LA LASTAJ ATESTANTOJ
Today Belarusian writer and journalist Svetlana Alexievich won a prize for her works of non-fiction, "a monument to courage and suffering in our time", it was said. She said in 2000: "The genre in which I work is the genre of authenticity".
Our parents told their own similar stories to my brother and me as they were also young children when the war started. And now old and young people have these same old or new stories to tell if they survived. Human tragedy remains the same everywhere regardless of time and place.
One of Alexievich's works is "The Last Witnesses: the Book of Unchildlike Stories", here is the Introduction:
"On the morning of the twenty-second June, 1941, on one of the streets in Brest, lay a dead little girl with small unplaited pigtails and her doll.
Many people remembered this girl. They remembered her forever. What is dearer to us that our children?
What is dearer to any nation? To any mother?
To any father?
But who counts how many children are killed by war, which kills them twice?
It kills those that been born. And it kills those that could, that ought to have come into this world. In "Requiem" by the Byelorussian poet Anatoli Vertinsky a children's choir is heard across the field where the dead soldiers lay -- the unborn children scream and cry over every common grave.
Is a child going through the horrors of war still a child? Who gives him back his childhood? Once Dostoevsky posed the problem of general happiness in relation to the suffering of a single child.
Yet there were thousands like this during the years 1941 to 1945...
What will they remember? What can they retell? They must retell! Because even today in some places bombs are exploding, bullets are whistling, missiles reduce houses to crumbs and dusat and children's beds burn. Because even today someone wants widespread war, a universal Hiroshima, in whose atomic fire children would evaporate like drops of water, wither like terrible flowers.
We can ask what is heroic in five-ten-twelve-year olds going through war?
What can children understand, see, remember?
What do they remember about their mother? About their father? Only their death: "A button from mother's jacket remained on the pieses of coal. And in the stove there were two small loaves of warm bread". (Anya Tochitskaya -- 5 years old.) "As father was being torn to pieses by Alsations he shouted: "Take my son away... Take my son away so he doesn't seet it." (Sasha Khvalei -- 7 years old.)
Moreover they can tell how they died of hunger and fear. How they ran away to the front, how other people adopted them. How, even now, it is difficult to ask them about mummy.
Today they are the last witnesses of those tragic days. After them there is no one else.
But they are forty years older than their memory. And when I asked them, to remember it was not easy for them. For them to go back to that state, to those concrete sensations of childhood would seem impossible. But an amazing thing happened. One could suddenly see in a woman with greying hair a small girl imploring a soldier, "Don't hide my mummy in a hole, she will wake up and then we will walk on." (Katya Shepelyevich -- 4 years old.)
Blessed is our lack of defence against our memory. What would we be without it? A man without a memory is only capable of doing evil, nothing else but evil.
In answer to the question "Who then is the hero of this book?" I would say: childhood which was burnt, shot, and killed by bombs, bullets, hunger, fear and by fatherlessness. For the record: in children's homes in Byelorussia in nineteen forty-five, twenty-six thousand nine hundred orphans were brought up. And one more figure -- about thirteen million children perished during the Second World War.
Who can now say how many of them were Russian children, how many Byelorussian, how many Polish or French. Children died -- citizens of the world.
The children of my Byelorussia were saved by the whole country and brought up by the whole country. In the big children's choir I hear their voices.
Tamara Tomashevich remembers to this day how in the children's home in Khvalynsk on the Volga, not one of the grown-ups raised their voice to the children until the time that their hair had grown after the journey. And Zhenya Korpachev, evacuated from Minsk to Tashkent, has not forgotten the old Uzbek woman who brought a blanket to the station for him and his mother. The first Soviet soldier in liberated Minsk picked up four-year-old Galya Zabavchik in his arms and she called him "daddy". Nella Vershok recalls how our soldiers, walked about their village and the children looked at them and shouted, "Our daddies are coming. Our daddies."
Children are very best people on earth. How can we protect them in this troubled twentieth century? How can we preserve their souls and their lives? And both our past and our future with them?
How can we preserve our planet on which little girls are supposed to sleep in their beds, and not lie dead on the road with unplaited pigtails? And so that childhood would never again be called war-time childhood.
In the name of such womanly faith as mine, this book is written!"
ps. The text is taken from the author's homepage, the picture below is of a War Children’s Victims Monument in Czech Republic. Seperate artists, but they fit through a common theme.http://www.lidice-memorial.cz/en/memorial/war-childrens-victims-monument/http://www.tol.org/client/article/8060-a-writer-from-a-cracked-world.html