Nikola Turcinovic (1911-1971)

The prominent anarchist activist Nikola Turcinovic aka Nicolas (or Nicolo) Turcinovich or Nicola Turcini was born in Rovigno (Istria, Croatia) on 21 August 1911, the son of Giuseppe Turcinovic and Maddalene Malusa. He never received more than an elementary schooling and while very young came into contact with libertarian labour circles in Rovigno. In August 1927 he was taken on as a cabin boy aboard the ‘Belvedere’ a ship belonging to the Cosulich Line Trieste, plying between Trieste and the Americas. After a fracas on board with a fascist who provoked him, he decided, in the course of a stop-over in Buenos Aires, not to go back to fascist Italy and he deserted: at around the same time, in December 1929, he was sentenced in absentia by a court in Pula to six months in prison. In Buenos Aires he made contact with the FORA in which a number of Istrian militants were active, people such as Francesco Depanghere and Giuseppe Pesel, members of the “Umanitá Nova” group. He tried all sorts of jobs to earn a living.

In 1930, fleeing the repression that followed upon General José Félix Uriburu’s coup d’etat, he stowed away on a Yugoslav ship bound for Europe. After coming ashore in Antwerp he settled in Paris where he worked as a bricklayer and, according to the police, became “one of the most active Italian militants”, as a result of which he was expelled from France in May 1931. With some Spanish comrades, he then left for the Peninsula, where the Spanish Republic had just been proclaimed. In Barcelona, he joined the CNT. In September 1931 he was arrested following a general strike and charged with having helped in the armed defence of the CNT Construction Union premises in the Calle Mercaders in Barcelona when it was attacked by the police and he was held on the prison ships, the ‘Dedalo’ and the ‘Antonio Lopez’. In February 1932, together with fellow Italians Luigi Sofra and Egidio Bernardini, he mounted an escape bid. In February 1933, following an intensive campaign mounted by the CNT he was amnestied but was handed an expulsion order and escorted with Egidio Bernardini and his partner, Livia Bellinari, to the French border. After passing through Belgium and Holland, by May 1933 he was back in Barcelona. Charged with membership of a “criminal gang”, he was promptly arrested and committed to the Modelo prison in Barcelona for “breach of an expulsion order”. In December 1933 he took part in a mass break-out from the Modelo, only to be rearrested within days. On his release on 28 February 1934, he was arrested again and tried for “resisting the security forces” and given a 4 month jail term. In September 1934 he was expelled and escorted to the border with Portugal. He managed to re-enter Spain via Andalusia and settled in Seville, but the repression following the Casas Viejas incident was so severe that in October the same year he fled to Tangiers and thence to Algeria, living in Algiers and in Oran. Persecuted even in Algeria, by 1935 he was back in Spain and settled in the Valencia area.

Come the coup attempt in July 1936, he set off for Barcelona where the FAI put him in charge of organising the Italian Section of the “Ascaso Column”. According to a number of witnesses (Umberto Calosso, Carlo Rosselli, etc.) he played a crucial part in the engagements in Monte Pelado and Huesca. In January 1937, at the request of the CNT’s Regional Peasant Federation of Levante, he was dispatched to Valencia to oversee the running of some farming collectives. The end of the civil war found him stranded in the Alicante rat-trap but he managed to get out to Madrid and laid low in the home of a fascist whose life he had saved during the early months of the war. On 29 March 1941, after he was “turned in” by his landlord, he was arrested in Madrid. Extradited to Italy, he was sentenced in September 1941 to five years’ internment on the island of Ventotene.

In July 1943, with the collapse of fascist rule, he was moved to the Renicci d’Anghiari concentration camp (in Tuscany) together with dozens of other anarchist comrades deemed “dangerous”. On 18 September 1943 he was freed and set off for Istria where he promptly joined the partisans led by Josip Broz aka Tito. After he fell out with the Yugoslav communists, he left for Genoa where he made contact with the libertarian movement in the city. With other activists (Marcello Bianconi, Emilio Grassini, Pietro Caviglia, Alfonso Failla, Pasquale Binazzi, etc.) he took part in the Liberation struggle. Using the experience gained in Spain he served as a liaison between anarchist partisan groups and groups from other organisations. He also commanded the “Malatesta Brigade” – part of the SAP (Partisan Action Squads) – alongside Francesc Ogno, Emilio Grassini, Pietro Pozzi and Giuseppe Verardo – and the “Pisacane Brigade”, an anarchist urban guerrilla outfit operating in the Cornigliano and Plegi quarters of Genoa. After the Liberation he was one of the most active militants in Genoa. In June 1945 he was the Ligurian Libertarian Communist Federation’s (FCLL) delegate to the Milan congress of the Italian Anarcho-Communist Federation (FACI).

In 1946 he moved to Venice where he set up home with Alberta Machiori and they had a daughter the following year. In 1954 he returned to Genoa where he took part in most of the congresses held in the city by the Italian Anarchist Federation (FAI). In 1965 at the Carrara congress he was appointed to run the FAI book service and served on the organisation’s Correspondence Commission. In 1970 he was one of the founders of the “Armando Borghi Circle” in Genoa, marshalling young people drawn to anarchism through the social struggles of the day. Nikola Turcinovic died on 30 December 1971 in Genoa and was buried on 2 January 1972 in that city. In 2005 the “Nicola Turcinovic” Libertarian Group was launched in Genoa.