Erasing a bad memory for a good purpose: How mafia seized properties have become socially useful

How mafia seized properties have become socially useful

After surviving the horrors at their ancestral house of Bucha, a symbol of war atrocities allegedly committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, Tetiana and her family did not have an easy exit from that country.

They appeared unconcerned about the past of the Italian house where they are currently residing in favour of finding a location where they could finally feel safe.

Given that the land once belonged to the ‘Ndrangheta, one of Italy’s most potent Mafia-like organisations, it is a location unlike any other.

This Rescaldina mansion, which the mayor claims was stolen by the Mafia and is now being used to house Ukrainian refugees, is the first instance of Mafia-seized property that has been used for such purposes, according to the Interior Ministry’s decision.

Gilles Andrè Ielo, the mayor of the little village, broke down in tears as he recalled the first time he drove to pick up Tetiana and her family.

The impacts of the war in Ukraine have been felt throughout Italy, including in Ielo’s town. He had believed that managing the fight against COVID-19 in one of Italy’s most devastated places was the biggest difficulty he faced as a first-time mayor.

However, the municipality of Rescaldina, a town of around 14,000 people, was ready to receive refugees and already had 50 people residing there.

One of the greatest populations of Ukrainian families in Italy is found in the Lombardy region.

Having a home where the family could settle has proven to be a game-changer for Ielo more than anything else.

They felt considerably calmer because they were in a nice residence rather than an overcrowded receiving centre, according to Ielo.

It was immediately apparent how close the mayor and the family have grown to be as Tetiana answered the door after we rang the doorbell. When Tetiana’s kids saw Ielo, there was hilarity and humour.

The father of the kids had stayed back to fight.

Tetiana and her mother find it challenging to remember the very first days of the Russian occupation. They informed me that they don’t want to discuss the past. They lost too many of their friends, and remembering those events would be unbearably traumatic for them.

A stern warning to organised crime

Authorities are in charge of a significant number of these types of assets, even though this is the first time the government has chosen to use these facilities to house refugees.

Authorities only confiscated €1.9 billion in assets from Italy’s criminal organisations in 2021.

Currently, there are about 40,000 properties under management by the National Agency for the Administration of Assets Confiscated from Organized Crime.

The mere fact that the land has been restored to the community, according to agency director Bruno Corda, “sends out a very strong message to organised criminals.”

He claimed that using the asset for charitable reasons is a method to oppose these Mafia-like organisations and, in some way, to finally put the past behind us.

The fact that Tetiana and the neighbourhood have both been able to rebuild their lives appears to be the advantage in this situation.

Tetiana responded that her new home and her previous one are pretty similar but that she would really like to return to Ukraine and visit her former home.

Even a week would be sufficient to visit it and recover a few documents, she claims, adding that she might even miss her new home in Rescaldina while she is there.

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