947: The Annamaria motorboat sailed from Loano with 81 children, all men between 4 and 8 years old, and some educators. Direction: Gallinara Island.
The little ones who came from Milan and Verona were guests of the Loano Solidarity Colony, established for the benefit of veterans and partisans. With happy little voices they sang songs and screamed with happiness at the sight of the beautiful island, now so close that it could almost be touched. The filled Annamaria, too full of children, so full that it struggled to get out of the water, was only 100 meters from the shore of the Burrone region of Albenga, where some boys on the beach, attracted by their small voices, rose up . to go and give a nod to the little heads with white hats.
The boys waved their arms, reciprocated by the happy voices of the little ones, as a sound broke the joy and extinguished some lives, to be exactly the lives of 44 children and 3 educators. The boat made a hint of wheelie and then fell back on itself, after hitting a pole supporting the drain from the city sewers, which protruded into the water surface. The ship immediately took water and sank in a short time. Terror, panic: children jumped or fell into the water, but none of them knew how to swim. On the shore, Giorgio, Ettore, Luigi, and Domenico, disbelieving, extinguished their smiles and threw themselves without hesitation into the water. With all the strength they had, they reached the wreck, and the still-living children clung to them about five, six at a time.
For the four young men, a grueling and valiant rescue began, consisting of trips back and forth to bring as many children as possible to safety on the shore. Meanwhile, rumors spread about the tragedy unfolding a few meters from the beach, the city streets, and everyone did everything to save the small shipwrecked. Albenga responded movingly, with a big heart: after the four boys, others contributed to the rescue, including the ambulances from the White Cross and the fire department vehicles, which arrived immediately to make their contribution. 37 children were rescued. For the other 44 and 3 educators, there was nothing to do.
A moving Bernardo Ardoino, who was 8 years old at the time of the tragedy, recalled the tragic moments by recounting the extraordinary sense of solidarity that the Ingauna community showed on that occasion. “That event marked his life – remembered the mayor -. From that day on, Ardoino actually dedicates his time and commitment to helping others, a feeling that is the basis of the work of all the White Cross soldiers.“.
After the ceremony, Monsignor Borghetti celebrated the Mass in memory of the little ones who lost their lives under the tragic circumstance.
“There they stood, close together, all crammed into the boat a moment ago; so many white caps sang happily, and now, underwater, I opened my eyes and saw the same white caps, in clusters, lying down, dotting the seabed, tied to each other or to their assistant’s clothes, in a last desperation attempt at salvation… I will never forget“, (From the site crocebianca.it). Albenga has not forgotten.