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The mystery behind the girl of the Repubblica

For a long time we have known her smile, her beauty and breathed her courage. We also thought she was an unknown partisan of the streets. Well, now we know her name and her story…

It is the 15th of June 1946. The Italian newspaper Tempo covers its weekly edition with the picture of a beautiful girl smiling with hope, carrying the first page of the Corriere della Sera around her neck and showing the words “È nata la Repubblica italiana”: The Italian Republic is born. Since then, this picture taken by the photojournalist Federico Patellani has been the illustration of articles and books, used in shows and political manifestations, and has come to represent the symbol of a democratic Italy.

For 70 years, it circulated as the spontaneous shot of a newly free peasant.

On the 2nd of June, we celebrate the day of the Repubblica, remembering the fall of Fascism and the start of the Republican regime, and that girl holding that page looks as if no one could take that written fact away from her. She has become an icon of hope, representing the strength of Italians after war and struggle.

It may look as a stolen snapshot, but in fact, the recent discoveries by the journalist Mario Tedeschini Lalli testify it is not.

The girl that has entered the homes of Italian throughout the years is Anna Iberti, who at the time was 24 years old and worked as a clerk in administration in the socialist newspaper Avanti!. Anna’s picture, together with the archive of the photojournalist Patellani, are kept in the Museum of Contemporary Photography of Cinisello Balsamo, in the north of Italy.

From the archive, we can pick out the samples of the shooting, which portray Anna in various poses and shows us that photo is everything but improvised. They tried with Anna reading the newspaper or holding it, strong towards the sky, but then the final idea came and they went for the image of her head popping out of the journal, as if that conquest was entirely hers, as if that freedom belonged entirely to the people’s lives and bodies.

Anna died in 1997. Patellani, dead in 1977, never said anything about it, both to the public and to his own family. On the other hand, Anna’s daughters and her husband Franco Nasi knew about it and they keep a few prints of the shooting in the house.

What it is really interesting about this whole storyline, is how a woman can see her face displayed with pride as the symbol of such great meaning without having the urge or the need to say “It’s me”. In fact, her family describes Anna as a very discreet woman and they confess it is a shame for that precious family tale to be now a story for the public.

Articolo a cura di: Bianca Petrucci

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