Triumphs over TragedyDream Wanderlust
Luca Borgoni (22) died on the slopes of the Matterhorn, on 8th July, 2017. He was on a training climb in preparation for his expedition to Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest mountain in the world. He had also planned to ski down from the summit.
He was a student in the department of Biology at Turin University. Unfortunately he died a few days before his gradution.
After his death, his mother Cristina Giordana, a Mathematics teacher in school defended Luca's thesis before the faculty of Biology of Turin University. The faculty appreciated her bravery and felicitated her for her resilience to carry forward her son's unfulfilled dream. She has kept Luca's Facebook account active and regularly keeps in touch with his friends.
Three friends, Cala Cimenti, Matthias Koenig and Davide Gerlero came to Nepal with the hope of fulfilling their friend, Luca's dream of climbing Dhaulagiri. Exactly three months after Luca's death, on 8th October, 2017 Cala and Matthias reached the summit of Dhaulagiri without the help of supplemental oxygen and placed a photo of Luca on the summit and also skied down portions (7200m to 5200m) of the route.
In this interview, Cristina Giordana expresses her feelings about her son, his climb, his philosophy and how she triumphed over a great tragedy.
DW: Signora Christiana, le nostre più sentite condoglianze per la vostra grande perdita.
Madam Christiana, our deepest condolences at your great loss.
Signora, we at DW would like to know your responses to some of the questions that have come to mind. But please feel free not to respond if you find any of them inappropriate or painful.
DW: For a mother the birth of a child is a visceral experience, and so too we think is the loss of one. You deserve all admiration for the way you have coped with your loss. Could you please tell us how you did so?
Cristina: I had a unique, wonderful, extremely intimate and powerful relation with my son. Faith was a big help to me in coping with this tragedy. The most incredible thing about Luca is that he has never had pain, neither physical nor emotional. I now feel Luca as close to me as when he was during pregnancy, it is like going back to the origin. He was in me before his life began, he is in me now that his is no longer on earth.
DW: One needs courage to be a mountaineer. It seems that courage runs in your family, because you were brave enough to go to his University to defend his graduation thesis. Please tell us about it.
Cristina: The discussion of the thesis was the most natural thing that I could do. I followed his thesis from the beginning, I was next to Luca step by step during the writing process. Hand in hand in the last moment of his academic life, exactly how I was next to him in every step before that. I was going with him to Turin to help him with his day by day life, and I was there also the day he had to hand in the thesis. I notified the university he was not going to attend the last scheduled meeting for tuning up the last details, and me going to discuss Luca's thesis made a big rumor in Italy. Every newspaper was talking about it. I didn't ask the university for this, they came to me. They decided to keep a space for Luca and straight away I knew it was going to be me discussing in his place, for him. It was not a crying time, it was an happy time. It was an happy one for Luca as well.
DW: Please tell us about Luca's childhood. Was he always adventurous?
Cristina: No, Luca wasn't always adventurous but sport has always been in his life, taking a big part of his every day activities. Moving was a necessity in his life, he couldn't stay standing.
DW: In Italy football is a national passion. What were your thoughts and reaction when you found that your son has chosen a potentially dangerous sport?
Cristina: We hate football in our family, we were happy he didn't like it too. Mountain has always scared me, or better, the thought of Luca going up to the mountains was scaring me. He always told me that I was his only thought up there. We are now in the process of looking after having a mountain safe house ''bivacco'' named after him.
DW: Did you at any point ask him to take up a less dangerous sport?
Cristina: How can you ask someone to stop doing what is keeping him alive? Even if at the end it turned out the opposite way, mountains kept him alive till the very last moment and is still keeping him alive in us now, every moment of every day.
These are Luca's words:
"Climb the Dhaulagiri, the 7th highest summit of the Earth, and make the snowboard descent from the top. The project "Mountopia" would allow me to live a "professional" sports period, which I gave up when I was called to make my life choices, privileging other paths. I love to measure myself fairly in projects that affect my aptitude and make the most of the athletes' potential. I have great interest, also fed on University, (I'm attending the Biology University in Turin) for the ecological, geological and glacial aspects of the high mountain environment and also for training and nutrition of athletes. I have never been able to take advantage of an opportunity like this, with the possibility of being trained by a specialist athlete who well knows many secrets of mountains. I am available to make sacrifices to train properly. I am convinced that age plays in my favor, because young people can optimize the relapse associated with the new experience. I fear, if my question is rejected, that the Dhaulagiri will remain in my drawer of unrealized dreams, since I do not like improvisations and things done "so much to do". I conclude by welcoming the initiative and confirm, beyond the acceptance of my candidacy, the love I have for sport, especially when it comes to linking man and nature".
DW: When you heard the news from Dhaulagiri, was it painful to be reminded of your loss, or was it a welcome moment of catharsis? What was your reaction?
Cristina: October 8th I received a call from a journalist of a major Italian newspaper, announcing me that Luca's picture had arrived on top of the Dhaulagiri. It was 3 months after his death, and it arrived on top at the same time of the day. Luca's friend Davide Gerlero has left from Italy for him, to be the one bringing on top of Luca's dream, the Dhaulagiri, its picture.
DW: Mountaineering by its very nature is prone to accidents which sometimes leads to the loss of loved one, leaving behind a grieving family and friends who find it difficult to cope. You Signora, seemed to have coped with your tragic loss very bravely. What would you tell someone faced with, god forbid, such a situation?
Cristina: Losing a child is an un-human experience. It's totally un-natural, it's something going totally wrong in the circle of life. But despite the suffer, you always have to find a reason to keep loving life. And I've found mine in my daughter Giulia, Luca's sister.
DW: Signora, though we are not aware of your religious beliefs, we would like to know if your God has any role to play in your struggle to come to terms with your loss?
Cristina: Of course, faith is my secret. Without faith, a mother would never have the strength to continue to love life after the loss of a child.