Andreja Brulc's Blog

Day 54 [8 May 2020]: 8h Day after COVID-19 Lockdown: NEVER FORGET: VE Day, 75 years of PEACE [an exract from my diary]

Posted in Covid-19/Lockdown Diary, Things of the Past by andrejabrulc on 08/05/2020

Cowards die a thousand deaths, but the brave only die once.
– Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

PEACE should not be taken for granted – NEVER FORGET.

Today – 8 May – is a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe Day, when western Allies won the WWII against the evil forces of Fascism and Nazism. VE Day, as it is usually called in the UK, is a day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces – the signing of which, known as the German Instrument of Surrender, took place in the evening on 8 May 1945, thus marking the end of WWII in Europe. Following Adolf Hitler‘s suicide on 30 April during the Battle of Berlin, Germany’s surrender was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The act of military surrender was first signed at 02:41 on 7 May in SHAEF HQ at Reims, but a slightly modified second document, considered the definitive German Instrument of Surrender, was signed on 8 May 1945 in Karlshort, Berlin, at 21:20 local time (after midnight, thus on 9 May Moscow Time). The second version was due to the fact that Stalin was not present when the first was signed, which made him angry and demanded the modification and the signing in Berlin.

Due to the time difference with Moscow, the Soviet government announced the victory early on 9 May after the signing ceremony in Berlin. For this reason, Russia (formerly SSSR) and the former Soviet bloc countries – which now represent Eastern and Central Europe – celebrate on 9 May. Slovenia – which used to be part of ex-Yugoslavia – celebrates the victory on 9 May, too, although it was never part of the block, as Tito’s Yugoslavia broke away from Stalin in 1948 (Tito-Stalin Split), which led to an intense period, known as Informbiro (1948–55). Under Yugoslavia, the victory celebration was known as Dan zmage (Victory Day), while since its independence, it was renamed to Dan zmage nad fašizmon in nacizmom (Victory Day Over Fascism and Nazism).

Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in the UK and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout the UK to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square (below) and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds.

I shall be ever so grateful for the 75 years of PEACE given to us and to many generations before us by all those ancestors, brothers and sisters, soldiers and guerilla fighters (partisans), who sacrificed their lives for justice and freedom so that we now enjoy our careless lives.

My grandfather’s cause for Europe: ‘Pass’ towards PEACE and FREEDOM

I am very proud of my maternal grandfather – to whom I already dedicated the EU referendum article I’m IN for PEACE – who joined the guerrilla fighters after he had been put into a forced labour camp in 1943 to dig the Loibl Pass, a 1570 m long tunnel under the Alps between Slovenia and Austria. The tunnel was ordered by the command of Austrian SS Friedrich Rainer to make a military passage into the Balkans as fast and as easy as possible. While researching the historical context to his life as a partisan, I learnt – on the very day of the assassination of Jo Cox, Labour MP, by the far-right extremist Thomas A Mair – that he had witnessed the Holocaust at the labour camp.

My grandfather managed to escape and joined the resistance to fight the war against the Nazis! I knew about his involvement with partisans while he was still alive. But he never really liked to talk about what had really happened in the war when I asked him questions for my homework – he preferred to reply by singing the Yugoslav version of the Internationale, as he loved singing more than talking, while I went on to invent a heroic story to satisfy the Communist educational establishment! – from “I’m IN for PEACE”

Despite all the trauma he must have gone through, I am extremely grateful to him and his contribution to the 75 years of peace of Europe. And above, all that he survived – so that we could have 31 years together.

My cause for Europe: Hope for PEACE

I want to remember my grandfather in life with six images – from I’m IN for PEACE:

– One, BIRDS – peace – him singing while imitating birds and inspiring my knowledge of various species that entered his back garden of beauty that he knew so well;

– Second, BIKE – resilience – while complaining that he could not go on (he suffered from rheumatism) and pushing his bike for a support, the next minute we saw him while cycling off happily as soon as he disappeared behind the house, thinking we would not see him;

– Third, FIELD – passion – him tendering potatoes in his field in a stoic manner that he cared for so much in his retirement, while my mum and I tried to rescue him from Yugoslav military planes flying over his head on the way to bomb the Ljubljana airport and the Krvavec RTV Slovenia transmitter. He could not hear them anymore;

– Fourth, HATS – obsession – him wearing different kinds of hats, even while tending his field;

– Fifth, PLANE – freedom – him longing to see the world from the above, the dream that finally came through on his 91st birthday accompanied by his brother.

– And final, TUNNEL – reconciliation & forgiveness. It was our last journey together at the end of August of 1999 before his death. While returning to London from Klagenfurt via Vienna, he wanted to accompany me to the airport and, as he said, to visit the Loibl Pass for the first time since ‘his digging job’. When we arrived at the border crossing – Slovenia was then not yet part of the EU – we realised that his ID was still from Yugoslavia, so he could not go through ‘the tunnel’ to Austria. I still see him standing there on the Slovene side of the border transfixed in his time and space, waving his graceful goodbye, while I wept like a child, knowing that was our last parting.

Although being able to disguise his disappointment exceptionally well as he would always smile, I knew then that he felt very sad from the inside as he was unable to accompany me. But only on Thursday did I realise that his ‘real’ desire to enter into ‘the tunnel’ was his hope to let go of the past – ‘the tunnel of darkness to see the light on the other side’ – and to forgive all those that had caused him harm and injustice. His ‘pass’ was for him a symbolic bridge for desire towards the light, a hope for freedom and peace!

So PEACE should not be taken for granted – NEVER FORGET.

Dr Paolo Giordano: We Must Not Forget

In view of the above – WE MUST NOT FORGET – I thought it would be appropriate to share the below extract from my diary in the form of a quote – as a reminder that there has been a rise of authoritarianism in Eastern and Central Europe, yet again, and needless to say in Western Europe, such as the toxic Brexit, and so on. The evil forces of ultra-rightwing looniness of hate speech have no space in the EU or anywhere in the world. Dictatorships happen on both extremes of the political spectrum as, for example, the rightwing loony Pinochet of Chile and the leftwing loony Maduro of Venezuela. They also do happen in peace times: the rightwing loony Orban of Hungary.

Dr Paolo Giordano, Italian author and particle physicist from Turin, in discussing his new book How Contagion Works on Slovene national TV (Globus) last night — one of the first books written on the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic, in which he warns the danger of authoritarianism — answers [sic] the following question “What is important for the future?”:

The most important is that we do not leave the difficult times behind. WE MUST NOT FORGET them.

The thing that always happens after war, for instance, that people try to forget everything as soon as they can — because such memories are a big trauma, there is too much suffering, so we need to forget it and move on.

But this is exactly what we should not do. This is why I keep on writing notes, and that is why I wrote this short book, and I am constantly talking about things, which I do not usually do.

There are so many things that this virus is showing what is wrong in our society, things that need to be fixed [and] that need to be reflected upon.

IF WE JUST FORGET THEM all [mistakes] and start again [as before], I think we will be the one to be blamed, if these mistakes come back again in the future.

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