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LA STAMPA

Early Christmas For Italian Man As Vespa Turns Up 35 Years After It Was Stolen

When his shiny new Vespa was swiped off the streets of Milan in 1976, its owner figured it was gone for good. And then last week, a call arrived from the police in Sicily. A nice holiday surprise, but at 84, the reunited owner may have to let someone else

Classic Vespa 50 Special (Jen Camera)
Classic Vespa 50 Special (Jen Camera)

*NEWSBITES

MILAN - Just in time for the holidays, an 84-year-old Milan resident has been reunited with his…Vespa.

The classic Italian scooter, a Vespa 50 Special, which had been stolen in Milan 35 years ago, was found in Sicily (more than 900 miles to the south) on a routine police roadside check near the village of Buccheri.

The man was 49-years-old when he bought the white 50 Special, among the most popular models of the 1970s, still considered an icon of Italian design with its long saddle for two seats, and the box on one side. The recovered vehicle was in surprisingly good condition, despite a bit of rust and part of the box missing.

Police called the home of the registered owner, whose son answered. "My dad will be happy," he said. Indeed the holiday reunion story has one last serendipitous nugget: though he's lived in Milan since his youth, the victim is a native of the Sicilian city of Catania, just up the road from where his long-lost scooter was found.

Read more in Italian from La Stampa

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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