Monday, November 10, 2008

My poppy

War is an exciting episode from a history book or a horror story from a newspaper. That is, I am happy to not know about war from first-hand experience. Yes, I am happy.

The Netherlands were hit hard in World War II, but the generation that suffered is slowly passing away. I am happy to know the experiences of my parents, and although my generation feels the responsibility to pass it on to the next generation, experiences will slowly degrade into stories.

The Netherlands were happy to remain neutral in World War I, and the generation that suffered is already gone. My father, born in 1916 close to the Flanders border, had no personal memories to this period, but his mother had told him about the siege and subsequent fall of Antwerp and about the refugees that found shelter in their home. He lived to write these second-hand memories down in 'Kind Achter De Hont', a book about his happy childhood in Zeeuws Vlaanderen, and as such the story is available for future generations.

I must admit I was struck by the poppies that have flowered in the streets of Toronto since November 1. Old and young  are wearing a bright red poppy on their lapel, as a preparation for Remembrance Day, as to explicitly commemorate the sacrifices of war since World War I. None of these has experienced the horrors of the trenches. Most of these have no second-hand memories. And yet, they are happy to wear the poppy.

It does not happen too often, but last week I was happy to join the masses.  We were neutral, but we did not look the other way.

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