One of Venice’s city websites, Venezia.Italiani, wrote a note about the journey of Joseph Stalin – then a youngster known under the nickname Koba – to the island of St. Lazarus.
In January 1907, the young Georgian, limping, descended from the “Odessa” steamer in the port of Ancona. He had blue eyes, dark hair, a groomed beard. He did not know Italian, but he knew English, Russian, Georgian, and Armenian. It was Koba – Joseph Dzhugashvili. He would become Stalin in 1913.
He arrived at the Roma e Pace Hotel overlooking the Adriatic. Here, according to some accounts, he was hired as a night porter. Some say that in the rooms above Koba, Mussolini and Angelica Balabanova would settle a few years later…
But Koba would not stay in Ancona for long. After some time, he went to Venice.
The Armenian Order of Mekhitarists on the island of St. Lazarus was already waiting for him. There, he was called Bepi (from Giuseppe), and his surname Dzhugashvili became “del Giasso.” Without knowing it, the Mekhitarists got to the point – the word “giasso” means “ice” in the Venice dialect.
But the meeting was not at all icy. Monk Ignazio Dzhurekyan and his brother appreciated Joseph in two guises – as a gifted poet and a choir singer.
In gratitude for the shelter, Koba became the ringer and servant at the Mekhitarist Order, tidying up the church. But his soul craved the verses that he would compose in the evenings and the night walks along the bay.
But the reluctance to obey anyone manifested itself in “icy Joseph” pretty soon. He made a bell chime in his own way, not paying attention to the order approved by the brethren. The monks did not tolerate self-government, and the future “father of the peoples” was soon outside the gates of the monastery. From there, he went to Berlin.
But the “Stalinist mark” in Ancona remained for decades. When journalist Raffaele Salinari visited the lobby of the still functioning Roma e Pace, he saw on its hall wall a clipping from a 1957 issue of a local newspaper that talked about the past employment of the great leader.
The Venetians like the theme so much that they aren’t going to stop.
“We will follow the robbery of the Tiflis Bank that was crowned with an explosion on Erivan Square in 1907. It is possible that in the next story, we will see Stalin on Capri, in Gorky’s house… Or again with the Armenians of Venice where he will try to sell stolen banknotes,” writes the author of the article Franco Corè. To be continued, he promises.