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Published:September 18th, 2006 04:09 EST
Oriana Fallaci: The Fighter

Oriana Fallaci: The Fighter

By Krzys Wasilewski

She was an atheist, but of all people, it was the Pope she adored the most. She was an Italian patriot who risked her life fighting the fascist regime, but the epilogue of her life was written in New York. Most of all, she was a gifted and ambitious journalist. Oriana Fallaci died at the age of 77.

She began her adult life very early. As a sensitive teenager, she could not watch her beloved Italy degrading itself by electing Benito Mussolini and his fascist clique. Oriana was only 13 when she joined the resistance and, as a messenger, felt the atrocities of the Second World War from the very heart of the conflict. When the secret police found out about her involvement, they arrested and then tortured her father. It did not break her. The war made her strong, uncompromising and straightforward " 50 years later these features will help her fight proudly the last battle " the battle she could not win: breast cancer.

After conducting a number of interviews with the world`s top figures in the 1970s, she became one of the most influential journalists. Few people could resist her when, in her famous big sunglasses, she looked straight into her interlocutor`s eyes and asked difficult questions. When she felt it right, she did not refrain from telling her interviewees that what they were saying was complete nonsense. In the ossified world of political journalism, she was a revolutionary.

Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State at that time, admitted that never before nor later had he revealed so many details about his true self than during the conversation with Oriana Fallaci. She was stubborn so if doors were closed, she went through windows. Trying to talk to Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity Movement in the 1980s, she threatened to lock him and herself in the room until he agreed for an interview. Walesa, who for years had never let the communist regime break him, gave in to this fragile Italian woman at once. She shocked the world when during her interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual and political leader of Iran; she unveiled her face, what in Islamic world was a great offense. Khomeini left the room, however he decided to continue the conversation on the next day. His son remembered that it had been the only time he had seen his father smiling.

She was either hated or loved. When in Letter To A Child Never Born she wrote that the women who have abortion are murderers, feminists around the world labeled her a psychopath. At the same time, she received support from the Catholic Church praising her brave fight against political correctness which muzzled the media. It did not prevent her, however, from criticizing Pope John Paul II for his submission " to Muslims. Christians and the Pope as their spiritual leader, she wrote, must not give up their principles in order to satisfy Islamic extremists.

In the 1990s, she retired from the big world and left for New York. But then The Twin Towers were destroyed, and Fallaci once again felt that she must speak up. She wrote The Rage and the Pride and The Force of Reason, as well as published a number of articles in which she accused Europe of forgetting its two-thousand-year-long history and tradition is what makes her an easy target for extremists. Europe, or Eurabia, as she called the continent, does nothing to save itself from Muslim hordes " that not only disrespect Europe`s customs but also try to poison liberal democracies with their own, brutal laws. Unsurprisingly, her words caused a massive outrage from Islamic leaders and left wing writers throughout the continent and elsewhere. But, as always, she did not change her mind.

 

I`m neither a conservative nor socialist, " she said in one interview. She spoke up whenever the truth was endangered, regardless if it was Islamic extremism or political stupidity. Whether she was reporting from war-crippled Vietnam, interviewing heads of states, or arguing with the pope, Fallaci always remained honest with her beliefs. The world of journalism will certainly miss this fighter who loved life most of all.