A short biography of Italian anarchist Ida Scarselli
Scarselli, Ida (1897-1989)
Ida Scarselli was born into an anarchist family in Certaldo in the Florence region of Italy on 17th July 1897. Her father Eusebio was an anarchist as were her brothers Egisto, Ferruccio, Oscar, and her sister Ines Leda. Ferruccio founded an anarchist group in Certaldo that affiliated to the Unione Anarchici Italiana (UAI).
Ida was involved with her brothers in the ‘Events of the Fair’ events on February 28th, 1921. The annual Certaldo celebrations were that year menaced by an expected raid by fascist squadristi. Barricades were erected in the main square, and in the fighting that followed, several were wounded, including Egisto, and the socialist engineer Catullo Masini mortally so. Later on the day the Scarsellis and other anarchists built a barricade on the outskirts of Certaldo. A truck full of carabinieri arrived, and in the ensuing fighting, Ferruccio was blown to pieces by a hand grenade he was carrying.
Ida, fearing arrest, took refuge in the house of Errico Malatesta, a longtime friend of the family, in Rome. Here she met the anarchist Giacomo Bottino, a plasterer from Paola, and they established a life-long relationship. Ida was subsequently arrested with her remaining brothers and held in prison for a year. Acquitted because of lack of evidence, she moved to Rome where she lived Bottino.
Ida lost her first son, Germinal, who died prematurely, in 1924. She was again imprisoned at the beginning of 1927 for having raised funds for political prisoners. She was one of the first women sentenced by the fascist Special Court, on 23rd July 1927, to 2 years and six months imprisonment, 3 years supervision and a lifetime ban from public office, together with Bottino, Giulio Montanari and Elisa Veracini. A police file of December 5th, 1927 notes that she had "a bad reputation in public opinion for her bad conduct in every respect. Of a violent nature… She does not hide her anarchist ideas. She hates fascism and the established authorities and “is to be considered a dangerous element for the national order ”.
She was described by the fascist prefect Giuseppo Regard as “of slightly tall stature, of medium build, having long brown hair, a large round face, a broad forehead, a straight nose, slightly broad shoulders, a quick gait, and a pleasant physiognomic expression”.
In prison she gave birth to her daughter Scintilla.Later two other children from her union with Bottino were born, Germinal and Spartaco. In the meantime her brother Egisto had been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Sardinia, whilst her two other brothers, Tito and Oscar had fled to the Soviet Union.
Released in summer 1929, Ida was assigned to confinement (house arrest) the following 30th September. She wrote a letter to her brother Egisto on October 29th, encouraging him not to give up.: “Courage, dear Egisto, everything passes, life is a continuous struggle, if we despair we get nothing, on the contrary we lose a lot of health, we always hope for the best, hope never abandons us.”
Ida was subsequently confined on the island of Lipari, against which she appealed. She was then moved to Ponza on August 4th, 1930 where she remained until March 16th, 1932, when she was released and reunited with Bottano in his home town of Paola. Giacomo Bottino asked for a passport for himself, Ida and the children, so that they could emigrate to Brasil to join his brother there, but this was refused.
In 1933 the authorities filed a report that she was living in Paola on probation with Giacomo and Scintilla. In 1934 the family moved to nearby Cosenza. Ida was listed among the anti-fascists to be arrested in certain circumstances and was subject to probation for 3 years. In 1934 she was considered as an “irreducible opponent” of the fascist regime and in 1937 she was regularly monitored because she “kept her anarchist principles unchanged”. The following year she was “considered dangerous in politics because she openly professed” her political views. In 1939 she was sent to prison with Giacoma two days before Mussolini’s visit to Cosenza and subsequently released just after the visit. The fascist authorities took no account that their three children were left alone at home during their jailing. Subsequently Ida’s name appeared on a list of those assigned to confinement in the event of a war.
Three years later she was still being “closely watched”.
After the liberation, Ida and Giacomo threw themselves back into anarchist activity. On May 1st 1946, their son Germinal, although still very young, was chosen by the local anarchist group to carry a red and black flag at the head of the anarchist contingent on the huge demonstration held in Cosenza. Their daughter Scintilla, now twenty, introduced the returned anarchist Armando Borghi to the crowd at the Super Cinema in Cosenza on September 1st, 1946. For the occasion, Ida had made a red velvet dress with red and black buttons for her daughter.
The family decided to move to Brasil in January 1947. However, things did not work out as well as they expected. They were persecuted by the Brasilian authorities, and a belligerent neighbour, who acted as a provocateur for the police, reported them to the authorities for having anarchist meetings at their home. This neighbour ended up killing Giacomo with a revolver on September 14th, 1970.
Scintilla, Germinal and Spartaco become respectively a teacher, architect and anaesthetist.
Returning to Italy as a guest of her sister Ines in Rome, in 1973, Ida requested that the Italian government grant her the legal benefits for persecuted anti-fascists and their surviving family members. This was eventually granted in 1975.
Ida Scarselli died in Niteròi, a town near Rio de Janeiro, at the age of 92 on October 22nd, 1989.