The Prizewinner

Teresina Monegatti Casanova

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Teresina Monegatti Casanova. Born in Pejo in 1945 – since 1958 at the “Città di Mantova” refuge at Viòz (3,535 m asl) of the SAT run by the Casanova brothers. She marries Renato at the refuge in 1968, raises 4 children (3 boys and one girl), suffers the tragic death of the oldest, Roberto, overwhelmed by an avalanche in 1984 at the age of 24; later she remains a widow; but the activity on the refuge continues until her son Mario takes over, who continues the family tradition

We went to visit her in Pejo, at the top of the village, at her house, built on a slope between meadow and wood, where the normal road ends and the forest track begins. Signora Teresina was waiting for us with a certain trepidation, which emerges from her eyes, and which the mask cannot completely hide.

I am with Fabrizia and Carmelo, in the delegation for the International Alpine Solidarity Award.

He welcomes us at the door with his daughter Lara; accompanies us and makes us sit around the table in the living room. In the next compartment you can see the blond brown hair of his nephew (he practices ski jumping, young European champion, he is already a member of the national team): he fumbles on a computer. On the opposite wall the framed photos of the four children, each caught in his first grade desk, of the old wooden ones, traditional school memory. Further down, on a small shelf, an open book carved with the color image of Roberto, overwhelmed by an avalanche at the age of 24. Tragedy that mother Teresina just can’t understand and about which she still doesn’t know how to rest …: “Roberto was prudent, strong and responsible. There was nothing to predict that something could come off that day… and instead it happened. His was not imprudence. It is the mountain … it must have been his destiny, but I, but I … “the voice stops and the eyes moisten. … Lara takes the opportunity to offer us a slice of tart, special (dough with amaretti flour garnished with homemade jam) and a cup of coffee.

It is a short step from the son to the story of life on the refuge.

First of all it must be said that it is a unique refuge, the highest in the Eastern Alps, built by the German section of the Alpenverein of Halle on the Saale in 1911, at 3,535 meters above sea level on a small terrace dug a few meters below the summit of Viòz, in competition with the “irredentists” of Sat, who had built the “City of Mantua” three years earlier, just below. In 1921 the Italian government had sold it to Sat. After the Second World War it was renovated in the best possible way and from 1958 it was entrusted to the Casanova brothers: Enrico, Renato and Oreste, whose family members will continue to manage it to this day, except for a very brief parenthesis in the early seventies. Renato will manage the Viòz, while Oreste, a charismatic mountain guide, will take over the Guido Larcher al Cevedale refuge.

Teresina was hired at Vioz as a girl and in 1968 she married Renato: a ritual celebrated up there, at the refuge. With that ceremony, they start a tradition. Since then, many climbers will go up to celebrate their wedding there. Managing a structure like that, at high altitude, where everything is lacking (water in the first place) and you have to treasure everything, help each other and often prevent the needs of others, is not just fatigue, sacrifice and the ability to adapt to any unforeseen event is a real, extraordinary school of life. The children, who grew up in that environment, know something about it. They spent whole days, even a week that never ended, closed in their room in the middle of the storm, without seeing anyone. Teresina knows something about it. When they went out to play outdoors, in confined spaces and not without dangers, the worry was mixed with the confidence in their common sense: one eye on chores, the other on watching over their movements. Remember the anxieties you felt one day in search of Roberto. They could no longer find him, he had literally disappeared and were already thinking the worst, when by chance someone pushes his eye into the bucket of the cableway and sees him sleeping peacefully and peacefully, the sleep of the righteous. He had chosen that out of the way bed to rest without being disturbed. In Teresina’s words we relive joys and sorrows, curious anecdotes, adventures and misadventures, in practice what life was like in a real refuge, a refuge / refuge, made of stones, wood and tar paper. Not to mention the characters she met, sometimes with curious, strange behaviors, and the mountaineers, generations of past mountaineers up there, who remained fond of her and who still write to her or go to visit her … grateful.

Giuseppe Ciaghi