by Bluto Ray
The poet from the north returned to Trappeto because he was haunted by memories. Haunted by images of emaciated children dying while government officials grew fat, images of people subsisting on beans and insects and wild greens, fathers forced into banditry to feed their families. He was incensed by the Mafia's feudal control of farms and water irrigation in a land where “sewer” didn’t exist in the local dialect.
When Danilo Dolci stepped off the train in 1952, he was ready, as a peasant who knew him wrote, “to share the life of the poor.” As a teen he had seen these things while visiting his father who was posted as Trappeto’s wartime stationmaster. And now, at age twenty-eight, he was back to help.
Dolci arrived with five cents to his name but rich in experience. Though violently abused by his father as a youth, the wide-eyed poet grew up to be a full-time activist and committed pacifist. He cared for orphans in the north under the tutelage of a priest whose social work rankled the right-wing Church of the postwar years. His credo: “Participate in order to understand.”