This morning on this cool, rainy ANZAC Day, I watched the Brisbane parade on TV and looked through old family photographs and military records. Over the past 120 years, four generations on both sides of my family have served and fought – in the Boer War, both World Wars and Vietnam, in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. Some volunteered, others were conscripted, it quietened a couple, others it unsettled. I also think of those not in uniform but affected by war – the widows, children who lost fathers, mothers who lost children, the loved ones of those men who returned with trauma, understandably changed. So many doing their best to ‘get on with it’ with little or no help.
In the past I’ve shared with you photographs of some in my family in uniform, but today as I looked through old photos, these two struck me. Left, is Granny Maddalena and her son, Elia in 1939, only months before WW2 began. Right, is a couple of years after the war ended, not long before they were to come to Australia to reunite with the rest of the family they’d been cut off from during the war. I’ve written some of what happened to them in Italy during WW2 in Joe’s, but recently I’ve been digging deeper, finding out more that I hope to write about in future.
I have great respect and care for those who elicited such courage as soldiers in my family – I’m also proud of those who got caught up in war as civilians. Granny is older in the photograph after the war, of course, yet compared to before, I can’t help but feel there is something else in her face – a knowing, of atrocity seen that won’t be spoken of, and I see it in her stance too. Also I notice, in the first photo, Maddalena has her hand on Elia’s shoulder, and later on, he has his hand on hers.
I’ve been discovering some parallels to what occurred for them in Italy then with what’s currently happening in Ukraine and it really hits home. As horrible as it is to see, I look, because in a way it’s up to all of us to see, to know, to do, even something small, and to remember. Because it is in peacetimes that our earth and life on it is most beautiful and can thrive with all those things that war curtails – beauty, art, cooking, music and dance, storytelling, laughter, creating. Peace gives us the space to be. Zoë xx