Letting go of the environment and education you received at home is difficult as it is, but can there be liberation if you grew up in a family of mobsters?

Luigi di Cicco was returning from school. He was running towards his house, on the streets of his small home town near Naples, because he had heard fireworks and wanted to know who was celebrating. Arriving in front of the house, he saw two of his uncles lying in a pool of blood. He was horrified to realize that the fireworks he had heard had actually been gunshots, and his uncles had been killed by a rival clan.

“Of my childhood I only have ugly memories”, says Luigi with sadness. His family was part of the Camorra, the dreaded mafia underworld in southern Italy. When he was born, his father was serving an 18-year prison sentence. Every few weeks, Luigi and his mother visited his father in prison. Sarcastically, Luigi says that this is how he learned the geography of Italy, by visiting his father at various maximum security prisons.

Home was a scary place for little Luigi anyway. He lived with his whole family, with uncles and cousins, in a villa with high fences and CCTV. He was awakened in the middle of the night by police helicopters or raiding dogs many times.

At 15, people in the city already respected him due to his status as the son of a Boss. But Luigi saw beyond their “respect.” He knew that one day, maybe the same day, one of those people who shook his hand with admiration would be killed by the Mafia.

The temptation to participate in the crimes committed by his family was great, especially considering the money that he could have earned very easily. Thanks to his strength of character, he managed to stay away in the end. He was also helped a lot by his father, to whom he is still grateful. “I wasn’t stupid. I knew my father was in jail because he hadn’t done good things. My dad made a choice. A wrong one. But he never made me make the same choice. He could have, but he didn’t,”, he says with tears in his eyes. His father had been imprisoned for life at the age of 60.

Because he needed money to support himself, at the age of 20, Luigi dropped out of school and became a door-to-door salesman. He was soon drafted into the army and, after completing his military service, he didn’t return home. With only a few clothes in his luggage, he headed for northern Italy, where no one knew his past. He worked for several years at a restaurant in the town of Civitavecchia, and started a family there. Luigi now owns his own restaurant. He recently wrote a book in which he recounts his life, and intends to warn young people who are tempted to take the wrong path.

Looking back, Luigi confesses with serenity: “My life shows that evil can be rejected. That you can choose a different path.” He says that it was not at all easy. But it was worth it, because he gets to enjoy the people he loves, the beautiful things in life and, above all, freedom.

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