Manfredi Borsellino: “That was my father Paolo”

The son’s recollections: “Since the very first day after his death, it was rumoured that he was “resigned” to such an ominous destiny. Northing could be further from the truth. My father had a visceral love for life and for its many small and big unexpected surprises, to the extent that I considered it unconceivable that he would go forth to death seeing it as an inescapable event.”

 

My father should be remembered especially for his benignity. He was a deeply good-hearted person endowed with an infinite amount of humanity. His generosity was inexhaustible. I was only  fifteen when he asked me to give my motorbike to the son of a widowed woman whose husband was killed in a Mafia massacre. The boy needed it to go to work in a bakery located in a distant district of Palermo.

He personally provided razors, shaving cream and cigarettes to a collaborator of justice, the same person that in the period 1991-1992 revealed that he had been hired by the Mafia families of the Trapani area to organize and carry out my father’s murder, at a moment in history when – it should be said – all the benefits they enjoy today were lacking. Despite his working commitments, he always found the time to be with the family, to follow our daily activities, whether pertaining to our studies or leisure.

I have an indelible memory of the love and dedication that he put in helping me retake my first two University courses – he did the same with my sister Fiammetta – spending entire nights with me before the exams.

He was caring, always available – not only towards his family members – but also with the many cousins and distant relatives.

Paolo Borsellino with his daughter Fiammetta

 

In fact he raised and looked after the seven children of his sister – whose husband died prematurely and had insufficient income to support such a large family –  as if they were his own. Me and my two sisters were never spoiled nor facilitated in any way, rather

“we were taught to become responsible” in the face of situations bigger than ourselves,

It can be said that in our own way we had been “prepared” for his death, prepared by a father who wished us all the best things in life – and not leaving us orphans at such a young age.

Paolo Borsellino with his family. In the photograph Manfredi is the child sitting down on the left

Since the very first days that followed his death it was rumoured that he was “resigned” to this ominous destiny. Quite to the contrary:

My father had a visceral love for life and for its many small and big unexpected surprises. To me it was unconceivable that he would go forth to death considering it an inescapable event

The truth is that we witnessed the death of a man that was left alone at a moment in history when utmost cohesion was needed, along with the distribution of responsibilities, also inside judicial offices. However ,we have no regrets, for if my father’s death, and the death of many servants of the State, served as a wake up call to many idle consciences, we will have been repaid of his absence.

After all these years, what we miss the most of the man Paolo Borsellino, a father and a husband, is his good-heartedness and the generosity of spirit that characterised him.

He left us a huge moral heritage and taught us to be humble:  

He always recognised the merit of others rather than his own. He never wanted to be in the limelight and had zero ambitions, to the extent that he showed no interest in being appointed as special anti-Mafia Prosecutor, a post which government leaders at the time had slyly proposed him. His priority was to be near his family and his Palermo.

Paolo Borsellino with Falcone, De Francisci and Caponnetto

It is evident that we strongly yearned to have a father like that near our side, in times when we had to face situations bigger than ourselves, at a time when we all decided to serve the State – albeit in different administrations – that same State that was unable to defend and protect one of its most deserving sons but which my father has always respected and honoured and taught us to respect and honour as well, when we would have needed his advice, or even his gaze.

I still believe that me, my sisters, and my mother, followed in his wake.

Our faith strengthens our belief that one day we will see him again, beautiful and smiling, just as we remember him.

 

(The photographs are courtesy of the Borsellino family to “Condividere”, the bi-weekly magazine of the diocese of Mazara del Vallo: Reproduction is strictly prohibited)  

 

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