The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Carmelo Borg Pisani: 80 years after his death

Tuesday, 29 November 2022, 11:55 Last update: about 3 months ago

Jake Muscat

Eighty years after his execution, Carmelo Borg Pisani remains a divisive figure in Maltese discourse. Was he a traitor to his nation or was he a patriot? In this write-up I will briefly go through his short life and give my take on his beliefs.

Borg Pisani was born into a devout Catholic family in Senglea known for its Nationalist leanings. At the age of just 14 he enrolled into the Organizazzione Giovanili Italiane all'Estero. He also attended the Umberto I art school and after four years was sent to Rome to attend a course of Capo Centuria.

Following his completion of High School studies, Carmelo moved to Rome where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts. He also came into contact with a group of Maltese irredentists and collaborated with Prof. Umberto Biscottini of the Malta Historical Archives with whom he continued developing his political ideas, mainly the idea that the British by colonising Malta were destroying her "Italian soul" and that it was a vital necessity to drive them out and return the island to its rightful motherland.

On 10 June 1940, Italy entered the war on the side of the axis, thus against British Malta. This surprised Carmelo who was still in Rome at the time. Following the outbreak of the war, he joined the MVSN militia as well as the Military Information Service. He also renounced his British citizenship and obtained an Italian one instead.

On 18 May 1942, as a volunteer for a reconnaissance expedition to Malta, he secretly landed on Dingli Cliffs in order to obtain information for an axis invasion of the island. A storm left him with damaged equipment and no food there, so he was forced to attract the attention of a patrol boat which admitted him to a military hospital. At the hospital, Carmelo was recognised by Tom Warrington, a childhood friend of his, who denounced him. He was then sent to Corradino Prison where he was interrogated and accused of treason, thus being sentenced to death. He would be hanged on 28 November 1942.

Upon receiving news of his death, Italian King, Vittorio Emanuele III, awarded him the Gold Medal for Military Valour.

Was Borg Pisani a traitor or a hero of Malta?

In my view, he had a vision for Malta which was as legitimate as anyone else's.

What Carmelo believed in was the concept of Italianita as a national mark. One must remember that Malta existed only as a part of the Kingdom of Sicily, prior to 1814 when Malta became a colony of the British Empire. In the later years, there arose a movement which attempted to remove this cultural mark, which in turn resulted in a resistance movement to it. Unfortunately, all this turned into a simple narrative of good against bad and was also not aided by the fact that Malta's recent history is barely even taught.

One may agree or disagree with his vision for Mata as much as one can agree or disagree with the sentence given to him. Something which all of us must agree upon however is the fact that Borg Pisani was no opportunist who betrayed his country for personal gain. On the contrary, he believed in an ideal to which he was ready to give his life for. What was seen as betrayal in legal terms may or may not have been in real terms. Perhaps, now, the time has come to remove the guilt which has been imposed on this young man for the past 80 years and see him for the idealist that he was.

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