Rita Atria
Rita Atria

Last week, I went to the Music Box Theater to see the film, "The Sicilian Girl," directed by Marco Amenta. It was an interesting and unique portrayal of the underbelly of the Italian mafia, and one young woman's story.

The story is painfully sad, and based on a true story. The film tells the story of Rita Atria, a young woman from Partanna, Sicily, who was born into a mafia family. In 1991, after Atria's father and brother were both killed by rival mafias, she decided to go to the police. She was just 17-years-old at the time.

Atria's decision to speak openly about what she saw and knew about the mafia was a dangerous one. This decision shows her courageous spirit, because going to the police broke the Omertà code, which is:

the categorical prohibition of cooperation with state authorities or reliance on its services, even when one has been victim of a crime.

Atria revealed the names of major mafia bosses, and those involved in the war between mafia families in which 30 people were killed. She was placed in the witness protection program, and was moved from Sicily to Rome. Her mother, friends, and relatives disowned her when they discovered she had been collaborating with the authorities. After her testimony, the mafia retaliated by murdering anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino and his colleague, Giovanni Falcone, who had both been helping developing the case.

One week after Borsellino's death, alone and defeated, Atria wrote in her diary:

I am devastated by the killing of Judge Borsellino. Now there's no one to protect me, I'm scared and I can't take it anymore.

She then threw herself out of her 7th story window. Atria was only 18-years-old.

Atria's diary is macabre, and she often discusses her feelings about death and dying. In one entry, she discusses exactly how her funeral should be. Through these pages, it's apparent that Atria was struggling with all that was going on in her life, especially the abandonment of friends, family, and parts of society. Atria states:

No one will ever be able to understand the emptiness inside me, that immeasurable emptiness that everyone, little by little, has made even greater. I don't have anything anymore, all I have are crumbs. I can't tell good from bad, everything is so dark and gloomy by now. I thought that time could heal all wounds, but no, time opens them up more and more until it kills you, slowly. When will this nightmare end?

The movie beautifully showcased Atria's real-life strength and depth of character. She stood up for herself, her family, and her country. In the end, however, there was no one to stand up for Atria.

Through the darkness and pain, Atria wrote bits of hopefulness. She states:

Perhaps an honest world will never exist, but who prevents us from dreaming. Perhaps if each one of us tries to change, perhaps we will succeed.

Rest in peace, Rita Atria.

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