THE STARTING POINT OF THIS PROJECT WAS THE DISCOVERY OF MY ITALIAN GRANDFATHER’S WWII ARCHIVE AND THE LOVE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN MY GRANDPARENTS AT THAT TIME.
The aim of the project is to reactivate this archive through the use of Augmented Reality (AR), and to trigger a re- enactement of individual and collective memories through Augmented Postcards. I am particularly interested in how this affects collective “memory” and how it impacts the organization of narratives.
The “Her” in the title refers to my Italian grandmother, Manfredina Falchi and the « Boyfriend » is her husband to be, my Italian grandfather, Giuseppe Peri (Peppino).
From 1939 to 1943, Albania was an Italian protectorate and during WWII more than 100.000 Italian soldiers were deployed to the Balkan front to fight alongside the Germans. This was the war her boyfriend was fortunate enough to survive.
After the armistice of 8 September 1943, when Italy capitulated to the Allies, Peppino became a deserter, a straggler, fleeing the former Nazi allies and their concentration camps for more than one year. His fate, together with that of more than 20.000 men like him, has remained hitherto largely untold in Italy.
The title of my project refers to one of the most iconic works in the history of net.art: "My Boyfriend Came Back from the War" by Russian artist Olia Lialina, a browser based internet artwork from 1996.
Leafing through my grandfather’s war archive I have found 120 photographs that he took until 1942 on the South-Albanian front, along with a series of letters and postcards that Peppino regularly sent to Manfredina.
This material makes up the fragmentary mosaic of a love story that grew up between home and the front, an intimacy mediated by the propaganda images of the fascist regime. This correspondence was the result of a peculiar epistolary phenomenon:“war godmothers”, young women who were assigned by the authorities to correspond with a soldier on the front.
Along with their love contract, my grandparents signed another one: never to speak again about the painful period of their youth during the fascist regime and the war.
This story and the unspoken facts have always haunted me, until I recently found a small handwritten notebook, in which my grandfather had listed places, events, and people he met day by day in Albania from 8 September 1943 until his way back home, on foot, in 1945.
This project attempts to reconstruct this story through the fragments I collected alongside my research and a journey to Albania, and to address some aspects of Italy’s postcolonial heritage and Albania’s postcommunist present.