Sylvia Poggioli | KUER 90.1

Sylvia Poggioli

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.

Since joining NPR's foreign desk in 1982, Poggioli has traveled extensively for reporting assignments. These include going to Norway to cover the aftermath of the brutal attacks by a right-wing extremist; to Greece, Spain, and Portugal reporting on the eurozone crisis; and the Balkans where the last wanted war criminals have been arrested.

In addition, Poggioli has traveled to France, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and Denmark to produce in-depth reports on immigration, racism, Islam, and the rise of the right in Europe.

She has also travelled with Pope Francis on several of his foreign trips, including visits to Cuba, the United States, Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Throughout her career Poggioli has been recognized for her work with distinctions including the WBUR Foreign Correspondent Award, the Welles Hangen Award for Distinguished Journalism, a George Foster Peabody, National Women's Political Caucus/Radcliffe College Exceptional Merit Media Awards, the Edward Weintal Journalism Prize, and the Silver Angel Excellence in the Media Award. Poggioli was part of the NPR team that won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of the war in Kosovo. In 2009, she received the Maria Grazia Cutulli Award for foreign reporting.

In 2000, Poggioli received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University. In 2006, she received an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston together with Barack Obama.

Prior to this honor, Poggioli was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences "for her distinctive, cultivated and authoritative reports on 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia." In 1990, Poggioli spent an academic year at Harvard University as a research fellow at Harvard University's Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

From 1971 to 1986, Poggioli served as an editor on the English-language desk for the Ansa News Agency in Italy. She worked at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. She was actively involved with women's film and theater groups.

The daughter of Italian anti-fascists who were forced to flee Italy under Mussolini, Poggioli was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in romance languages and literature. She later studied in Italy under a Fulbright Scholarship.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare many of the problems of societies around the world. In Italy, the first Western country hit by COVID-19, it revealed how much the country relies on its migrant work force. Many undocumented migrants work on farms, as field hands and harvesting crops — jobs that Italians don't want. With the pandemic, they were suddenly recognized as essential.

One African-Italian became the spokesman for hundreds of thousands of migrants — those who couldn't stay home, who were risking their health to go out to work.

Italy's prime minister, health and interior ministers faced hours of questioning in Rome Friday as prosecutors opened an investigation into possible government mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

Investigators want to know why the towns of Alzano Lombardo and Nembro in the northern industrial region of Lombardy were not isolated and declared "red zones" as soon as the first cases were identified. As of now, no one has been charged.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The novel coronavirus is reviving one of Italy's fiercest debate topics — immigration.

The Italian government is considering giving work permits to thousands of undocumented immigrants in the country, as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens crop harvests.

Seasonal farmworkers usually go to Italy each year from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, but recent lockdowns have kept them home. That's creating a critical shortage of labor for picking fruits and vegetables needed for food and exports.

In Italy, where the coronavirus has shuttered more than 2 million businesses and left 1 in every 2 workers without income, some Italians are putting a new twist on an old custom to help the needy and restart the economy.

In Rome, the Piazza San Giovanni della Malva used to echo with the noise of crowded cafes and restaurants. Now, the only business open is a grocery shop, Er Cimotto.

It's so small that social distancing forces customers to order through the window.

Soon after the coronavirus hit Italy, a parody video of the Naples mafia, the Camorra, went viral, showing a bunch of guys with shaved heads meeting in an empty lot to make a deal.

"I got a new business in my hands," one says.

"100% pure," another thug marvels, unwrapping a packet and taking a sniff. "But what about cocaine?"

"Who gives a s*** about cocaine?" the first thug says. The new commodity — hand sanitizer — is "transparent gold."

Italy has been hard-hit by the coronavirus epidemic, with a death toll of more than 16,000. Its economy is in near-shutdown.

Although Italy's south has seen fewer deaths from COVID-19 infection than the north, its poverty and jobless rates are high. In lockdown since March 10, Naples, a normally bustling city of more than 2 million, is now a ghost town. Acts of charity, long a hallmark of this city, have become more important than ever as a means of sustenance.

Cities across Italy, the country hardest hit in coronavirus deaths, marked a minute of silence on Tuesday at noon to honor the many victims since the outbreak emerged about six weeks ago.

The death toll as of Tuesday had reached 12,428, and the total number of cases stands at almost 106,000. Italy's victims account for more than a third of the pandemic's global fatalities.

As the death toll of the global coronavirus epidemic continues to rise, Pope Francis celebrated an extraordinary ritual Friday evening at the Vatican.

The pope prayed for an end of the epidemic and delivered his homily against the dramatic backdrop of an empty St. Peter's Square, glistening in the rain.

In Italy, when political analysts say, "Here comes the cavalry" ("arrivano i nostri"), they're not talking Hollywood Westerns. They're saying, "Here come our guys: the USA has got Italy's back."

But today, the "our guys" have included less traditional friends.

The number of coronavirus cases in Italy continues to soar. In what has become a grim daily ritual, Angelo Borelli, the chief of the country's Civil Protection agency, announced that in the last 24 hours, the death toll from the virus had risen by nearly 800 to a total of 4,825.

That is the largest daily increase since the outbreak was revealed a month ago today. Italy has already surpassed China with the largest number of deaths from the pandemic. It now has 55,578 cases of the coronavirus, up from 47,021 on Friday.

Daniela De Rosa, a 43-year-old veterinarian in Italy's southwest Campania region, made a video message over the weekend as she was hospitalized with COVID-19. Her video plea has gathered much attention in Italy, which has just surpassed China in the number of reported deaths from the new coronavirus.

"I've been in isolation in a hospital room for so many days I've lost count," she says. "I have no contact with anyone other than doctors twice a day."

It has been less than a week since, along with 60 million Italians, I was put under a government-ordered quarantine to try to curb the spread of Italy's coronavirus outbreak, the worst outside Asia. The new slogan is #iostoacasa — I'm staying home.

The Italian government has announced extraordinary measures to contain the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday declared the entire country a "red zone," meaning people should stay home except for work and emergencies.

The move expands the emergency measures already in place in northern Italy, which is where most of the more than 9,000 confirmed cases are.

As of Monday, 463 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported through the country.

Italy is undergoing the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside Asia.

After surfacing two weeks ago in northern Italy, its economic engine, confusion and fear have spread throughout the country.

After decades of pressure from historians and Jewish groups, the Vatican on Monday began allowing scholars access to the archives of Pope Pius XII, the controversial World War II-era pontiff.

Roman Catholic Church officials have always insisted that Pius did everything possible to save Jewish lives. But he remained publicly silent while some 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

As the bells of St. Peter's Basilica ring out from the Vatican on a chilly January evening, a few people huddled in shabby clothes stand a few yards from the colonnade encircling St. Peter's Square.

They are waiting to enter the Palazzo Migliori, a 19th century palace just behind the square.

One of them is Livia, an Italian woman in her 60s. After having slept on Rome's streets for months, she has been spending nights since early December in what has become known as the "Palace of the Poor."

European Union officials will be closely monitoring results of local elections in Italy Sunday that are seen as a bellwether for the fate of the national government.

Polls suggest that the far-right populist League Party could win control of a region that has been a leftist bastion for 75 years.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

They call themselves the "Sardines" — because they want to quietly pack Italy's main public squares like fish in a can. Organizers say their goal is to stop a far-right, anti-immigrant wave rising in Italian society and politics.

On Saturday, tens of thousands turned out in Rome's St. John Lateran Square for their largest rally yet. Retirees mingled with teenagers and families with kids, many holding fish-shaped signs. They sang Bella Ciao, a World War II-era anthem of the anti-fascist resistance.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The lagoon city of Venice — a unique experiment nurtured by man and nature — suffered heavy damage in November as floodwaters reached their highest peaks in more than 50 years.

But rising sea levels are not the only threat. As Venetians continue to leave their city, Venice risks becoming an empty shell sinking under mass tourism.

The Italian city of Venice is still reeling from a week of three exceptional tides whose floodwaters have caused massive damage to the city's cultural legacy and to residences and businesses.

The disaster has gripped Italy and inspired a wave of volunteers to salvage what they can.

There is a bookshop in Campiello del Tintor square named Libreria Acqua Alta, which means High Water Bookstore. Following Sunday's exceptional high tide, the square as well as the store's pavement were under several inches of water.

More than seven decades after the fall of fascism in its country of birth, Italy is in the grip of an intense debate about anti-Semitism, racism and hate speech.

The national psychodrama was unwittingly triggered by an 89-year-old Jewish grandmother and Holocaust survivor who has been put under police escort following threats from members of Italy's ultra-right.

On Sunday, Pope Francis opened a three-week bishops' assembly known as a synod, denouncing contemporary forms of colonialism and urging conservatives to be open to change.

The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, held at the Vatican, is focusing on the environment and indigenous peoples' rights to their land and traditions. In addition to 185 bishops, mostly from the Amazon region, participants include scientists and environmentalists.

The Italian region of Tuscany is not known just for its fine wines, extra-virgin olive oil and Renaissance masterpieces. It's also the birthplace of the Italian Communist Party, which was founded in 1921 and has been a bastion of left-wing governance for decades.

But in the past three years, Tuscany has experienced political upheaval as the hard-right, anti-immigrant League party has won elections in many towns, marking the first losses for the left in Tuscany in more than seven decades.

Rome is known as the Eternal City. Over many centuries, it has been sacked by marauders and repeatedly resurrected from decline. But this summer, Roman residents are being tested by a massive trash crisis that has prompted doctors to warn of the possible spread of diseases as birds, vermin and wild animals scavenge amid the rotting refuse.

Already, flocks of cawing seagulls have replaced traffic roar as the soundtrack of Roman life.

Some 400 million people in 28 countries are eligible to vote in this week's elections for new representatives for the European Parliament — the only popularly elected European Union institution. It's normally a low-turnout affair, but this year, the Europe-wide result will be a crucial test of strength for nationalist and populist parties that want to remake the EU — and for those who oppose them.

Ahead of elections this week for a new European Parliament, 11 populist leaders rallied last Saturday in Milan's Piazza Duomo. They vowed to reassert their national sovereignty by wresting control from European Union bureaucrats headquartered in Brussels. Their host: Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's far-right League party and Europe's rising populist star.

Appeals judges of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have upheld Radovan Karadzic's conviction for genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre that claimed the lives of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

They also ruled that the 40-year sentence of Karadzic handed down in the first trial, in 2016, was too light given the gravity of the crimes.

Along with the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian army general Ratko Mladic, Karadzic was a key figure in the Bosnian war.

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