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Brothers Roberto and Ezio D’Orazio (Credits: Riccardo Venturi)

The D'Orazio brothers

Roberto D'Orazio was born in Belgium to Italian parents. His father worked as a miner until the Marcinelle disaster in 1956, and his older brother Ezio studied engineering. Roberto attended a Catholic school and approached Marxist Leninist groups very early on. These groups gave him an introduction to trade union activity.

"We would go outside the factories, distribute leaflets and talk to the workers. In the most difficult situations, we would incite strikes and in those days, in the 1970s, when there were strikes, the police arrived. That landed me in front of my father".

Expelled from school, he found employment in a steel works and intensified his trade union activity at the very moment when the crisis exploded in Belgium and numerous factories were shut down overnight, leaving many workers unemployed, leaving entire industrial areas and the working-class neighbourhoods of cities like Charleroi deserted.

When the steel works where Roberto worked came under threat of closure, the unions launched a bitter fight involving all the workers.

"We convinced the workers to join forces; they argued with each other for days, and then became unstoppable. We smashed the windows of all the banks in the region when they announced that they no longer wanted to invest in the factory. You demolish our work, we demolish yours. That was the concept. Then we went on a demonstration, blocking a motorway. The police were waiting for us, to stop us from getting through. But we had excavators, the ones we used to take the coal to the blast furnaces, so we started overturning the police trucks, destroying them, and getting into a fight... In the end they convinced the new owners to take charge of the factory. They were Italian, the owners of ILVA".

The struggle was successful and the owners decided not to shut down the plants (which are still in operation today), on condition that the workers' representatives be removed. D'Orazio subsequently devoted all his time to trade union activity.


Story collected in collaboration with Lorenzo Colantoni, as part of the project 'Italians of Europe - Italians of Belgium', implemented with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.


  1. 1956

    Their father worked as a miner until the Marcinelle disaster.

  2. 1970

    They actively participate in strikes and trade union activities in Belgium.

Brothers Roberto and Ezio D’Orazio (Credits: Riccardo Venturi)
Landscape from Charleroi (Credits: Riccardo Venturi)