The students from Blaise Pascal School gave us some comprehensive feedback about the project and what they felt about it. As you will see from
the extracts below, besides the obvious impact the project had on them, their ability in English is very impressive. Their teacher asked them to do this assignment in their own time, so each student’s views are entirely their own.
How was their knowledge improved?
In Italy there seems to be less public awareness of the First World War than in Britain, especially from the perspective of soldiers from other countries. The students were studying English and had studied British war poets, but these are largely concerned with the Western Front. Therefore the project introduced them not only to other fronts, especially Salonika, but also to the fact that Turin was involved.
- Thanks to this activity I learned that during the First World War many people died all over the world (Giulia)
- At the beginning of this experience I was excited but also confused because I had never heard anything about “The Turin Men”. When we started to discover things about them everything became clear. (Asya)
- I also learnt about the role of Turin during the Great War. (Francesca)
The students were able to understand the war from the perspective of individual soldiers and this gave them an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of war.
- I think that if you simply read what is written in history books, then you can only get a grasp of the situation. Instead the fact that we focused on eighteen soldiers, their life and their service as soldiers changed everything! In this way we managed to figure out how terrible and silly WW1 was. (Eleonora)
- This experience helped me because I think that, for the first time, I thought about the real meaning of the war. Looking at the tombstones of the soldiers at the cemetery, I thought that we have to thank them for what they did: they fought for our freedom and to give us a better life. Then, studying their life and their history, it was like knowing them as if they were still alive. (Chiara)
- This experience has been one of the most touching of my life because it made me feel deep feelings and made me understand better what war means. (Theodor)
What did they get out of taking part in this activity?
The activities organised through this project affected the students profoundly, so that it became a very rewarding process, as expressed in these quotes:
- During the remembrance I felt happy because the soldiers for the first time received our gratitude for their role during the Great War. (Asya)
- I really liked the fact that we found the descendants of the Welsh and Australian soldiers (Beatrice)
- After months of organising, being in the cemetery in front of these soldiers was emotional. I was really moved during the ceremony when each of us read some poems. I felt happy for these soldiers who finally had someone who remembered them. (Cristina)
- Each of us was given a soldier, so I started getting some information about my soldier’s private life and I actually took a liking to him. I was really amazed at the way I got involved! I would like each of us visit our soldiers every so often since it is as if we have adopted them. (Eleonora)
- I loved decorating the wooden crosses with the phrase we had chosen to honour our soldier. Personally I think it was a beautiful moment. (Ludovica)
- The activity at the cemetery was definitely the best part of the project. Not just because we prepared for two months to be there, but because we finally met the soldiers, and with the poppies and crosses we were all together to honour them. A feeling I will never forget was when I entered the cemetery and I saw the exact place where the gravestones are situated. I tried to imagine it before, but it was definitely different from what I saw in the cemetery, it was like I was visiting someone I’ve known, not for very long, but surely someone I felt very close to. (Margherita)
How did the activity change them?
The following comments were in response to the question ‘how has the activity changed you?’
- We are just like those boys. (Massimiliano)
- This activity at the Cimitero Monumentale in Turin … was an object of reflection; it also made me think about Italian soldiers who served away from their homeland. (Beatrice)
- I already knew what it meant to have a father in the military and not seeing him for a long time (I didn’t see my father for over 7 months) but with this project I realised how difficult was for them to be far from home fighting a war and also how terrible it must have been for the families at home to hear that their relatives had died and that they were buried here in Turin, where nobody could have gone to visit them. (Cristina)
- Now, every time I hear something about the First World War, I feel in contact with the soldiers who died there. (Valentina)
- The activity and the visit to the cemetery really changed me. During the remembrance ceremony I felt the same way King George V described in his speech in 1922: “in the course of my pilgrimage, I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace than the massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war”. (Eleonora)
- I believe that reading the soldiers’ histories helped me to empathize with them and to see them as human beings with a story to tell us, and not only a grave. The visit to the cemetery made me reassess this site, no more like a macabre and sad one; now I think cemetery is normal and peaceful place where you can visit someone dear and alone like our soldiers. (Elisa)
- Surely thanks to the activity … I will always remember them and sometimes I will go visit. (Francesca)
- I believe that without … this project, it would not have been possible to give our Turin men what they really deserve. They deserve to be remembered and I have committed myself to this project so that every year they will be honoured. (Ludovica)
- The connection between two far off times, has much more things in common than anyone could ever think of, so personally, I think that the importance of history will play a substantial role in my life. I’ve learned that the truth beneath the surface should be discovered not only to preserve it and to keep it in mind as a lesson for life, but also to create a sort of connection between the thoughts of people who lived before us and the ones that someday will influence the world. (Yuliana)