18 October 2014

70 years of hope

I wanted to record this day on my blog mainly for myself. I "should" (I don't use that word, remember?) be writing a post for the Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation, or for Legato, but that requires a little more time and thought than I can give at the end of the day.

Today we remembered the civilian victims of the battle of Cassino and the wider region. The actual front line was here for five months, but the war was in this zone, with bombings and casualties, for 9 months. And after that came three years of malaria. So many of my friends were children then. They have welcomed me into their homes and hearts as the daughter of an Allied soldier.

After the event this morning there was a march through town to the memorial for the civilians. I walked alongside, in support but not in the column. It wouldn't have felt quite right to join in, but it was right to be there. Instead of standing in the hot sun at the ceremony at the monument I returned to my little town and visited one of the unsung "vittime civili di guerra". With no visible scars, you would never guess what this lovely lady endured during the war. Seven and a half at the time, she has vivid images still of things no child should ever have to see or remember. Tomorrow I will visit another who survived in a cave by eating grass, terrified that the baby in the family might cry and alert the soldiers to their presence. These victims need to be heard, and a visit, a cup of coffee, a listening ear and a few hours of my time is not a lot to give but is an important part of my work here.

Remembering opens wounds, but also allows healing. The speakers from Cassino became very emotional and lost for words as they held the microphone and told what they had experienced.

Equally important today was the focus on youth, and their future. I really hope that the students present could relate the images they watched today to their grandparents and great grandparents. When I watch them in the audience I wonder if they really appreciate what happened only 70 years ago in what is now a bustling, busy, and on a day like today in glorious sunshine, very peaceful city. Certainly the older folk in the audience were remembering, and messages from those unable to attend couldn't be delivered without the readers stopping to recover from the emotions they felt.

I have had another "hat" popped gently on my head, that of delegate from Cassino to NZ to form links between NZ schools and Cassino (and other schools in other countries). This is an initiative (largely online) to bring better understanding of peace so that we can, as speakers urged today, eliminate the word war from our vocabulary. Peace is not the absence of war, it is a different state completely. "Educating for a culture of peace" is one of my much used phrases.

This new initiative is, in loose translation from the Italian title, the Anne Frank International Youth Centre (Cassino). I am very pleased to be included in this group - appointed (in true Italian style without invitation or consultation!) because of my work with the MCFRR and Legato.

Thinking caps on, friends out there in education, I will be calling on you for help with this project.

Now to take a break, and get back some energy for tomorrow's writing and visits.

Today I am grateful for passionate peace workers.

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