Both of these are black and white, made in 1962, but there the comparison ends. In fact Ouranos isn’t even a partisan film as such, being about soldiers of the Greek armed forces. But one understands why it is here. It feels like the same sort of film, under-nourished, -clothed and -armed men in hostile natural conditions with an impossible job. Kozara feels like an American movie and indeed, Bulajić is an exceptional director in this retrospective in that he made films that hit the radar outside Europe. Richard Burton plays Tito in a subsequent film by him. They are typical action films. In Ouranos, in contrast, almost nothing happens. Perhaps that in itself is a reason why it feels modern, whilst Kozara feels old-fashioned. In Ouranos the soldier who takes mail from point a to point b loses a parcel. How this is done, how the postman cannot admit what has happened: it’s marvellous to behold. It’s a truly fine movie both from a cinematography viewpoint – the landscape shots are stunning – and the viewpoint of documenting what happened. Peasants fighting without hope.
But it turns out, when you look up the actual history of Corbari, that this is all as it happens. Not in the absolute detail, but in the style. Iris Versari was a beautiful girl from an agrarian socialist family, she did join the group, she was important and brave and completely equal to the others. Corbari was betrayed eventually, she was not able to run for it and shot herself dead so that Corbari could leave without being held up by her. He was nonetheless caught and in the incredibly sad ending they are all – even if already dead – hung in exhibitions in more than one town as a warning to others. Knowing Italians I doubt that helped in the least. They don’t take well to being told what to do.
Every preposterous thing that Corbari did in the movie was done in real life, or things like it. Indeed, maybe they toned it down for the cinematic retelling. This is from Radio Emilia Romagna: it has only gone through google translate, the original can be found on the link.
An expert on military history, Andrea Santangelo from Rimini has gathered international affairs of men and women capable of maintaining, in the tragedy of the Second World War, the taste for being eccentric. Like Iris Versari and Silvio Corbari, the couple of Romagna partisans who fought and died together. This episode is dedicated to them on the anniversary of the Liberation.
Iris Versari was born in the territory of San Benedetto in Alpe on 12 December 1922 by Angelo, a farmer of socialist ideas and war mutilated, and by Alduina Calcin. She was the third child of five brothers (Maria, Luigi, lei, then Lilia and Berto) who grew up in a typical peasant family in the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines, forced to make a virtue out of what was offered by an area that today is a tourist destination. but which for centuries has given man nothing more than mushrooms, chestnuts, wood and headaches.
Iris was a child and breathed politics and social demands: Angelo Versari was in fact a point of reference in Tredozio for all socialists and free thinkers. It was obviously also for the royal police: the farmhouse of the Tramonto estate, where the Versari lived, was “attentive” because it sometimes hosted clandestine anti-fascist meetings. To increase the family income, as soon as possible Iris was sent to service with some wealthy families of Forlì, Rocca San Casciano and Dovadola.
After the fall of fascism, the Tramonto estate first became a meeting place for anti-fascists and then, after 8 September 1943, a veritable support base for the nascent Resistance. Iris was immediately drafted as a relay. She was an attractive brunette girl, with green eyes and a small body, and was appreciated for her beautiful smile, beautiful voice and gentle manner. But the courage and strength of a lioness was hidden in her.
After an initial period spent hiding the stragglers, the draft dodgers of Salò and former allied prisoners, Iris met Silvio Corbari’s partisan band and asked to enter it. They looked like tough and determined types, about thirty boys eager to get their hands on the fascists and the Germans. She didn’t ask for anything better, she wanted to make an important contribution to the liberation struggle. It didn’t take long for him to fall in love with his new commander (born Sirio Corbari, Silvio was the name of battle), a twenty-year-old who had taken up arms and went underground on 9 September 1943, militating first in the band of Samoggia and then in that of the Phantom Truck. Now all of his own had been created and he had even started contacts with the Allies to obtain weapons and supplies.
Corbari was a handsome boy, alert, determined and authoritative. Never mind that he was already married, for Iris he represented everything he had always dreamed of in life: a romantic love in the midst of a political struggle aimed at building together a better and more just future.
A young woman who broke social patterns could only go with an extraordinary boy. In fact Silvio could be considered a decidedly eccentric partisan commander: more than political and military results, he was interested in the coup de théâtre, the mockery of the enemy. His exploits showed cold blood and a lucid madness, perhaps also due to recklessness and youthful unconsciousness. An example above all: he used to put fake bombs in places of fascism and then call the authorities to sound the alarm; in reality they were all loaded with pasta and beans.
His bold and arrogant deeds seemed to come from a novel rather than from local news. To deny the men of the black brigade in Faenza who claimed to have killed him in the areas of Brisighella, on 5 December 1943 he went to the streets of Faenza and entered the bar meeting place of the fascists to get a coffee dressed as captain of the Republican National Guard (the GNR ). He drank it slowly watching all the patrons, many of them recognized him, but nobody said anything. Then coming out of the bar he threw the photos of Mussolini and Ettore Muti to the ground and spat on it. He went out calmly and climbed aboard the car of an accomplice, uselessly pursued by some soldiers who had arrived.
On December 25, 1943 he made the Christmas wishes to the Fascists from Faenza by wandering around the city disguised as a German colonel.
The GNR captain’s uniform reused it to go to a Republican checkpoint, inspect them, give them an inspired speech and finally get all their weapons delivered.
One day he gave an appointment to the head of the fascists of Faenza in a church, with the agreement that he arrived alone and unarmed, to talk about the political situation. At the meeting the fascist presented himself with a team of soldiers armed to the teeth, but he found no one, except for an old bent and shabby who asked for alms. The fascist gave him ten lire and went away, then telling everyone that the infamous Corbari had been afraid of him. A few days later the hierarch received a letter with ten lire and a note: “I am giving you the ten lire you have generously given me, but know that I have given you life. Silvio Corbari ».
Iris lost her mind for such a man, who in turn was fascinated by the beauty and passion of the girl to the point of falling in love with her. The two became a couple known and feared by the fascists. While the other partisan groups acted on the basis of political and military directives, that of Corbari was unpredictable and this made it difficult to intercept.
On 9 January 1944 the band of Silvio and Iris entered Tredozio, disarmed the carabinieri and local fascists and settled there for ten days. Only when a column came heavily armed from Forlì, Corbari and his men retreated to the mountains. The setback immediately forced the Germans and the Republicans to carry out a major anti-riot operation during which the Tramonto estate was destroyed and Iris’s parents imprisoned and then sent to an extermination camp in Germany (only the mother will return home at the end of the war, the brothers will be saved because they are entrusted to relatives). Several elements of the Corbari gang were killed during raids, but Iris and Silvio were saved and immediately returned to reorganize the band.
In February, although they were little more than a dozen, they were already ready to reoccupy Tredozio, and they succeeded twice, always disarming the small local garrison and taking weapons and uniforms with them.
In April Iris, Silvio and ten companions entered Modigliana in broad daylight. They took money from the bank and then left, but said they would come back ten days later and kill all the fascists left in the city. Soldiers of the XXV black brigade Italo Capanni of Forlì were sent to guard the country, but on the day indicated by Corbari they panicked and all fled before Silvio entered the village. For some time there had been rumors that there were hundreds of partisans ready to attack the garrison. The voices had obviously made Silvio turn around in town thanks to some supporters. When Corbari and Iris entered Modigliana they found and took arms and materials abandoned by the fascists,
After Modigliana it was the turn, the fourth to be precise, by Tredozio. Silvio phoned the command of the GNR to warn that the given day would return to the town. The soldiers guarded the town forcefully, but no one was seen on the day indicated. While they waited for him with their weapons leveled, the soldiers gave a hand to an old farmer who with difficulty dragged a pig tied to a rope. The old man asked them to take the time to drink a glass of wine at the tavern and then disappeared. The next day the consul Marabini received a note from Corbari: “That farmer who yesterday drank in the tavern was me, his men are good just to look after my pig …”.
It was to Gustavo Marabini that the umpteenth mockery of the Corbari-Versari duo was destined. They wrote that they wanted to take advantage of a recent amnesty for partisans, they would be handed over to the authorities and Silvio would also have enlisted in the GNR. They gave him an appointment on 23 May 1944 on a farm. Here, after a long discussion, Corbari, Iris and the partisan Otello Sisi got into the car with the consul Marabini and his driver to go to deliver to Forlì. It is not clear what happened next, what is certain is that, at the height of Predappio, Marabini was killed with a pistol shot in the neck, from a weapon perhaps kept by Iris in her underwear. The driver was released.
After this action the capture of Silvio Corbari became the priority of the troops of the Italian Social Republic deployed in Romagna. The collaboration of specialized German units such as the II / 3 Brandenburg and the Aussenkommando Forlì of the Sicherheitsdienst was also requested. The operational part was entrusted to the best unit of CSR that was in the area, the battalion “IX September”, consisting of veteran troops who had already distinguished themselves in the Marche in anti-partisan operations.
The intelligence work of the Germans intercepted the news of an Allied arms launch for Corbari, on the spot there was a firefight and the partisans managed to take only a third of the material sent to them. With one of these weapons, a Sten sub-machine gun, Iris Versari accidentally wounded herself just above her left knee on August 17th. On the same day, the “blow” of an informer gave the men of “9th September” the exact location of the cottage in which Iris was waiting for Silvio and two other partisans who had gone to make a reconnaissance for a new action.
At dawn on August 18, the peasant house in the Ca ‘Cornio di Tredozio area was surrounded by about ten soldiers, supported more downstream by a platoon with two 45 mm mortars. As they became aware of being surrounded, the four partisans engaged in a firefight by shooting from the windows, while Iris kept the door at gunpoint because she could not stand. They defended themselves by throwing hand grenades and unloading magazines onto magazines of their machine guns, but the enemies had much more firepower. A soldier threw himself against the door of the cottage, knocking it down, but Iris glared at him with a burst of her Sten. However, the situation for the occupants of the house was worse; the only possibility of salvation consisted in a sortie to reach a grove adjacent to a cliff, but it was clear that in those conditions Iris could never make it. Corbari, Arturo Spazzoli and Adriano Casadei wavered, Iris thought to solve the impasse. Aware of being a burden and determined to help her beloved Sirius, she decided to sacrifice her young life to help her three companions escape. She took a gun and committed suicide.
Although destroyed by the death of his beloved, Corbari led his men out, weapons in hand. Brushes was immediately wounded, while Corbari and Casadei managed to get into the woods, but Silvio was hurt by falling off a cliff. Instead of going to safety, Casadei remained next to his commander for a last desperate defense. The “9th September” soldiers soon joined them and attacked them: Corbari was killed and Casadei wounded.
All four partisans, two dead and two wounded, were taken to Castrocaro, where Corbari and Casadei were hanged among the jubilation of the fascist soldiers. Brushes were finished on the truck during the journey because he complained of his injuries, while Iris Versari’s body was tied on the roof of a Fiat 500.
That afternoon in Forlì the four partisans were all hanged from street lamps in Piazza Saffi, in front of the local headquarters of the Fascist Party, where they were left for a couple of days. Iris was one of the most humiliated among them. She was even buried without the indication of the name, but with the only word “woman” on the coffin.
Iris Versari, a young fighter who had accompanied herself to a dangerous fugitive by becoming her lover, practically repudiated that role of brood mare and offspring of children in which fascism had pigeonholed the condition of women. There was hardly anything more eccentric about the moral in orbit of the time, which in fact could only deliver it to the ranks of the so-called “little good with easy customs”. Fortunately, time has done justice to the valiant partisan, who now rests at the monumental cemetery of Forlì; Iris Versari was awarded the Gold Medal for military valor (as was also granted to her beloved Silvio Corbari), several streets and a couple of schools were dedicated to her. The lampposts of Piazza Saffi to which it was hung were left in place: they are still those of that time….