A seven member panel met on 16 February to award the Metron Croatian Centre’s culture prize for 2021. The panel unanimously voted to award the Metron prize posthumously to Antonio Sammartino, an activist from the Molise Croatian enclave in southern Italy.
A seven member panel met on 16 February to award the Metron Croatian Centre’s culture prize for 2021. The panel unanimously voted to award the Metron prize posthumously to Antonio Sammartino, an activist from the Molise Croatian enclave in southern Italy. Sammartino died suddenly and unexpectedly in November of last year, just after the successful wrap up of the FUEN Slavic working group held in late September and early October in southern Italy’s Montemitro (Mundimitar) and Vasto (Vast).
With the passing of Sammartino, the Croatian community of Molise has lost a driving figure in a broad range of culture, literary, society and political activities. The Croatians of the Burgenland region in Austria have also lost a strong partner in many joint projects, a fellow minority rights activist, and, above all, a friend, who did so much to reinforce ties with ethnic Croatians in Vienna and the Burgenland (Gradišće) region of Austria, and who tirelessly built and broadened the bridges between the enclaves in Molise and Burgenland.
The late Antonio Sammartino (60), was a prominent figure in the small Croatian-speaking enclave in the south of neighbouring Italy. It was largely his efforts and dedication that were to thank for raising awareness of the presence the enclave in Molise outside Italy and—with the significant support of representatives of the Croatian Centre and the membership of the Croatian Culture Association in FUEN (Federal Union of European Nationalities)—that the people of Molise were recently included in its membership, becoming part of a large family of national and ethnic minorities across Europe.
Sammartino was the founder of the Agostina Piccoli Foundation, which honoured the memory of his tragically deceased wife Agostina Piccoli, herself a researcher of Croatian language and literature. It was in the frame of this foundation that he, with the help of friend Gabriele Blažeta and second wife Vesna Ljubić Sammartino, achieved many of his ideas, projects and programmes. He did all this with the aim of preserving the local Croatian dialect in this small enclave, also raising awareness of the presence of this enclave in Italy and in Croatia, Austria and other countries. He was successful in bringing the topic of the Molise enclave to linguists and ethnologists. This contributed to bolstering their status within the Campobasso region and all of Italy. His enduring and tireless engagement may see posthumous success if the efforts of Croatia to see the enclave in Molise recognised by Italy as an ethnic rather than only a linguistic minority—as it is currently classified, are achieved.
Sammartino collaborated with the Croatians of the Burgenland region in Austria, the Croatian Centre in Vienna, and the Kolo-Slavuj folklore ensemble. His work with the community in Austria also included numerous joint events in Vienna, and KUGA association events in Großwarasdorf (Veliki Borištof) at which he presented a dictionary, cookbook, and a book on the history of the migration of the Molise Croatians from their former lands. Sammartino was also a key player in sparking a collaboration that saw the KroaTarantata music group out of Montemitro find its second home in the Croatian Centre in Vienna. This young group has gone on to become a regular at the traditional Croatian Ball in Vienna. They took part in the 75th ball this year (staged online only).
The Croatian Centre, in collaboration with FUEN, the State Office for Croats Abroad, and activists from Montemitro, have announced that a presentation ceremony will be held sometime in the late spring or early autumn of this year.
By: Hrvatski centar / Gabriela Novak-Karall