Memorials for Today

I often hope that whatever I create, whether novels, poetry, or blog posts, will live on as a memorial to the past. Memorials stand all over the world in bricks, metal, and stone; but I know that memorials can exist in the written world as well. Remembering the sacrifices of the past is of utmost importance to me, and I hope that I am doing my part to see it through.

For awhile now I’ve been wanting to publish a post focused on the status of war memorials today. For many of us, war memorials are simply a block of stone in the centre of town that we drive past every day; and gather round every May 9 or November 11 when it is time to remember. But upon examination, war memorials are much much more. The multitude of names inscribed upon them represent hundreds of thousands of hours of courage and sacrifice; hours dedicated to the owners’ fellow man. War memorials commemorate the darkest hours of history; hours which many people feared would never come to a happy end. As you will see in this post, war memorials are infinitely more than monuments we only notice once a year. They represent entire lives given in sacrifice, and they live just as much today as those men and women lived for us so many years ago.

1039314777

Here, civilians march past the “Motherland Calls” statue on Mamyev Kurgan, site of some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of Stalingrad. Copyright Sputnik/Kirill Braga  https://sputniknews.com/photo/20160509/1039314582/russia-victory-day-celebrations.html

Some of the nicest moments of remembrance are spontaneous ones. It’s great to have the dedicated day of November 11 where the world makes a concerted effort to pause and remember, but unplanned moments are wonderful too. Throughout my travels in Canada, America, and Great Britain I’ve come across many memorials that weren’t on my radar; and those memorials are usually the ones which have the greatest effect on me.

i1w79fjq

Huge thanks are in order to Michael from Forties Photos for offering me this and the following two photos! While visiting the (Canadian-run) Juno Beach Centre in Normandy recently, he noticed some maple-leaf clad cyclists passing by and convinced them to pose for a picture with the Canadian memorial sculpture. What a photo op!

imbevkv3

I love the surreal yet evocative feel of this sculpture.

o56xa6pe

The Canadian memorials at Juno Beach appear to be well-remembered, even today.

I expect that there are similar traditions in other countries as well, but at the Remembrance Day service in Canada’s capital of Ottawa, the custom is to place one’s poppy on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the service. Although it happens every year, it’s still a very beautiful sight to see the grey and sombre tomb slowly become covered by a blanket of red poppies.

fxc108_remembrance_day_20121111_topix

We don’t know his name, but we remember him nonetheless. Fred Chartrand/ The Canadian Press http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/in-photos-canadians-honour-fallen-soldiers-on-remembrance-day/article5173239/

450px-canadian_national_war_memorial_on_remembrance_day

Ottawa’s remembrance service is always broadcast nationwide on TV, and it’s always exceptionally well-attended in person too. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Mikkel Paulson. Public domain.

I am personally quite transfixed by the Soviet Union’s part in World War II; and consequently in Russia’s continued remembrance of it. Russia is a deeply patriotic nation, and her citizens both young and old are eager to remember and demonstrate their remembrance. On May 9 (Victory Day), young people hand out flowers to veterans and everyone turns out in patriotic garb to commemorate the event. One of my favourite examples was one I discovered while doing a high-school project on wedding traditions around the world. I read that many Russian brides lay their wedding bouquets on a war memorial after their wedding ceremony. This is akin, of course, to the Queen Mother’s gesture in Westminster Abbey back in 1923; but what I love about the Russian tradition is that it is embraced by the masses. Masses of Soviet citizens fought to the death from 1941 to 1945, and it is beautiful that newly married couples of new generations recognise the sacrifice that afforded their futures.

stavropol-70_1927492i

Here in Stavropol, two young Russians light memorial candles for the 70th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War. Reuters via http://www.telegraph.co.uk 

800px-russia_1-_memorial_for_the_defenders_of_the_soviet_arctic_near_murmansk

Even inside the Arctic Circle, this Memorial for the Defenders of the Soviet Arctic has been laid with flowers and wreaths. This region is nearly forgotten by civilisation; yet its memorials are remembered. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Vincent van Zeijst. CC-BY-SA 3.0

I wanted to close with one of my favourite photos ever. It can’t exactly be substantiated, and so often Internet finds are not what they profess to be, but regardless this photo makes me emotional. It makes me wonder what surviving veterans must really feel when they look at memorials today. So many years have passed, but I doubt that their memories ever will.

wwii-soviet-tank

Countless Russian towns and villages employ WWII tanks as gate guardians; reminders of the battle that was waged 70 years ago. And still- note the flowers atop this T-34- they are remembered. Image from englishrussia.com

 

 

Advertisements

Memory is a Strange Thing

I think one of the greatest blessings of the human mind is memory. Memories of mistakes ensure that we learn, and memories of happy times can make us smile even through darker times. Memories crop up in the strangest ways; and oftentimes seemingly random occurrences remind me of a fond memory otherwise forgotten. This is a very personal post about my memories of Great Britain; a place which I haven’t seen since April 2015 but of which there is always a fond memory in my heart.

SAM_4470

Whenever there is sunshine after rain, I’m reminded of scenes like this one and the fresh hope they seem to convey

dscn1010

My time in Britain wouldn’t have been so special without my family. As I get older, I value much more all the adventures we’ve had travelling together.

SAM_1044

All over Britain there are sheep… and here is a Welsh reminder of why I don’t eat lamb

SAM_1090

The nights are getting chillier now, and they remind me of driving through the clouds in North Wales. What an incredible atmosphere

dscn0445

Here I am at Liberty in 2011. My trips to the UK have always been full of the wonder and awe of new places. What I’ve begun to realise over the past year is that this wonder and enjoyment can be found at home in everyday life too!

SAM_1947

Some of the best British memories are of my brother. We are true partners in crime, whether it comes to traipsing through ruins of castles (like here) or drinking pints at the pub.

SAM_2659

In England my interest in WWII was fanned into a fire. Without visiting numerous museums and airfields in 2011, I wouldn’t have gained the fascination or the knowledge I have now.

SAM_2722

There’s a lot of air traffic over Britain– not all of it civilian either! Seeing USAF F-15s take off from RAF Lakenheath is one of my favourite memories.

SAM_4582

Parking in central London is rather cramped. When I took this photo, I cringed to think of how the driver of the Aston Martin would manage to extricate his car!

London 2015 Adair 1167

A good meal reminds me of London. And of course, every “good meal” includes a pint!!

hpim5066

Every time I hear a Black Sabbath song, I think of when my dad and I drove through Birmingham with Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne on the radio. Memory is a strange thing!